Trust your Lover, Trust your Customers

Should you trust anyone? This thought has always divided opinion. Shakespeare told us to, love all, trust a few. As children we naturally trust, yet we are always wary of the fear of being disappointed. Society is never constant and over many years attitudes have developed, changed and moved.

A society without trust breaks down losing its essential cohesiveness. Trust is at the centre of our lives. It seems so obvious yet in the 1980s it was being eroded.

Then Margaret Thatcher was leading a drive for smaller government telling us to take personal responsibility for our lives. We were told that we needed to look after ourselves and not rely on anyone else. It was winner take all and all losers were simply losers.

Business translated this feeling into competition was everything and you didn’t trust anyone. Trust someone and soon they will double cross you. It was not a great set of social values.

Thankfully, as we moved through the Millennium society and business moved away from its extremes, and the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility became understood. Today there is a growing awareness of gender pay equality, the important role of business to take care of the environment and the need to support and build communities.

I remember earlier times when accountants, bank managers, politicians and other professionals were trusted explicitly. Those times have long gone as each has eroded the trust we place in them. Bank managers have become salesmen, accountants have sided with big business rather than honesty, and worst of all politicians have been exposed as cheats, liars and self-centred narcissists.

While the big picture changes, individuals try to fit in and work with their own values. For me, not-trusting, never came naturally.

It was not just that I had been brought up in a loving and trusting family, but I played sport where trust in your teammates is paramount. When you line up right in the middle of a rugby scrum, a place for the darkest of dark arts, suspended with arms locked around your props, you learn quickly that survival and victory are based on an absolute trust in all those around you.

It was also around the same time, with Annie we were just starting our own family. Little children have a natural trust in their parents who are the source of all security.

My natural inclination and my default setting have always been to trust first and, as Ernest Hemingway said, the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. It was not always easy and as you expect there were moments when my trust was cruelly tested.

The biggest change in my own approach came when, in 2012, I was alone in Dubai and reflecting on the whys of life and concluded that I didn’t like the businesses which, as a consultant, I was supposed to be supporting. They were still far too rapacious than I could take. I would never change them, but I could change. This was the trigger that changed my life.

I stopped consulting and took up writing, full time. I stopped propping up and supporting businesses that didn’t meet my new standards. I accept now I was probably too idealistic and harsh in execution but I needed to make a statement.

Equally, I was as hard on all those business acquaintances I called friends. Unless I saw sincerity and concern, I just stopped speaking to them. Generally, I judged it right because as I drifted away, hardly any called. Of course, they may have thought of me then as high maintenance!

Business training tells us to keep our business and personal lives separate. The talk is all about work-life balance. In those Dubai days, I realised this is all rubbish. You can’t be a different person at work and home and no more so than with how you trust and love.

The Scottish author, George McDonald got it right: To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. Love and trust are inexorably linked and are two sides of the same coin. You can’t truly love without deeply trusting your partner.

I say this as someone who has been in a loving, long distant relationship for the last five years. Sasha is beautiful and far away. I could drive myself mad with unfounded jealousy thinking about what she might be doing, but I am calm. I have as much trust as I have love.

Once I would have thought differently. Trust and love are intertwined with jealousy. Songwriters and poets understand Remember the song? I wonder who’s kissing her now. Wonder who’s teaching her how. Wonder who’s looking into her eyes. I wonder who’s buying the wine. For lips that I used to call mine. I wonder who’s kissing her now.

Of course, there are days when I am tested and my insecurity can surface and when it does I can still hear Harry Nielsen singing this song and wonder but …. trust is the basis of love. When I have those moments, I reach down and reset my resolve first and foremost to trust. Nietzsche said it best: I won’t be upset that you lied to me but upset that from now on I can’t believe you.

But those are for days that will never come. Sasha and I have total trust before we have love.

This does have a business context. Work-life balance is a fiction and romantic love is not an emotion that can be carried into a working life. But, trust is very much part of work and there are parallels you can draw to the way you treat your employees and customers.

Not only aren’t they the enemy but you can treat them as part of your family and trust them. If you can love them for being who they are, trust them, then the love and trust will be reciprocated. Treat everyone well and for once disagree with Shakespeare and love all, trust all (at least to start with).

Trust those you work with, trust your customers and trust those you love.

