Hi, I’m Jennifer V. Miller. For my entire career, I’ve been in some sort of consultative role – either internally as a human resource generalist and training manager in corporate America, or for my consulting company SkillSource.
When you are a consultant your primary role is to assess, then make recommendations for improvement. It’s my observation that people will not take action on your recommendations if they don’t trust you. What follows is my take on trust-building with your customers. “Customers” in this context is anybody who is asking for your professional recommendation. For evaluators this affects the entire process from initial consultation to customer utilization of your final recommendations.
Customers use several measuring sticks for gauging whether or not they trust the advice they’re getting from their consultant. For one, they’re checking out what direction your moral compass points. They’re watching to see if you act with integrity.
Here’s something I learned a long time ago: in your customer’s eyes, integrity is only the start of building a trusting customer-consultant relationship. You see, it’s not enough to behave ethically to be seen as trustworthy. You also need to understand your customers’ unique trust filters, which they apply in addition to their perceptions of your moral compass.
A customer’s personality is reflected in their trust filters. For example, some folks are naturally more people-focused; others are more detail-oriented. Some people are hard-charging “get it done” types. Your customers are viewing all of your actions through the filter of these personality preferences. If, as a consultant, your actions don’t match up with their natural priorities, then your recommendations may not be fully trusted. Four typical trust filters are:
- Quality – does your work standard meeting that of your customer’s?
- Getting Results – do you deliver results in the timeframe the customer expects?
- Sociability – are interpersonal considerations as important to you as task-related issues?
- Dependability – can the customer depend on you to deliver what you promise?
Your customers are using all four of these filters . . . but most likely, they are relying more heavily on one of them – based on their personality. Pay attention and respond accordingly.
- Leading with Trust blog – written by Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies.
- Learn about concepts of the Trust Touchstone in the upcoming book The Character-Based Leader.
- Read more articles on trust-building at The People Equation blog.
- Know AEA’s Guiding Principles for Evaluators.
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