Know, Like and Trust: A Meaningless Mantra?
Bob Burg, bestselling author and speaker, is credited with coining the phrase. He said that “all things being equal, people do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like and trust. That means that if there are no other mitigating factors, then business is mostly to occur on the basis of a prior relationship.
The same thing could be said of leaders and managers. They’ll accomplish more and do it faster if they have a strong relationship with those they lead or manage.
What does know, like and trust mean, and how are the related?
There are varying degrees of meaning for the word know.
For instance, you can know about someone, by reputation - good or bad, even if you’ve never met them.
You can know them as an acquaintance. Perhaps you’ve met them once, and as a result you feel that you know them. Of course, depending on the nature of the meeting, they may not feel that they know you. Consider, for example, all of the many books that bestselling novelists have signed. While they’ve “met” every buyer, it’s questionable whether they know more than a few, if any.
You can know someone as a friend, though even that term has nuance. Some people speak of friends and best friends. There’s even a sort of social shorthand for this: BFF.
The knowledge that is shared between a couple or in a family is also different.
And, of course, the degree to which you know people at work can vary, too. Some people want to be known. Others, less so. Some will tell you their weekend plans on Friday, and then report back on Monday. Others will say nothing, as if they went from Friday to Monday with no break in-between.
How close should supervisors get?
There are organisations that prohibit what they refer to as fraternisation. To fraternise means to become like a brother or sister. In such organisations, people are strongly discouraged from spending time with those who are considered to be “below” them in the hierarchy, whether on the job or not.
At work, the relationships are kept entirely professional, and at any other time at a “polite” level, but seniors and juniors in rank would not be generally having one another over for dinner, meeting in a pub, or going on holiday together.
Although there are perhaps some benefits to restricting this level of knowing between “the ranks”, it cannot be ignored that where relationships are strongest, work is easier to do. The more you know in a caring, rather than an intrusive or controlling, way about people, the better positioned you are to help them. And the more you help them, the more they’ll be willing to help you on or off the job.
Like is a word that in many respects has lost all meaning. For some, it has become the default for “um” or “hmmm”. It’s been said that if a particular generation (which shall remain nameless) couldn’t use the words like, totally, or awesome, that they would have nothing to say.
Then there’s social media.
Liking there is just as meaningless. You can like the post, the post-er, the comment, the meme, or the video; or it could be that you don’t care for any of it, but liking is the best choice of the options available. Because you feel that you ought to react in some way, you “like” it.
In relationships, “like” has many shades of meaning. For children, to like someone can be anything from mild interest to puppy love.
Adults aren’t much better. They can like someone from afar, but have no desire to meet them. Quite often, this is because they like what they do; however, as they don’t know them, they’re not in a position to like them personally.
The same thing is true in the workplace. It’s not only possible, but expected that you’ll like what someone does without ever knowing them.
Relationships, whether as acquaintances or deep friendships however, depend on liking more than what people do. It means liking who they are. When you change from the former to the latter, you want to spend time with that person. This is how romances mature.
Of course, you’re probably not looking for a romantic relationship with your boss or subordinate, but if you want to work well with others, then it means that you’ll need to like one another enough to want to be in one another’s company.
Trust is considered to be one of the most important factors in organisations today. That’s because where it exists, people assume the best in one another. They make allowances. They don’t take offense easily. There’s banter and camaraderie, all of which fuels the cooperation that’s needed at work to accomplish what’s needed. Just as in any other relationship, trust is the bond that holds it together.
Trust takes a long time to develop, but can be lost in a moment, as those who have engaged in extramarital affairs will tell you.
And it can be lost at work quickly, too, especially when supervisors fail to be candid. Frankness and honesty are things that people expect. They’re a given. And when you fail to provide it, trust can be broken in an instant. It’s why when it happens that the best thing for the organisation is for that person to leave.
Now that you understand these concepts individually, you need to consider them collectively. That’s because just as your buyers know, like, and trust you, so, too, do those who follow you.
All three are vital. All three have to be present.
Know, but not like or trust
People could know you, but not like or trust you.
They might know, for instance, that you’re a bad egg. They know enough about you that they don’t want to know you any better.
Maybe you have a reputation for being selfish, taking credit for yourself, rather than giving it to those who earned it, or perhaps for helping yourself to company supplies.
