“Know, Like, Trust”: The Key to Creating Your Competitive Advantage

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Why does one kid get picked first for playing a game at school? Is it because they’re the most popular? Is it because they’re the best at playing the game?

Yes to both.

Why does this same person always get picked first, or is at least among the first to be picked? Because they have a competitive advantage.

Understanding what it takes to create a competitive advantage for your career is important. Just like getting picked to be on a team, you want to be picked for promotions and opportunities. You want to be one of those people other people think of when they want to have “just the right person.” That person could be you. (Like this thought? Tweet it!)

What Is a Competitive Advantage?

Businesses talk about competitive advantage all the time. As a manager of your career, you can learn from their thinking on this topic.

In a business setting, a competitive advantage is a condition or attribute that allows the business to outperform or in some way distinguish itself from the competition.  Some examples:

  • Starbucks’ competitive advantage is clearly that they are everywhere. You can argue their coffee is the competitive advantage, and maybe it contributes, but it’s hard to compete as a coffee retailer against Starbucks, who is located in grocery stores, department stores and is on every other block in some cities. Definitely a competitive advantage.
  • Apple has maintained competitive advantage by being the first to innovate a graphic user interface followed by various forms of computing ranging from cell phones to tablets to laptops and computers. Other companies have been running this past decade simply to try to catch up.

In other words, a competitive advantage can be as simple as being the first one to do something, the one to offer the best price, or a combination of alluring attributes.

If we look at the example of the kid getting picked first, this kid was well liked and had a noteworthy skill set. It’s possible their advantage could have been just one of those two attributes. When you look around you, who has the competitive advantage, and what is it about them that has created this condition?

If you answered, “Because the boss likes them,” you might think that situation is a complete mystery, but it’s really not. Sure, the boss might really like them, but there’s a reason for this, and you can do a lot to ensure the same status for yourself. If you’ve ever heard of the term “know, like, trust,” it can help you form your plan for creating a competitive advantage. (More about that in a minute.)

Why a Competitive Advantage Is Important for Introverts

I’m sure you’ve noticed the cultural “darlings” are the extraverted people. They’re certainly more noticeable and the standard all of us are measured by. For us Introverts, we don’t have this built-in competitive advantage. We have to work a bit harder to simply keep up with others, much less stand out or have any competitive advantage.

If you’ve failed to help others understand what makes you distinct from those around you, you are failing your career. You may also be failing those people because they can’t use or benefit from your capabilities.

Failure to create a competitive advantage means you will not get ahead, not get promotions, will struggle with the job search and will feel completely under-appreciated. You could add lost income to this list because if you’re slow to get promoted, you will be slow to get increases in your paycheck. Any one of these issues is significant enough to warrant your attention, but most people who don’t create competitive advantage for themselves suffer from all of these problems.

I might add that when you’re repeatedly facing these problems, it will ultimately change who you are. It’s hard to stay positive and enjoy life when the biggest part of how you spend your time is deflating you each and every day.

Now, back to the whole concept of “know, like, trust”…

The Anatomy of “Know, Like, Trust”

1. Know

Once again, we can learn from business concepts and apply them to our career. Keep in mind it’s people who do business with people, which means this concept is really all about how people relate to each other.

This first part of this equation (know) is about helping other people to know you. You need to help other people understand your skills, your strengths and your values. This is the recipe for what makes you unique.

Aside from simply knowing that juicy list of attributes, we all want to know “what’s in it for me?” Yes, we are all self-centered, as much as we try to deny it. The people you come in contact with, especially at work, need to know how you can help them. If you haven’t educated those around you, you will get ignored and, from there, the whole cascade of issues I mentioned previously will be your reality.

The reason you must start this process with know is because until someone understands what you bring to the party, it’s impossible to like or trust you.

2. Like

Think about this for a minute: What kind of gravitational pull does someone have when you don’t like them?  How supportive are you of them?

