MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
month marks the kickoff our new series of articles called
Building Trust on the
Whether you are building trust
in a new role or new situation, or you are already well-established
in your role, the steps you take in building trust really
aren't so different.
It's just that being new, or walking
a specific path for the first time isn't nearly as comfortable
a position. While we've already examined the specific
steps for building trust in The
Trusted Leader, this series of articles is
devoted specifically to the defining moments of building
trust on the way in.
the Big Mistake
Virtual Inner Circle
month's issue: Pass the Humility, Please
Harvard Business Review case study: Succession
and Failure, co-authored by Rob Galford. Available
We all care about how we come across
when we start in a new job, a new role, or a new initiative.
We all know the maxims about first impressions being lasting
impressions, and most of us know intuitively that people tend
to make judgments on others quickly, and often with insufficient
data. Sales research indicates that decisions whether or not
to buy from a particular individual are made in less than
sixty seconds. As a result of that knowledge, building trust
on the way in can be a real struggle, initially because of
the performance anxiety it creates.
We are being watched, we are being sized
up, we are being examined, poked, prodded, tested from afar,
and even judged on a set of unknown criteria by a set of unknown
jurists. And while you may be the Jedi Knight or Gladiator
who finds that kind of trial exhilarating and energizing (lucky
you!), it's anxiety-provoking for the rest of us mortals,
no matter how terrific we are.
So how do we manage the entry process?
What can we do to build trust on the way in, other than remembering
what our mothers told us about just being ourselves and doing
our best? We've looked at a number of situations, where people
have done it rather well (and, by unfortunate contrast, not-so-well).
From those cases, we have distilled a few key principles that
appear to govern the small country of "New-Ness,"
whether you are New to the company, New to the job, or New
to a particular situation.
While they are designed to calm you,
some of these topics can be unsettling, simply because they
highlight the fears we might have of embarrassment or (worse!)
failure. But again, better the devils you know. So let's go
down the path with the worst first: What happens if you
-Rob and Anne-
TRUST ON THE WAY IN PART I: WHAT IF YOU FLUB IT?
You might just flub your initial entrance.
Yup, you might.
But unless you're only on stage for one
brief scene in a one-time only performance, you can probably
fix it in the long run. In fact, it might earn you even greater
trust — even when your profile is high, the stakes are
high, the territory is brutal, and your time is short.
That was exactly the situation that faced
one of the highest-profile restaurant openings in the world
just a few years ago. This is a story we have come to appreciate
for what it says about getting in wrong on the way in, and
then getting it right.
When Alain Ducasse arrived in New York
to open Alain Ducasse at the Essex House the expectations
were high — as high as his prices, which average $250
per person. He was supposed to offer French-food-savvy New
Yorkers the most sumptuous, most expensive experience in the
But the restaurant got a cool reception.
The food was good, but not stellar. The dining room rituals
were off-putting. The service was disorganized.
The speculation was that Mr. Ducasse would
give up and leave New York.
But no such thing happened. He rolled
up his sleeves and fixed what was wrong. He improved the food
and its presentation, as well as the functioning of his staff.
He even sent the confounding asparagus forceps back to France.
He now offers New Yorkers the experience
they expect from someone of his caliber. As food critic William
Grimes wrote in the New York Times, "He came,
he stumbled and he stayed. And now he has conquered."
Imagine, if you will, what it must have
been like for Alain Ducasse in those early months. It couldn't
have been pretty. And whether or not your sympathies lie with
a restaurateur (or with a restaurant) whose meals can easily
exceed $250 per person, you can certainly get a sense of how
it must have felt. His entry could not have been what he had
hoped (even though, by most reports, things really were pretty
darn good in the first place — just not equal to the
You can also sense that Mr. Ducasse must
have indeed worked at it with a vengeance, and now appears
to have gotten it right. He has, we are told, garnered much
respect for his perseverance, and for his ongoing efforts
to approach perfection. The fact that he continued to work
on improving things, discarding what didn't work in terms
of service and presentation, getting his staff to work more
cohesively, and investing in getting it right actually enhanced
his reputation in his community.
It underscores the fact that on the way
in, we are best served by recognizing that building trust
is a process, not a single event. As leaders on the way in,
we are watched as closely as Alain Ducasse, albeit in entirely
It's comforting to know that as we get
started, there is redemption, and flubs aren't necessarily
fatal. Unless one has a series of them.
(For further drooling.. err.. reading,
see this New
York Times review of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House.)
How about you? Do you want to admit
that you ever flubbed it on the way in? Or know someone who
did? Let us know.
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