They may not like you personally. Some people just rub others the wrong way.
There’s also this thing called chemistry. Some people you just naturally like, while others you don’t want to be in the same room with. It could be the way you dress, the vocabulary you use, or the fragrance that you wear. There are a lot of spoken and unspoken reasons why some people aren’t liked.
And knowing your reputation, habits, mannerisms, etc., people may not feel that you can be trusted. It could be that they can’t put their finger on the thing that bothers them, but their gut tells them that they have to be careful.
So knowledge about you alone doesn’t mean that you’ll be liked or trusted.
Know and like, but not trust
People could know and like you, but not trust you.
For instance, there are those who have charisma. There’s something about them that draws others to them. Some actors are like this. Even if they’re not well known or even recognized, they can bring a room to a standstill just by walking in. That, however, doesn’t mean that you trust them, though advertising agencies hope that you will.
Even if you knew that they were savvy investors, for example, if you were sensible, you wouldn’t give them thousands of pounds to invest for you, would you?
The same thing is true at work.
You may know someone personally - someone you grew up with, for instance. You may even have a good relationship with them; but you also happen to know that they have a “dark” side and will turn on you when you least expect it, and so you don’t trust them.
People may feel exactly the same about you. You may have worked together in previous organisations or on joint projects, but you’re not trusted, at least not to the extent that you would like or that others are.
Like and trust, but not know
It’s possible to like people and to trust people, but not know them. This is how people end up buying things they don’t need or spending more than they should. They let the emotions of like and trust supplant the absence of knowing. They assume that because they like and trust the salesperson, for instance, that they also know them, even if they’ve never met offline or on, or spoken on the phone. They like and trust them because they’re made to feel good about themselves, and that’s because salespeople portray themselves as friends. Buyer’s regret occurs when the euphoria of liking and trusting wears off, and people realise they didn’t know who or what they were dealing with.
Know and trust, but not like
It’s possible, too, to know and trust, but not like.
“How”, you may ask?
In a negative sense.
People may know exactly what you’re like: unfriendly, unkind, self-centred, always looking out for yourself, but never them; micromanaging, and basically unpleasant to be around. And because they’ve seen you behave consistently like this, they “trust” that that’s the way you’ll always be. They feel that they can bet money on it. And so you won’t be surprised that they don’t like you.
No doubt, this description reminds you of people you’ve met or observed.
How do you get people to know, like, and trust you?
In order for people to get to know you, you have to connect with them. That may mean taking the initiative, especially if you’re the senior member in the relationship.
You could take them for lunch, for instance, tell them about your extracurricular interests, what you like to do for leisure, or places you want to visit. This will make you seem more human and approachable.
You want people to want to get to know you better.
This is how friendships develop. It’s a myth to suggest that one friend can’t work for another. Familiarity only breeds contempt if one believes that the relationship will mean favoritism. The best friends will respect your authority and, where there are doubts, you as a leader or manager can make sure that you don’t give this impression.
If you want people to like you, then you need to be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything, whether it’s bad news, or something negative about yourself. If it comes up in the conversation, then admit to it.
Be authentic. People hate phonies.
Be nice. Kindness goes a long way.
And don’t make a big deal about the obvious. Assume that those you supervise or who lead and manage you are an intelligent bunch.
Make yourself available. Don’t hide in your physical or online office.
Give generously of your time, talent, and influence, and be likable.
Of course, you may decide that you’re not in a popularity contest, and therefore don’t care if people like you or not. Thing is that it’s important, and you’re going to have to recognise it.
If you want people to trust you, then treat them like they’re special. Don’t hold back on them.
Do what you say you’ll do. Keep your promises, whether explicit or implicit.
Be consistent. Be yourself and unpretentious.
Be willing to say you’re sorry and mean it. Ask forgiveness when you’re wrong, because there will be times when you are.
Let people do their jobs without interference. If they need your help, then let them ask you. Don’t be looking over their shoulders. It makes them question their own abilities and to distrust you.
And be worthy of trust.
Daily, prove that you care about others personally.
Don’t take any of this for granted
Just because people know, like and trust you now, doesn’t mean that they always will. You have to earn it every day.
As long as you remember that, the relationships that you have with those who work for you, and those for whom you work, will grow.
If this resonates with you, then think about teaching your peers, those above you and those you supervise these vital concepts.