More than likely, you run the other way to avoid people like this. You are not likely to do anything to help or support a person you don’t like, much less do anything other than the bare minimum to interact with them.

Even if you don’t dislike another person and are neutral about them, these same questions apply. No one goes out of their way to support or help another person who is a blank slate to them emotionally.

All of this means there is good reason to have someone like you and become emotionally invested in you (and vice versa).

It’s also important to point out that when you like someone, you’re more apt to pay attention to them and cut them some slack when they mess up. We become more invested in people we like and want to see things go well for them.

This doesn’t mean you have to set out to turn everyone into your BFF, because that wouldn’t happen anyway. It simply means that as you help people to know you, you should also be engaged in finding a real connection with them.

3. Trust

Trust is a foundational characteristic of all successful relationships. It is the reliance we place in another person based on their integrity, strengths, values and reliability. When you can’t trust another person, you inherently question their motives and behavior. Your distrust becomes the lens through which you view them.

It is possible to like a person but not trust them, which is why your competitive advantage must be founded in all three characteristics. If only 2 of the 3 exist, you really don’t have the conditions necessary for forming a competitive advantage. People can know, understand and take advantage of your skill sets, but if they don’t like or trust you, they will stop short right there. They won’t refer people to you, they won’t make a case for promoting you and they’ll have second thoughts if opportunities crop up for which you’re qualified.

Trust can be a very fragile thing as it can be destroyed by only one bad act. Restoration of trust takes time and consistent behavior to restore and, even then, can be not fully rebuilt.

 How to Create “Know, Like, Trust” (and Build Your Competitive Advantage)

You have complete control over how this should be orchestrated. Here’s how to do it:

Creating Know

  • Communication – This isn’t always a strong suit of Introverts, but you can still mater it. It’s really about looking for opportunities to update, share and help others. You don’t have to turn into a blabbermouth, but you do need to freely offer up information and make it easy for others to get it from you.
  • Focus – What you focus on is how people come to know you. If you want to be known a certain way, then focus on that thing by talking about it and doing whatever it is. For instance, if you want to be known as a social media  guru, then learn it, do it and help others to do it.
  • Consistency – If you only occasionally do the other two items, people won’t know what to make of you. You have to be consistent. Being consistent also is foundational to building trust as it shows others they can rely on you and know what to expect.

Creating Like

You might think liking someone is magical or organic, and while that does take place, it also has certain qualities you can replicate. People are more attracted to other people and like them when you:

  • Are warm and inviting.  Smile at others; it shows that you ‘re open and friendly.
  • Are humorous. People like people who have a good sense of humor and can easily laugh and enjoy life.
  • Look at them. It’s hard to feel a connection with someone who really won’t look you in the face.
  • Show interest. Strange how this works. People like people who like them. The best way to show interest is to ask questions and become engaged with the person you’re talking with.
  • Find commonality. When you’re asking questions, look for points of commonality between you and the other person. It’s easier to engage with someone when you have a few things in common. Obviously, you have work in common already — it’s your job to find other things as well.
  • Support them. When you offer to help someone, especially with your skills, it not only reinforces your competitive advantage, but you build an all-important relationship.

Creating Trust

Assuming you got the message about consistency, you’ve  probably begun to established trust with other people at work. This, of course, assumes you’re a person who operates with integrity and honesty as their core values.

The biggest challenge you have now (which might not be that much of a challenge for you) is to do nothing to mess up that impression.

In Summary

“Know, like, trust” is the backbone to your competitive advantage — and you need a competitive advantage if you are to succeed in life and in your career.

(By the way, these same pearls of wisdom also apply to our Extraverted counterparts out there, but don’t share this with them. Use this advice as your own secret weapon, saved only for the Ambitious Introvert.)

What steps can you take to create “know, like trust” and build your competitive advantage today? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Image: Flickr

About Dorothy

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is the Introvert Whisperer, Career & Leadership, speaker and author.

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