What is a Small Business Owner’s Strongest Tool for Problem-Solving? – David Horsager, Best-Selling Author

Every great relationship is rooted in trust. If a customer does not trust you or your business they will most likely take their money elsewhere. On today’s show, we welcome David Horsager, Trust Expert and CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute. Horsager is also a best-selling author of his latest book titled, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars That Drive Results. David’s work has been featured in prominent publications such as Fast CompanyForbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
David, thank you so much for joining us on today’s show.

David Horsager:
Thank you, Jim. Great to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Let’s kind of jump right in here. Why is trust so important right now for dealers and business owners that are out there?

David Horsager:
Well, first of all, I believe trust is always the root issue. This goes back to my grad work over 20 years ago, our work on six continents with everything from global governments to pro sports teams, to companies big and small and especially small. I think basically trust is always the root issue. Trust is always the leading indicator. People can say, “Oh, I’ve got a leadership issue.” You never do. The only reason you follow a leader now, it is trust. Oh, we got a sales issue. You never do. That’s just a commodity. The only reason I buy or not has something to do with trust. It’s not a marketing issue at the core in fact. The only way to amplify a marketing message is increase trust in the message. The only way to increase innovation on a team is increase trust so people share ideas. The only way to increase learning and a learning environment is increase trust in the teacher, the content or the psychological safety of the environment.

David Horsager:
The diversity issues of our day, the only way to deal with it, the biggest Harvard study shows diversity on its own can pit people against each other, unless you increase trust. The only way to get the benefits of diversity inclusion equity is increase trust. We have to deal with the trust issue. You want to increase sales. By the way, I believe a lack of trust is the biggest cost. The only way to affect the bottom line is in some way increase trust.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. And so for the people that are watching right now that say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, David. This goes against everything that we were taught.” We were taught if you had great sales skills and I’ve gone to so many sales seminars and such that said, “They say this, you say this. They say that you say this.” And isn’t it all about selling skills?

David Horsager:
I absolutely disagree. Unless you’re talking about the skill being trust, which actually can be learned. This is one of the findings in the work this year was many people thought, oh, trust is something you either have or you don’t. That’s not true. You can build it every day. And last year, from our global study, the number one reason people want to work for an organization and buy, ahead of being paid more, ahead of a fun work environment with a ping pong table, is trusted leadership. You’ve got to deal with this issue. You want to increase sales? Just simply let’s let’s look at the bottom line. Okay, what would be an example? Without all the grad work and research and all of our ongoing research, what’s an example of a lack of trust?

David Horsager:
How about a lock? A lock is a good example. Okay, so then what’s the cost of having a lock on something? Well, I had to buy the lock, that’s money. Now I got to open it every time I go through the gate, that’s time. There’s a massive cost. If we want to deal with attrition issues, retention issues, sales issues, you’ve got to deal with the trust issue. And trust is different than we think. We know it’s just transparency, it’s just vulnerability. No, some of your kids are so transparent on social media, I don’t trust them for a second because confidentiality is also trusted. The first thing we have to do is we have to think bigger about trust and see how it affects the bottom line sales relationships, more than anything else and then we got to think about, okay, so how do you build it? And how’s that different than what I thought?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
If it’s a learned skill, as you say, is it a situation where leaders today should immediately, that are listening to this, that haven’t looked at it from this perspective before, should they try to take their teams and instill more trust both from the team member as well as the leadership? Or do you have to start with a whole new team?

David Horsager:
No, you can start with the team you have, we do it all the time. Of course, there could be somebody that is going to poison things. But basically we teach out of Trusted Leadership Institute. We do it around the world. The Trusted Leader book teaches the framework too. But basically this framework for how to become most trusted. And frankly, there were eight traits that came out of that research. I call them pillars in the book. It’s very, to show it in a show like this, I could whip through them, but then each of them has takeaways you can use tomorrow. But really to be trusted, to have this trust we talk about, this advantage as a salesperson, an entrepreneur, a GM, an automotive worker, you have to build these eight and they all matter.

