Brian Halligan: 5 Ways to Build Trust Fast


Today faith only goes so far. Earning trust is the sure path to success. Brian Halligan, CEO Of HubSpot, shares five tips for building trust fast.

All collaboration is built on trust. Whether making sales, building a team, or managing people, without trust productivity falls apart. Often, you’ll take action, requiring trust even before it’s earned or secured. You might have to buy, transact, hire, or participate, not on trust but on blind faith…at least until that trust is confirmed, or broken.

Best-selling author and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan knows a lot about building trust fast. With Halligan’s company adding nearly a person a day, and growing at a screaming 82 percent annually, he has to build trust among his partners, employees, managers, and customers quickly and efficiently. Without trust, HubSpot, the leader in inbound marketing software, would waste valuable resources on politics and concern.

Together, Halligan and I identified key trust-building insights from HubSpot practices. Whether you are a CEO, salesperson, manager, or team member, we’re sure these five tips will help you build trust today:

1. Be Transparent and Consistent

Inspired by the book The Cluetrain Manifesto, Halligan and co-founder Dharmesh Shah dedicated the company to open book management and transparency. Nearly every aspect of financials is shared with employees, investors, and customers alike. As a private company, they’re not required to publish financials, but they do. In fact, they’re publicly releasing 2012 annual numbers today, which you can see right here. Regular communication is encouraged in an open environment with few walls, and no offices, allowing for constant interaction. No question is off limits at HubSpot company meetings. Everyone’s trusted with sensitive information and expected to capitalize on their inclusion by driving the company forward.

Lesson: Share information openly and regularly so people can use it to help. Otherwise they’ll assume you’re definitely hiding something.

2. Tell True and Relevant Stories

When you meet people, you fill in your own story about them until truth is provided. They, of course, do the same about you. People use often-wrong stereotypes and archetypes to gain much-desired context quickly. HubSpot counteracts this with constant storytelling within the company. In today’s meme-dominated world, broadcasting your own real stories of hardship, achievement, success, and failure are important to show patterns of true behavior amongst management, employees, and customers. Co-founder Shah says, “Whether it’s right, wrong, or different, it is. And all of us need to be acutely aware of what’s going on in our business and be able to talk candidly about our company narrative.” Halligan himself takes employees on off-site “Story Walks” to give them insight to HubSpot thinking and culture.

Lesson: Share stories that define how you have dealt with tough situations so people can understand and appreciate your character.

3. Celebrate Individualism

People want to stay in their own comfort zone. Buyers, employees, and managers want to adapt as little as possible when engaging in something new. HubSpot purposefully highlights individual traits among their people. They make the point very quickly that their solutions are adaptable to the way you do business. Internally, they emphasize that people have individual personalities and all are accepted. They often host “Lunch Roulette” where all employees, including senior management, submit their names and are randomly picked to have a company-paid lunch with other HubSpot employees.

Lesson: Let people see who you really are and readily accept them for who they are. Authenticity is the shortest path to trust and the surest way to keep it.

4. Give People a Preview

Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable and drives distrust. People automatically fill in the worst when there are gaps in the upcoming story. The drama of surprise can be fun, but not when stakes are high and people are making critical decisions. Earn trust by giving information as it comes in even when it’s unfavorable. People handle the truth better than optimistic projections that don’t come true. Halligan not only informs about the present, but shares his intended future tempered with realities of the journey. This way he inspires his team, solicits valuable feedback, and also prepares them for road bumps ahead. Painting a positive but realistic vision lets HubSpot constituents dream and execute with excitement and confidence.

Lesson: Share where you are going and why. Manage expectations about the journey so fear is minimized and participants can help.

5. Prioritize Safe Authority

Trust doesn’t exist at the outset because people need to prove themselves trustworthy. Noted credibility and references help, but until people show trust in action you’re flying on faith that they will perform as expected. Give people a chance to try something and succeed early. HubSpot does this immediately by letting people determine their own vacations. Seriously, there is no formal policy or guidelines. Employees are told on day one to “Use good judgment” and then given the authority to design when, where, and how long, to optimize for productivity and lifestyle.

Lesson: Give away authority early, in ways that position people to succeed. They will then trust themselves first, opening them to trust you as an ally in their journey.

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