Trusting Manti Te’o

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It’s a matter of trust. Whether you’re talking about exceptional customer service, loyalty as a leader, or Manti Te’o’s place in the NFL Draft, it’s a matter of trust.

In my speech and course entitled “Whom Do You Trust?” I tell my entrepreneurial and corporate audiences that word of mouth can make or break you faster now than ever before. You need to stand out by going above and beyond for your customers, clients, and staff—being creative and innovative and showing you care. But “trust” is a function of character and competence. The rational part of the brain has very little to do with whether you trust someone or not. Trust comes from the limbic part of the brain, and trust drives behavior.

The definition of trust is: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” It’s so important, that often people don’t buy what you do, they buy YOU. Which brings us to Manti Te’o, a stand-out college football player, finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and Draft hopeful in April. The controversy centers around the fact that he got us all worked up about a love-of-his-life girlfriend, who not only was the victim of a car accident, but who later got leukemia and died. As it turns out, the girlfriend was a hoax. So now the court of public opinion has to choose between him being pranked for three whole years, having never seen this woman in person, or that he made the whole thing up himself (for my theater buffs, see Avenue Q’s riotous lyrics of the song “My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada”).

Either way, it brings up the question of can we trust him? Here are some of my tips to engender trust with your customers, clients, and staff.

1. ALWAYS tell the truth. As Bill Cosby once said, “Liars have to have a very good memory.”

2. Be clear about the things that matter to you and communicate them with courage and conviction.

3. Leaders build trust and confidence through feedback. We should actively listen and make feedback a two-way street.

4. Eliminate office gossip. The definition of “gossip” is: “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”

Gossip kills organizations. Who knows? It may kill Manti Te’o’s high number in the NFL Draft.

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