David Horsager:
You could say, “Well, it’s just character, isn’t it?” Characters one of the pillars. I might trust Jim, you, to take my kids to the ballgame because of your character. That doesn’t mean I’ll trust you to give me a root canal because of competency. This is why we have to stay fresh and relevant and capable as salespeople. But the most important training you can have is how to build trust if you want to increase sales, leadership or impact.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. And trust is not often one of the elements that is talked about in sales training. It’s always a us against them kind of a scenario and how are you going to be so clever and so skilled to win over that customer? When in reality, sometimes people hear the word trust and they think, oh, we’re going to give the house away or we’re going to screw the deal up here. You want to keep, I guess some distance and with that customer, otherwise, if they ask you, “Is this your very best deal?” And you don’t answer them honestly, and you don’t trust that they’re going to run out on you. You know what I mean? It seems to go against what everybody is taught.

David Horsager:
Well people think it’s a soft skill. And absolutely I would argue trust is an absolutely hard skill. It affects the bottom line. And when we talk about at the Trust Edge, the way we talk about being a trusted leader, it does put together all eight of these. Just to give a little bit of the depth of it, to think about it. The first pillar is clarity. People trust the clear and they mistrust or distrust the ambiguous or the overly complex. Now this clarity pillar affects everybody. In our government, it’s a massive cost today. An average bill that goes through the US government right now is over 1,200 pages. It used to be 40 years ago, two and a half pages. But now we have to be so clear that it’s so ambiguous. Oh, what do you mean by that? What do you mean by this? What it’s costing us everyday because we don’t know.

David Horsager:
But what does this mean for salespeople or leaders? For a leader, clarity of vision might gain more trust. For a manager, clarity of expectations might gain more trust. For a salesperson, quit being clear on how cool you are and how long you’ve been in business and start being clear about the benefits of that product to me and I might buy something. For the teacher, all the kids hate the teacher, why? Teacher’s a good teacher, but the teacher’s unclear about the assignments so they go home frustrated every day. In every case, it was that clarity pillar.

David Horsager:
The second pillar is compassion. This ability to show care beyond yourself. The next pillar is character, doing what’s right over what’s easy. The next pillar’s competency. If you’re selling the same way you were 10 years ago, I don’t trust you. You’re not staying fresh and relevant and capable in a new world. The next pillar is commitment. We trust those that stay committed. And contribution is a pillar. That’s we’ve got to get result. You’ve got to contribute results. The number one word out of that research funnel was results. You can’t just have compassion and character and not give me the results I expect or ask for. But maybe that last pillar is a most interesting one for salespeople, leaders, GM’s today, consistency. Sameness is trusted for good or bad. If you’re late all the time, I will trust you to be late. You’ve got to build a framework, even of building trust consistently.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, that’s right. And this is something that’s got to stem, it’s got to come from the top down. When we talk about leaders, we talk about business owners out there, that’s really where this has got to start.

David Horsager:
It’s best.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Because if you’ve got those middle managers out there that buy your book, believe in this and say, “Wow, this is really the way to go here.” Let’s face it, at the end of the day, building trust is what it’s all about and having high morals and good character. But if in the event the business owner doesn’t subscribe to that, you’re going to have a little bit of a problem there, right?

David Horsager:
Well, I’ll say two things about that. We do training of whole organizations and if the senior leadership doesn’t buy in, we won’t do it because if the senior leadership doesn’t tie it to strategic, to their strategy and help people see how this will affect sales, bottom line and culture and performance, then if the senior leader isn’t bought in on culture work, it’s very difficult to push it forward. On that, yes. On the other side, though, I keynote a 100 events around the world a year, I’ll have people stand the book line, want me to sign books and back there someone will say to me, “David, I love that trust work. I love this is so great. Oh, my boss should have been here. My teenagers should have been here. My spouse needs this stuff.”

