Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Book Review: Trust Agents

“Trust agents have a desire to connect good people together.” Making connections and gaining people’s trust is the premise of the book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. The authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith bring together a lot of great ideas that really strike a chord when you read them. I like the authors’ definition of trust: confidence and faith. Most of the ideas in the book are pretty obvious, such as “when you treat people well, they treat you well back.” However, the way Brogan and Smith weave the obvious ideas together is genius.

The authors focus on six characteristics of Trust Agents:
  1. Make your own game: There’s an established way to do things and a game changing way to do things. By making your own game and forcing your competitors to keep up, you leave them at a disadvantage at every turn.
  2. One of Us: Being One of Us is about belonging. Being seen as connected with others is very useful in any people-facing job. If you act like a good citizen, people will trust you.
  3. The Archimedes Effect: This is about understanding and using leverage. The Web is a great tool for leveraging the power of what you do. Leverage means never having to re-invent the wheel; it never goes out of style.
  4. Agent Zero: Trust agents are at the center of their networks. They connect people together and use their influence to find resources and complete projects faster. They work in positions that connect internal teams, external colleagues and more. “Have a wide network and you’ll never be in need of work.”
  5. Human Artist: This is about people skills, it’s about developing understanding of people you interact with. “In social media, human is the new black. People are the next revolution, and being active on the human-faced Web is your company’s best chance to grow its business in the coming years.”
  6. Build and Army: Leaders aren’t just good at doing their job, they help others grow and organize people’s skills to their command when necessary. Think of the army as a group of people you inspire and lead to do great things together that could not be accomplished otherwise.

The book is chock-full of sidebars with actionable ideas. For example, the first one (on page 11) gives you tools to help you get more involved in the Social Web. Others help you learn how to build relationships, leverage your position within your organization and make friends online. These short excerpts drive home the important points and give you a jumpstart to becoming trusted online.

Ultimately, to become a trusted “you need to be liked, and you start becoming likable by being worthy of being liked. Be kind. Be patient. Be humble, on time, and generous. Be that person you would like to be friends with. Likability and the related trait, intimacy, is one of the biggest factors in trust, and it’s also one of the easiest to develop with people online.”

It’s difficult for me to do justice to the quality and value of this book. The only way you will know what I’m trying to convey is to read the book. I HIGHLY recommend it!

The Product Management Perspective: Nothing you do as a product manager is more important than being trusted. Take the necessary time to build relationships with the people you depend on to get your products out the door. While this book focuses primarily on building relationships online, the principles fit very nicely into the world we live in as product managers. I highly recommend it for your library.

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Over the past few days it’s hit me squarely between the eyes that I have not been contributing enough to the online world. My excuse (and I’ve heard this from many product managers) is that I’ve been heads down on an intense product release and it’s sucking all my time and energy. While that is true, it’s no excuse.

Two things have jolted me back to reality and to a new desire to stop making excuses:

  1. Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This is an excellent book that lays out simple steps to become a person other people trust, especially online. I will write more about the book here soon.
  2. Listening to Tribes by Seth Godin. I downloaded the audio book and started listening on a run (podcasts and audio books keep me running a lot of miles these days; you can follow me on Daily Mile) and was instantly drawn in to his discussion on leading ‘tribes’ of people in areas for which you have passion. More on this later too.

This recent jolt has made me realize I’ve neglected my friends in the online world (no product release is worth that). For those of you who have me on your RSS feeds: Thank you and I apologize sincerely. For those who just happened to stop by, welcome to Lead on Purpose.

I started this blog (in 2007) to promote leadership principles in product management. This is an important discipline that does not get enough attention. I’ve hopefully added at least a drop to the bucket.

My commitment: For the next six months (at a minimum) I will write at least one post a week. I will continue to learn and share and identify blogs, books and people who are doing great things in leadership and product management.

My appeal to you: Keep me honest. Leave comments and let me know how you feel, even (especially) if you disagree. I’m blogging to learn, not to make money. Comments, criticism, advice and opinions are welcome here.

Thank you, and please check back; I will.