I recently interviewed Kevin Gutknecht, Mn/DOT Communications Director. We talked about the 12th book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Teal Book of Trust: How to Earn It, Grow It, and Keep It to Become a Trusted Advisor in Sales, Business and Life.
Tang: Why did you pick this book?
Gutknecht: I like the color teal. But seriously, I think trust is an important issue in today’s society. It is a foundation for everything we do at work and in life. It is at the foundation of every relationship. We have to trust that people will get the work done, that they will keep their word and keep confidential information entrusted to them. Without trust, there won’t be strong relationships and success.
Tang: What do you like the best about the book?
Gutknecht: I like the author’s optimistic approach and outlook. For example, he says you trust others until they give you reasons not to do so. I agree with that approach. He has a lot of experiences in sales and his examples are based on his experiences. The book is practical and offers common sense advice. It’s simple and easy to read.
Tang: Is there anything new you learned from the book that is profound for you?
Gutknecht: I didn’t really find anything in this book that is new, that most people don’t already know. It’s all common sense. It’s just easy to lose track of common sense in our daily lives. This is a good book to re-read periodically to remind ourselves of that common sense.
Tang: Please share an example of what you found is a good common sense reminder for you.
Gutknecht: Trust yourself. You can’t trust others until you trust yourself. When you are in a decision-making job, it’s important to trust yourself once you have done your work. Trust your judgments, instincts, abilities, wisdom and actions. Don’t second guess yourself. Second-guessing can make you lose confidence in yourself.
Tang: In the book the author talks about the ultimate role that one can achieve with respect to trust – a trusted advisor. Trusted advisor status is about people seeking and taking your advice both as a counselor and a confidante. Being a trusted advisor is not simply a responsibility, it’s an honor! It’s not something that you force on someone, it’s something that must be earned. It’s not a title, it’s an earned designation. Can you think of someone in your work or personal life that served as a trusted advisor for you? What characteristics does he/she have?
Gutknecht: Over the years I have a number of people in my military and professional lives who have been and are trusted advisors to me.
They all have a wealth of common sense. They are experts in areas I am looking to them for advice. I have known them for awhile, know who they are and know their families. We have established a bond together.
Tang: I think the topic of the book is very fitting for you as Mn/DOT’s Communications Director. You came to the position more than a year after the I-35W Bridge collapsed, during the time when the public trust in Mn/DOT was at one of the lowest points in history. What have you or what has Mn/DOT done in the last three years to rebuild the trust with the public and also the trust with the employees? How successful is the effort so far?
Gutknecht: We have worked on several key components in rebuilding trust. First, it’s transparency – tell facts and truth. The best policy I know for meeting the public’s right and need to know and also to build trust with employees is “Maximum disclosure with minimum delay.” We need to think ahead and plan well when we communicate about what we are doing as an agency. We have worked hard to accommodate any requests from the media and public, answer their inquiries quickly in ways they can understand and not in too technical of terms. Listening is another important component. We show others that we care through active listening. And we make changes as we can.
Success is difficult to measure this soon after the collapse. Trust and credibility have to be earned. We will continue to work hard at earning public trust by being transparent and responsive.
Tang: Please share some quotes from the book that are very meaningful for you.
Gutknecht: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Back of the book cover.
“You can’t trust others until you trust yourself.”– P. 18
Tang: Tell us a little bit about your reading habits.
Gutknecht: I was a reader as a kid, My parents and schools encouraged me to read. I remember my elementary school did reading contests to see who read the most books. I participated in those contest and counted my books.
In 2007-2008, when I was doing an online graduate program at the US Army War College, I read a lot of books on military history, foreign policy, and leadership.
Outside of work, I enjoy reading fiction, especially science fiction and military history for entertainment. I just finished reading Stieg Larsson’s Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Tang: Any other thoughts regarding the book, Commissioner’s Reading Corner or reading in general?
Gutknecht: The book is worth reading and rereading periodically to remind ourselves of the importance of trust and credibility.
I think the Commissioner’s Reading Corner is an excellent idea. It gives us an opportunity to step back and look at things from a different perspective, to improve our communication and leadership skills.