David Horsager:
And the problem is they’re not here and so what do we do? We have to do what we can do. There’s all kinds of things we can look at everybody else and you’re right for culture change, you need that GM, president, senior leader, business unit leader, they think they need to care or you won’t get even the time to learn it, to learn the framework, the resources needed to learn it. However, especially in this new book, Trusted Leader, we give takeaways a individual can use tomorrow morning to rebuild trust. To get absolutely clear about what they can do to build trust the fastest. This eight pillar framework or specific takeaways, there actually is things or are things that you and I can do that matter from where I am, whether I’m a parent, a teenager or a middle manager.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Right now, as I mentioned in the opening, trust is very, very important because you’ve got so many people out there, especially going through COVID, that they don’t know which way is up. It’s interesting that that so many sales are up, auto sales, home sales, boats sales, RV sales. Everybody is out spending I guess their stimulus checks and then some, but right now there’s a lot of people out there that are still very scared and nervous. When they come in touch with companies, whether it be online or in person, the trust, they’re looking for that. They’re looking for that retailer to be trustworthy.

David Horsager:
That’s right. And by the way, that’s what we’re looking to really create. People say to me, “David, you like to build trusted leaders in organizations around the world.” You have this framework and we do this in these, whether it’s coaching, training, speaking or books or whatever. And they’ll say, “But we have a big problem with just helping people become the most trusted in their industry, because you can actually manipulate the pillars to a pure trust without being worthy of it.” What we’re actually going for is trustworthiness. And by the way, when you create trustworthiness in the way I talk about, you create the most efficiency, the highest performance and the strongest brand. It’s not soft. It is absolutely this hard edge side. You can do it. We can do something about it.

David Horsager:
Sometimes I think about people that sit out there and say, “Well, I can’t do it. I’ve lost trust over here or there.” And how do you rebuild trust? How do you rebuild trust once you’ve lost it? Well, we have a 10 step process if you’re a big company with an oil spill, but whether you’re an individual or an organization, it actually comes down to one thing and it is not the apology.

David Horsager:
I had a CEO friend of mine from the Netherlands come to America. He said, “David,” he came to America. I said, “What’s the first thing you noticed in America?” He said, “David, you want me to tell you the truth?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “You got a bunch of lying apologizers. They all say they’re sorry and they don’t mean it. I’m sorry I’m late. This guy comes in everyday, I’m sorry I’m late. He’s late every day.” The problem is we don’t rebuild trust in the apology. People think we do. Doesn’t mean we don’t need to apologize to open the door, but the only way to rebuild trust, whether you’re a leader, an individual or an organization is to make and keep a new commitment.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, there’s no question about it.

David Horsager:
There’s ways to do it. There’s little things you can do to increase clarity, to increase compassion, to increase commitment that actually leads to stronger trust. This is something interesting right now you brought up the pandemic, when is the fastest opportunity to build trust? When is it the fastest opportunity we have? And people say, “Well, first interaction, first interaction.” That’s a good time. But your fastest opportunity to build trust is in crisis, in recovery. You think of when was George W. Bush the most trusted in America?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh no question.

David Horsager:
The week after 9/11, how he responded. If you’ve got people out there that are frustrated, a salesperson that’s mad at you, a board member that’s throwing a clipboard across the board table, a teenager that’s walking out on you because they don’t get to go to the dance. You’ve got an incredible opportunity to build trust. How you respond right now in this time with, like you said, all these types of sales going up, but you’ve got to keep at it right now. You have a massive opportunity to build trust.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. You’ve got a reset button sitting right in front of you on this issue, don’t you? Let me ask you this, if I walk into a conference room of whether it be a board of directors or leadership team of a company and I hold up your book and I say, “Guys, I read the book. I’m all bought in. This is the way that this company needs to move forward.” Is there a fear factor among everyone in that room I’m talking to, to say, “Has Jim lost his mind? He wants to go down the trust road. That’s very scary. What does that mean?” Have you heard some of that before?

David Horsager:
Of course. My first way would be, I need to show the case for trust. And this is what I showed a moment. This is all my grad work and the work for a couple of decades, but showing really a lack of trust is the biggest cost. And when trust increases, time gets faster. You don’t need all the research. You can think about it in analogies even. Write a text to somebody who trusts, okay guys, how long does it take to write a text to somebody you trust? Boop. Now write a text to someone you don’t trust. How long does that take? How are they going to take this? How are they going to take forever more? I need to get them to see the impact of trust. When I can get them to see that. Look at, sales are going to get faster. Churn is going to go down. Retention is going to go up. But there’s only one way, we have to deal with the trust issue.