When Technology Goes Wrong

Frequent readers will know that last week, because of International Women’s Day, Sasha and the rest of Ukraine was on holiday for a couple of days from Thursday. Then there was a weekend and, not that it is an issue for you, it meant that we were, in effect, out of contact for four days.

I tried. I sent messages, but nothing came back. I phoned, but there was no answer. It just rang and rang. I hated not being able to say, hello.

She didn’t answer any messages on Viber or answer her phone when I called. Maybe it is my rampant imagination, but all sort of accident scenarios came to mind. Three thousand miles is a long way just to pop round and see if everything was OK. Among all the scenarios I worked through, the one thing I didn’t think was the obvious, her phone was broken.

Now that we have resumed contact and my nerve ends have calmed I have thought about the experience.

As I look at my computer and smartphone I can use email, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat or I could just phone and talk. I have multiple business and personal email addresses to monitor. The range is frightening. Sasha, because of her work also has multiple phones. But, still, we didn’t manage to communicate.

Read the internet and there are millions of articles reminding us just how important good communications are. You know it all. This is one example, it is no doubt that communication plays a vital role in human life. It not only helps to facilitate the process of sharing information and knowledge but also helps people to develop relationships with others.

We know that. We don’t need to be reminded.

Mothers and fathers all over the country are waiting for their offspring to utter a first word. Unless we talk or communicate we can’t educate and learn. It is also simplistic and a huge understatement to say communications helps people to develop relationships. Relationships, business or personal are all about communications.

I am an avid reader of the internet and with my background in data management, I rank myself as a bit of a whiz at finding things. I understand how search terms work and I use different search engines. I read many ideas about what a company should do to communicate both successes and problems. I read about individuals who can’t communicate for both physical and emotional reasons but nothing about how to manage my emotions when we want to communicate but technology fails us.

I know I can’t be unique and the only one to suffer.

It started long ago. I remember when I was a teenager. It is so long ago there were no mobile phones, no internet, nor email. There was just the landline phone sitting on a table in the hall. I might have met a girl and we would meet on a Saturday night and then maybe only have one short call before meeting again. Even those calls were fraught with tension as we would run the wrath of parents by phoning her at home. My abiding memories of those days were less of love but more the agony and pain of not being able to talk and plan our next tryst.

We may have moved technology forward from my teenage days, but the problems remain.

If you don’t know Sasha and I are living a long-distance relationship where good, honest, and open communications are core. In a long-distance relationship, we rely on technology more than most people. If that technology fails, we have a problem.

We write to each other every day and there is a routine and habit. I send my letters overnight and those from Sasha arrive mid-morning. It is comforting in its repetitiveness but when a letter doesn’t arrive, as happened for a period when the ISP started rejecting my emails, panic ensues. Of course, I didn’t know there is a problem. I have written and sent a letter and so, just assume that it will arrive.

Again, all those thoughts of accidents or illness were to the fore. For Sasha, it was made worse when last year I was a frequent visitor to hospitals and every visit could be but wasn’t bad news. I received urgent and concerned messages from Kiev.

Of course, when you think messages and emails are just heading into the ether there is always the obvious alternative. We could just phone each other.

Now, at least, my days are not rushed. I work sitting at my computer trying to find appropriate words. There is a routine and predictability. At times it gets boring and I want to contact Sasha. I can send a message, or better I can phone.

But Sasha’s life is less structured. She works on projects organising models for photo shoots or is herself the model. Her workday is busy, chaotic, and doesn’t have the same tempo as mine. She is not available to communicate at a whim. I know this, I understand but still, it can drive me round the bend.

We assume that because the other person has a phone we should be able to speak to them anytime we want, but the phone is the most obtrusive of devices. It sits there, ringing and demanding to be answered.

I am always complaining that we don’t talk enough on the phone. I say it doesn’t matter if it is only for a minute we need the contact. What I really mean is that I need the contact and more importantly, when it suits me. We haven’t yet resolved that issue, but we are working on a solution.

I was never precisely sure what Marshall McLuhan meant when in the 1950s he said, the medium is the message. Many have tried to explain it me but here maybe is an example of what he meant. The availability of technology has set new expectations which we can’t always live up to.

Long distance relationships are not easy, but the new technologies make it easier than it once was. Of course, all relationships need trust, we need to be open and honest but more important we need the technology to work.