Embrace uncertainty to establish trust in strong personal working relationships

Instead of a New Year’s resolution I started the year with a mantra – Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Little did I know how prescient that would be. 

As a new agency owner/CEO, I knew the first year leading Point To Point was going to be filled with first time experiences, new situations and a whole host of people looking to me for answers. There was only one path for me to take to be able to lead in my new role.

I knew my focus needed to be on building a strong team and relationships with our clients – starting with trust. Yes, trust is the foundation to everything, but unless you’re willing to be vulnerable it’s hard to establish it.

Let’s take a look at how allowing yourself to feel discomfort can be just what you need to build relationships that lead to doing your best work. 

Be honest with yourself so you can be honest with others

For a lot of people, myself included, one of the most uncomfortable parts of embracing honesty is looking inward. Being honest with yourself can be intimidating and its common for people to bury their thoughts. 

When I need to have an honest/uncomfortable conversation with myself here are some common questions I’m processing:

  • Am I doing my best work today? On this project? With this person?
  • After a project/meeting/interaction, what could I have done better? 
  • What can I do to get even better next time?
  • What type of support or leadership does this situation call for? Do I understand what is needed from me?
  • Am I doing more listening or more talking?
  • Am I doing more telling or coaching?

When I ask myself these questions routinely is when I’m doing my best to create an environment where uncomfortable conversations can lead to great ideas, stronger relationships and a better environment for collaboration.

Personal relationships thrive once we remove walls and build trust

Open, honest communication in a professional setting means that everyone (myself included) needs to remember it’s not always personal (even though it can feel that way). Everyone needs to leave their egos at the door so there can be an open forum for idea sharing.

The advertising business is all about ideas so anything that stands in the way of people feeling comfortable to speak up is actively holding back our ability to grow.

  • Share what’s working but just as importantly say what you feel isn’t working at the moment. Be solutions focused.
  • Avoid letting yourself become emotional about what is being said. You won’t hear what is being said correctly. 
  • Share back your understanding of what’s being said so that others know that you comprehend their comments.
  • To get better work, say it. Trust is allowing yourself to be vocal without fear of looking foolish or uninformed. 
  • Be just as open and don’t judge what is being said but be cognizant of how you react to it so ideas flow freely.
  • Listen to what is being said, live in the moment. Don’t anticipate what the person is going to say before they say it. It’s okay to pause after someone is done talking to collect your thoughts. The pause can be powerful.  

Remember that trust is looking forward, even if it’s only an hour ahead. Trust doesn’t live in the present or the past. When we process what’s being said, trust gets stronger because we’re able to feel safe with everyone in the group. It’s at this point great ideas begin to happen.

Ways we build trust with clients

Getting honest conversations started isn’t easy, it takes time to build trust and frequently we need to get going on a project before the relationship is fully established. We’ve put a focus on how we can start building trust earlier in relationships and ensure it continues to build as the relationship grows.

  • PTP question session: This is one of the earliest exercises we do with new clients, and it is one that requires a lot of trust, vulnerability and very little ego. We find the more we put ourselves out there so we can build a strong relationship early in the project, the more successful the project becomes. We break it down to questions that lead to real conversations and not just us being order takers. We don’t pretend we know everything; it takes a conversation of people with a mix of skills and ideas to find the right solution.
  • Video conferences: While Zoom fatigue is real, we try to power through and use video conferencing as much as possible because we think seeing our facial expressions and knowing we’re tuned in to the conversation builds trust.  
  • Bi-annual client reviews, or project postmortems: We work with our internal & client teams to take a minute to celebrate the work, as well as learn what we need to adjust, amplify or stop doing. While sometimes the conversations can be difficult, it makes the work and the relationship stronger.
  • Net Promoter Score surveys: This simple one question survey tells us so much. It takes our clients less than 2 minutes to complete and is a great springboard to a bi-annual review, project postmortem or a simple conversation.

So, while 2020 has been more uncomfortable than I’ve ever imagined, it’s also led to more meaningful and deeper relationships than I have ever experienced. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on approaching building trust. If you want to talk, set up 15 minutes with me here.

Our VP, Creative and Strategy, Jake Kellogg shared additional keys to building trust in our last blog. Read “Vulnerability And Other Keys To Making Our Best Work” for more on how honesty is closely aligned with trust.

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