David Horsager:
If we want to build a company that will last in this time, we have to build on this eight pillar framework. I hope without any ego, but with a whole lot of research and work on six continents, with pro sports teams, the Yankees to FedEx, to global governments, corruption issues in East Africa. I believe you can solve every organizational and leadership issue against this eight pillar framework. You actually put the right language in when you have this framework. Now I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying you don’t need to contextualize. I’m not saying I can do everything perfectly. I haven’t today with my kids this morning at breakfast, probably.

David Horsager:
But if you have this language, you’re actually solving the real root issue. And we talk about this. What’s the root issue? See today, people say, “I’ve got an engagement issue.” No, the research shows you don’t. The only way to increase engagement is increase trust. We want a higher net promoter score, we want a higher NPS. The only way to get more referrals, it’s not more referrals. The only way to get more referrals is increase trust. That is how you get referrals. What about communication? Everybody says it’s a communication issue. Ladies and gentlemen, it is never at the core, a communication issue. Communication’s happening all the time. Clear that first pillar, clear communication that’s trusted. Unclear communication is not. Compassionate communication is trusted. Hateful communication isn’t. Consistent is, inconsistent isn’t.

David Horsager:
When you can line them up against these eight, the research funnels are denoted by C words, just for clarity not because it’s some cheesy motivational book with acronyms. But if you can line against these eight, you can actually solve the real issue and increase sales and decrease attrition or whatever. Hopefully you can see it, but I’m passionate about this work. Partly the research, partly the work we do on six continents, but partly it changed me. It changed the way I lead. It changed me as a parent.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Writing was therapeutic for you on this. And what was the motivation behind it? Did you see in your observations out there, did you say, in your work there’s certainly a huge lack of trust that’s got to be mentioned and talked about and corrected.

David Horsager:
Undeniably trust matters more than ever. Institutional trust has tanked since Watergate. You have 80% of Americans that trusted in government, now you have 6% maybe.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

David Horsager:
Education was fairly high trusted, now people want to go to charter schools and homeschooling because of low trust. You had food. Well, now I want to know my food, not big grocery I want it grown next to me in the garden outside. Every kind of trust. Media trust is decreasing as you know. So much trust is going down. We can stand out massively if we can increase trust in this way, where I talk about being a trusted leader or this Trust Edge way. And so, yeah, I kept seeing the data. One of the pieces that I mentioned, number one reason people want to work for an organization, ahead of more pay was trusted leadership. Ahead of more pay.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
The way we speak as business owners and leaders and managers that will show them a great compensation plan. When in reality that’s never the number one thing is it?

David Horsager:
And that’s a part of building trust, but even more important was it was having leaders. People love to work with people they trust. They love to buy from people they trust, they genuinely trust. If people can look at this eight pillar framework, there are simple takeaways you can do tomorrow morning to increase it a little bit and have a faster sale because you increase trust faster. People think it takes a long time to build trust. Most trust is built and lost in a moment. It’s moments. It’s actually can be faster than you think. We have these ideas around trust. Just like I said, it’s just transparency. No, it’s also confidentiality. And you know this, those of you listening in the auto world, we know this. We have to be as transparent as we can while being as confidential as we are. We can think it takes a long time. Actually trust can be built faster than we think.

David Horsager:
We can think it’s just confidence. Just be confident. Some of you are too confident looking. If confident looks like arrogance, I don’t trust you. You have to see the complexity of trust and then simplify it to this eight pillar framework and when you increase trust using the framework, you see results.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It really is. And you just make it sound so simple, but it’s certainly an issue and a topic that I’m sure people that are listening to us right now as soon as you say, “Hey, you’ve got to be more trustworthy and trust is the key.” Right away, the hair on their back goes up and says, “Whoa, what is this guy talking about?” Why are we so afraid to be more trusting out there? And be more trusting of our coworkers as well as ourselves to be more trustworthy? Why are we so afraid of that?

