(NOTE: This guest blog post about trustworthy leadership was written by Steve Smith, sales director of U.K.-based company The Tree Group. He’s the one in the orange shorts.)
A few years ago, I was on a vacation in Turkey with our best friends, having a great time.
One day we suggested going for a nice walk in a gorge with a waterfall at the end. “Great,” we said. “Let's go.”
Upon arrival, we changed into rubber shoes and yellow safety hats. I wondered at that point whether it was a bit of overkill on the health and safety front.
It turns out I was lucky a “seller” was there to provide trustworthy leadership when I needed him. This man “selling” his services was a tour guide. (Ironically, “guide” is the word origin of “leader” and we’d soon learn the significance of that!)
Trustworthy Leadership Where You Least Expect It
This guide was milling around our group of four, and he started following us up the gorge. I immediately said, “Hello, mate. We are OK; no need for you today; all good here.”
He spoke broken English, but enough to understand. He said the trail gets harder and we would need him. At this stage, all of us declined his service as the outlook as far as we could see was clear. And we did not understand his value. He also did not tell us the price of his service at this point, though we weren’t even listening anyway.
Five minutes in, we didn't need anybody, yet the host was still beside us. It simply seemed like a nice walk on a summer day in the gorge ... so I still ignored our tour host.
After 20 minutes, all was still good. No need for our host -- why is he still with us? But around the corner was the first challenge. “Oh my God,” I thought. ... How were we going to get up the first waterfall section with our bags and no knowledge of where to start from?
Our host jumped into action. He took our bags, threw them over his shoulder, and got into the middle of the waterfall. He knew exactly where to stand, and instantly offered his spare hand and pulled us all up the first challenge. Instantly, trust was achieved -- this guy knew his stuff.
This was the turning point: His knowledge was key to getting to the end of our challenge!
We climbed up around 15 waterfalls at various difficulties. We even picked up two straggling Russian tourists who had gotten stuck at waterfall No. 3, and we became a group of six.
It took another two-plus hours to climb to the end. Many challenges were hard for the some of the group. There were areas where if you fell, you would have been seriously injured.
Finally, we reached the summit. (See the photo above.) We made it! That was the good news ...
The bad news? No cafe or any facilities at the end of the waterfall, like our wives thought there would be. All we had was the sickening fact that we had to return exactly the way we started, without trust or the host.
It was even harder climbing down the waterfalls. Another two hours and we made it back safely.
What Did We Learn?
Success can be achieved, but you need key people you can completely trust to continue and reach your end goal, especially when there are a few bumps along the way.
When a stranger approaches, you might not know how he will add value. Give him a little time, allow him to prove his value to gain trust.
Listen and ask questions. On that day we as a group did not, we carried on blindly, believing we did not need any support. Not knowing the terrain ahead of us was very time-consuming and dangerous, but thanks to the support from an outside source, the worth of a trusted professional was proven.
To be fair, our host was at some fault, by not showing or explaining in advance our challenges ahead and why we should listen to him, trust him, and use his services.
And when we got to the end and congratulated him for his persistence and energy to get us home, he simply asked, “How much would you like pay?”
Well, he got a good tip; let's just say that. Good service = reward.
Selling by Leading
If I went back to the gorge, would I use him? Darn right!
If I could not locate him? I would need to trust another knowledgeable person ... by asking the right questions. Now the path has been laid and I have new expectations for how I handle trust.
The guide (seller) succeeded because he was exhibiting a leadership principle. Instead of worrying about how much he could sell his services for, he was concerned with leading us to safety.
That’s the key to helping people achieve their goals!