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  • Writer's pictureJerry Phillips

Trust: A firm belief in the intention, reliability, and competence of a person or a process.

My daughter sells software and she is very good at it. However, from time to time she has a crisis of confidence, as we all do. She will be working on a large opportunity and things happen that she hasn’t planned for. The prospect may not return a telephone call or email in a timely manner. The prospect may commit to one thing and then revise history. They may not actually do anything, but she may read something into the lack of communication that really isn’t there. I have done the same things earlier in my career.

My daughter has the DNA to sell. She is very process oriented and disciplined to her process. We have a way of communicating about business. She calls to vent and most the time, I listen. The times when I try to solve for her is when we have our moments. I can make suggestions, I just can’t tell her how to do it. Rightfully so. What I do share each time is “trust your process.” Her process isn’t a guarantee that she will close business, but it improves her odds. Her sales process is reliable. It helps her be proactive and strategic instead of reactive. In addition to trusting her process, I also suggest she trust herself. She has been a top salesperson at every company she has worked with. She builds strong relationships with her clients and they trust her to do what she says she will.

We’ve all been in situations where we have experienced the opposite. I personally have experienced shoddy manufacturing and installation processes that cost the company profitability. I have worked turnarounds in businesses where the strategy was poorly written and even more poorly executed. There was no trust in either the plan, or the people developing it.

I personally learned a great deal from Tracy Bilbrough. Tracy was my VP of Marketing and Sales when we launched the DeWalt brand in 1992. I reached out to Tracy for input on this article. He is now the Chairman of the Board and CEO of IPS. IPS Corporation is a leading manufacturer of plumbing and roofing products, solvent cements, and adhesives for residential, commercial, and industrial use and a global powerhouse. Tracy is a brilliant, competitive, goal oriented leader who has been extremely successful at growing profitable businesses. Just as importantly, Tracy is a curious and hungry learner who is highly self-aware.

I loved my time with Black & Decker/ DeWalt. It was one of the most market driven companies that I’ve ever been witness to. They invested in their team with not only product training, but true development training. It wasn’t just a check the box situation. It was an investment. In the 12 years, I was a part of the company, they sent me to training, both internally and externally, over 30 weeks. One of my favorite training sessions was an internal training called “Breakthrough Leadership.” Part of that process was to take a preference assessment tool. We used Meyers-Briggs. Tracy was certified to teach the utilization of Meyers-Briggs. He shared some interesting stories around it.

Tracy taught several classes on the assessment tool and its utilization. One of his sessions was held at the Towson, MD headquarters. In that class, he had attendee who was an engineer with the company. She came to Tracy after the class nearly in tears. She had been working in the company for 4 years and she shared that she felt like an alien. She was a SFP in Meyers -Briggs terms. The person who certified Tracy to teach the class shared with Tracy that B&D had a hiring bias. The vast majority of people, including Tracy and myself, were NTJ’s. He said he had never seen a company with that strong of bias. The danger in the bias is the opening to blind spots. The engineer now knew why she felt like she did. She was hopeful that others would be more tolerant and understanding. Tracy shared that he learned more by teaching the class than attending the class. He had struggled with relating to someone who thought differently. He now worked to be more understanding and tolerant. It was an inflection point in his career.

Tracy and I lost touch with each other for over 15 years. He had moved into an international role with the company, then left the company for a larger opportunity. He moved into a CEO role with a Private Equity owned company and proceeded to grow and sell three separate companies. He is now at his fourth PE owned company, IPS, and he and his team are exceeding all expectations.

It’s fascinating to reconnect with someone after 15 years and I shared with Tracy how much I felt he had changed and grown. We all tend to freeze people in time, and I was no exception. Tracy is very self-aware and comfortable with who he is. He takes great joy in watching others be successful. Not in the recognition he gets or as his legacy, but truly enjoys watching others be successful. My question to Tracy is how? How did he become this strong leader? The word that came to mind was trust. Trust in a different sense.

There were a couple of other inflection points in Tracy’s career. The first was the 360 feedback we were given at the “Breakthrough Leadership” sessions. He loved the feedback from his peers and direct reports. It gave him true, deep insight into what he needed to focus on. He then observed people who were good at those things and learned from them. The second was a week he spent at the Center for Creative Leadership. It was an intense week of experiential learning, observation, and evaluation. Again, he received feedback from his supervisor, peers at B&D and at the center, as well as his direct reports. Again, he increased his self-awareness through some “dark nights of the soul” and focused on development of his skills. He trusted in the processes. To this day, Tracy sends his leadership team to the CCL. He also does annual 360’s on himself, and his leadership team.

Throughout Tracy’s career he has utilized processes to perform at best. He trusts his processes and they have served him well. However, he is not locked into his current processes to the point he won’t accept different and better ones. He is a learner and he is willing to share his deep knowledge with others.

I believe trust is the bedrock foundation of any relationship. Do we do what we say we will do? I’ve shared my thoughts and the thoughts of others on judgment and discovery. Without strong judgment, which comes from strong discovery, there is no basis for trust. Trust is precious. Without it, we are rudderless.

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