David Horsager:
Yeah, we’ve all been burned. We’ve all been burned. When I talk about this work, by the way, I am not talking about them. Some people say, “Well, I love that trust stuff. I’m going to just trust that guy.” Well trust that guy to do what he did the last time. I’m talking about what can I do? What can we do? Let’s get to what you mentioned about trusting yourself more. You’ve heard the idea, love your neighbor as yourself. What does this go? It’s like, okay find someone who doesn’t love themselves at all, they’re not very fun to be around.

David Horsager:
It’s the same with trust, people that don’t trust themselves at all, they have a hard time building trust in their teams, extending it to others. You’ve got to build trust with yourself. How do you build trust with yourself? How do I build trust with myself? Well, I make and keep commitments. That’s a way. I’ll tell you a quick story I don’t do very often, but I had this commitment to lose a certain amount of weight, actually 50 pounds in five months.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

David Horsager:
This was back in 2011 and I knew I had to do it. I just, all these things came to a head. And so, but I made a commitment to my team, $2,500 if I didn’t lose the weight. It wasn’t a bet, it was a commitment. It’s like, if I’m not there at my high school weight by May 1st, I owe you $2,500. My wife’s like, “What are you doing?” And I knew if I make an out and out commitment, I’ll keep it. Now, I know some people won’t, but I also knew the biggest problem wouldn’t be that I didn’t lose the weight or wouldn’t be that I had to pay the money. The biggest problem is I made a commitment I didn’t keep. And that’s even worse because when I make a commitment I don’t keep, they stop trusting me and more importantly, I stopped trusting myself. Stop making commitments you won’t keep.

David Horsager:
The key three questions that actually take an idea to an action. The most overlooked, underused questions that take an idea to an action they’re not what you might think. Some people, oh the why is important. The why is important, but it’s not one of these three. The why is important first to have a strong why so that I last on a project or a goal. The who, get the right whos on the bus. That’s nice to have the right whos on the bus. I see people on a bus singing kumbaya right off the cliff. These great whos with a great why about their mission. The idea though, the three questions that take an idea to an action, get good at these three questions. Number one is how, number two, way more important, how. Number three is, how. If you can start asking how, how, how at least three times. You’ll get to what I’m talking about.

David Horsager:
Let me I’ll give you a quick example. And this affects sales or anything. I’m talking to a CEO, he said, “We need a better culture here.” I said, “Great. How are you going to start to have a better culture?” “We’re going to be more clear.” Do I trust him? Not yet? “How are you going to be more clear?” “We’re going to communicate more.” “How are you going to do that?” “We’re going to hold people accountable.” Most people don’t even know what that means. I said, “How are you going to hold people accountable?” I asked how seven more times, this big company that everybody listening would know, seven years later, they said that was the tipping point because they got to a how they can apply today or tomorrow.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

David Horsager:
This is the same with sales. How are you going to sell more? I’m going to call more people tomorrow. I don’t trust you. How are you going to call more people? Until you give me something you’re going to do today or tomorrow at a specific time, the final how has a who, when and where. It’s going to be me, it’s going to be at 5:30 in the morning, it’s going to be there. It’s going to be, for losing weight, one of the things I did is I drink calories. This one doctor said, “If you wouldn’t drink calories, you’d lose 50 pounds in five months,” or 30 pounds, something this. And by the way, alcohol wasn’t my problem, soda was. You’re down in the Atlanta area where you like Coke. For me, I’d get on the plane, I’d have to Cokes, that was a meal. Said, “Stop drinking calories.” That was a final how. I could look at it, no calories in it? I can drink it. You have to ask how until you can apply it today or tomorrow. That’s one little idea under clarity, but okay, how you do that? How you going to do that?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I love it.

David Horsager:
Don’t stop asking how until you can apply it today or tomorrow. And most people stop too early.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I love it. Start today building trust folks. David Horsager, who is Trust Edge Leadership expert. He is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, obviously a trust expert himself. The book is titled Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars That Drive Results. Run, don’t walk to get this book. It’s going to change your life. It’s going to change your company’s culture for the better. It’s going to change your company’s bottom line. It’s now just a click away. David, I want to thank you so much for joining us here on the show. This has been very informative. I know that our subscribers and viewers are going to get a lot out of today’s talk. Thank you so much.

David Horsager:
Thank you, Jim.


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