Trust is a product of ability multiplied by performance

I woke up yesterday morning to an email from a friend sharing a YouTube video with me that is going viral.  It had something to do with Pepsi Max and Jeff Gordon, so I clicked on the link to check it out.  I have to admit, it was one of the most entertaining videos I’ve seen in quite a while.  Let me set it up for you.

Jeff Gordon is a NASCAR driver who is a four-time series champion, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, and third on the all-time wins list with 87 victory laps.  He is, by far, one of the most decorated NASCAR drivers in history.  In this video for Pepsi Max, Gordon puts on some make-up and a fake mustache, and heads off to a local dealership to test drive an ’09 Chevrolet Camaro SS with an unassuming salesman.

Gordon, who goes by Mike in the video, approaches the car and stares at it with bridled interest, enticing the salesman to recommend he take it for a test drive.  Pretending to not know anything about a car with this much horsepower, Gordon reluctantly agrees, signs the release and the two of them jump into the car to take it for a little spin.  While they were inside the dealership signing the release, one of the guys on Gordon’s team added cameras to the front of the car to capture their experience.  Gordon is also decked out with a camera on his glasses and a hidden camera in a can of Pepsi Max he brings with him to film the salesman’s experience as well.

I have never seen a grown man go from confident salesman to scared little boy in less time, as Gordon pulls out of the parking lot and initiates his test drive with a couple of donuts and fishtails.  The test drive lasted all of three minutes, with the salesman holding on to anything he could grasp while he cussed, cautioned and warned Gordon about his liability with the car.

The best part in the video came at the end, when this emotionally scarred salesman jumps out of the car in a fury heading inside to call the police, and Gordon jumps in front of him to reveal his true identity.  Immediately, this man’s fear turned to embarrassment and excitement, realizing he had been riding alongside a professional driver the whole time.  With a blush on his face and sweat dripping from his forehead, he says what I imagine all of us would say if we were in his shoes, “Can we do it again?!”

Notice, his experience didn’t change, but his perception of the event changed instantaneously.  He went from fear to trust in less than 10 seconds because he knew Gordon’s ability to drive a car and his performance as a driver over the years.

Some people have abilities that are truly inspiring, but it’s only when their ability is multiplied by their performance that they become trustworthy to those they lead.  As a leader in your organization, the trust your team members have in you will grow when they see your ability displayed through consistent performance, which is why it is crucial to pursue excellence every day.


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