I understand selling trust.

For 15 years, I sold executive search.  

I sold an impeccable read of talent honed through years of Jewish Mothering and witchblood genetic evolution.  I sold a deep and wide research function the likes of which the CIA would envy. I sold a teeming database, a “little black book” which would make The Fonz chew his fist.

But, most of all, what I really sold was trust.

Every search firm who lined up in the waiting room walked in to pitch the search committee and gave, in some form or another, the same presentation: we’re smart, we’re deep, we’re fast, we’re, at the very least, equal to the value proposed in our price.  And, it was all true. At the levels at which our firm operated, I’m proud to say that we were amongst the elite, the best and the brightest, the most qualified to do this work in the exceptional ways our clients deserved and demanded.

In the end, it came down to one thing above all else: Who did the client trust?

A search firm is never called upon when a client is in stasis.  It’s always a moment of crisis. The chief executive just resigned or, worse, was fired.  An opportunity just arose to scale, but the underlying infrastructure isn’t ready. A shift in the competitive landscape has forced a sudden reckoning with the way resources are deployed, and lots more resources now lay on the line.

They were stressed.  They were anxious. They stood on shifting sands.  And they needed answers from someone they believed, knew, and understood.

We weren’t selling search, we were selling trust.

I think it’s the same thing right now.  We are all in crisis. We are all stressed.  We are all on sands that seem unrecognizable one day to the next.

And, yet, there is also a rush to appear like we’ve got it all together, like we are perfect.  We are green screening away our personalities and trying to look as if we are unaffected by this axis-tilting event.  Frankly, I hate it.

I’d like to see your bookshelf.  I’d like to see your 5K medals. I’d like to see your family pictures.  I’d like to see your art. I’d like to see your puppy. I’d like to see your backyard view.  I’d like to see your neglected pile of laundry (because then I’ll feel better about mine). 

I’d like to see you.

Extroverts need the connection and the ability to rout around in your life.  Introverts (like me) need the voyeuristic opportunity for conversation starters, the discovery of which are so otherwise exhausting to purchase.  Humans, of all stripes, need to be human. And, your efforts to hide that through polished perfect green-screened lives are no better than carefully curated social media posts of a life that isn’t real.  

Your efforts to hide who you are leave me lonelier than before, for the effort placed to keep our connection at bay is all the more obvious and intentional now.  It’s not that I realize I don’t know you. It’s that I realize you never wanted me to in the first place.

That’s not a recipe for trust.  And, if you are selling in the time of COVID, and let’s face it, we are all selling every single day, you aren’t selling trust if you hide away your human side.

Show me your human side, and I’ll show you mine.  And, together, apart, we will get through this.

UPDATE: Robin Roberts asked me to talk about this on Good Morning America.  See that interview here.

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