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A simple act to foster trust (and how Franklin turned an enemy into an ally)

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Anthony Pica
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A simple act to foster trust (and how Franklin turned an enemy into an ally)

Leadership requires trust. And to build trust, actions must align with words.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my co-worker to borrow his Salesforce Tableau CRM software license (I needed to analyze some marketing data). I told him exactly when IT would transfer the license to me and exactly when he'd get it back. Reluctant at first, he obliged.

A day sooner than promised, I had IT assign the license back to him. I was surprised at how grateful my co-worker was. After all, he did me a favor.

This reminds me of a story of how one of the United States' founding fathers transformed a foe into a friend.

When Benjamin Franklin sought reelection in the legislature, newcomer Isaac Norris campaigned against him and supported another candidate. Though Franklin won reelection, he thought beyond the short-term win. What to do with Norris? If he were to take revenge on Norris, it would confirm the bad things his foe said about him. And if he ignored Norris, it might convey arrogance, causing Norris to dislike him even more. In both cases, Franklin might create a lifelong political enemy.

Here's what social-savvy Benjamin Franklin did instead...

Franklin empathetically watched Isaac Norris and realized he liked attention and admiration. Franklin learned that Norris had an extensive library and a collection of rare books he was proud of. As a fellow book-lover, Franklin wrote him a letter filled with admiration. Franklin asked to borrow a particularly rare book and promised to promptly return it. Isaac Norris, feeling a sense of pride, immediately gave the book to Franklin.

Of course, Franklin returned the book just as he said he would. At the next legislature meeting, Isaac Norris befriended Franklin. The duo became close friends and political allies.

The simple act of returning the Tableau license to my co-worker—like I said I would—fostered the mutual trust we already had. When Franklin asked to borrow a book and promptly returned it when he said he would, Norris's perception of him changed: Norris went from disliking Franklin to viewing him as an honorable gentleman who could be trusted as a leader.

I want people to know that when I say I'm going to do something, I will do it. I want people to trust me. Because without trust, there is no room for leadership.

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