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I needed a new car. I had been to several local dealerships where I was – a woman alone – prime target. I had been welcomed, ignored, served coffee, and instructed (“Don’t lease, buy”).

Some smirked and sent their spottiest youth out to practice on me. Another wanted me to buy without the hassle of the test drive.

Then I went to the dealership where an older man popped a mint in his mouth and tried to show me cars, although they must all have been new on the lot as he knew nothing about them. As I swooned from the aroma of mint – and the alcohol that lay behind –  it I noticed a familiar face.

Their business manager, moved from another dealership, an honest, straightforward young man who had always been courteous and reliable.

Phew! What a relief! Finally I had what I had been looking for – a sense of trust. He wasn’t a salesman but I knew I could trust him to be on my side. He took time to chat about his new job and this dealership. The mint man disappeared and was replaced by someone who knew his product and was ready to listen to me. I was ready to buy. Trust does that.

In any interaction, whether you’re selling cars or promoting your vision for the company the first step is to establish trust. Trust is difficult to establish rationally. You can start with some facts about your accomplishments in your previous leadership roles – and they had better be fully honest because if you’re caught in an exaggeration the tenuous trust link is immediately broken.

But what difference did these accomplishments make. Where’s the story? If you are a volunteer, did your volunteer role result in feeding 500 more people than last year? Perhaps including Pepe and his family who were fleeing domestic abuse. What has happened to little Pepe and his family since then? Maybe he’s on a soccer team now for the first time.

The story is the emotional proof. It’s the “show me don’t tell me”. The PowerPoint slide of Pepe playing soccer penetrates far deeper into the imagination than the PowerPoint graph showing 500 more people than last year.

Telling stories and anecdotes about yourself and your previous, accomplishments shows openness. If you can show a hint of humanity and humility it’s even better. (“I’m great at sales, but as a record keeper I’m not so hot. The year I sold 3 million was also the year I nearly got fired for my sloppy reports. That’s why I trust Frank here to do all our record keeping.”)

Three birds with one stone. You’ve been open about your weakness, you’ve shown you know how to correct mistakes and you’ve given Frank a pat on the back and a sign of your trust in him.

As you establish yourself as a leader trust is your strongest ally. Build it by listing the attributes you’d like to portray (goal oriented, visionary, approachable, …) and by showing these not just with facts – the tip of the iceberg – but with a story to give the in-depth picture.

Make it vivid, with humor and with a one to one connection. A strong sincere story is money in the trust bank.

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