The Speed of Trust

The One Thing That Changes Everything
Author: Stephen M. R. Covey


Covey is the son of highly regarded author, Stephen Covey, and the cofounder of his own leadership consulting organization, CoveyLink Worldwide. His highly-principled writing is much like his father's. With trust, everything runs faster, smoother and cheaper. A lack of trust imposes a "tax" in speed and costs. Covey outlines 13 steps to see, speak, and behave in ways that build trust. "The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders-customers, business partners, investors, and coworkers-is the key leadership competency of the new global economy." (21)

Best Chapter: The First Wave - Self Trust. The Principle of Credibility

The foundational principle is credibility or believability. Am I believable? Do I trust myself? And Am I someone others can trust? "The lack of self-trust also undermines our ability to trust others. It's the little things-a weak or dishonest act at a time-that gradually weaken and corrode credibility. (47) We can increase our trustworthiness.

The four cores:
  • Integrity: honesty, integratedness, being congruent inside and out, acting our values and beliefs
  • Intent: our motives, agenda, and resulting behavior
  • Capabilities: talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style
  • Results: our track record, performance, getting the right things done

Key Insights

Some leading organizations ask their employees directly, "Do you trust your boss?" This may be the most predictive indicator of team performance. (17)

"When trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and your life." (19) Trust is one of the most powerful forms of motivation and inspiration. Who trusts you?

Trust is a function of character and competence. If a person is sincere but doesn't get results or if a person has a good track record but is dishonest, you won't trust them. Live the values (character) and deliver results (competence). (30-31)

"Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust." "The means are as important as the ends. How you go about achieving results is as important as the results themselves, because when you establish trust, you increase your ability to get results the next time." (40)

Integrity is being honest but it is more. "It's possible to tell the truth, but leave the wrong impression. And that's not being honest." (62) Integrity means your life is seamless: behavior is consistent with values and beliefs. Integrity includes humility, not meaning weak or reticent, but putting principle ahead of self. Integrity includes courage to do the right thing even when it's hard.

"Intent matters. It grows out of character. While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent, we tend to judge others by their behavior. We also tend to judge others' intent based on our own paradigms and experience. Our perception of intent has a huge impact on trust. People often distrust us because of the conclusions they draw about what we do. It is important for us to actively influence the conclusions others draw by 'declaring our intent.'" (76)

Your intent includes your motive (your reason for doing something), your agenda (what you intend to do because of your motive), and your behavior. Having an agenda that is open (as opposed to hidden or closed) can be powerful. "The behavior that best creates credibility and inspires trust is acting in the best interest of others." (81)

Examine your own motives. Am I seeking to bless or impress? Declaring your intent can be helpful, particularly if your behavior may be misinterpreted. Choose a mindset of abundance. There is enough for both of us to win.

"Our capability to do the task at hand inspires trust in others. In today's changing world we must constantly upgrade our capabilities, skill-sets and knowledge to remain relevant. What capabilities and experience do I have that make me credible? What is my approach to gaining new capabilities as technology changes?

Results make you credible and establish trust. They give you clout. Those who live the values but achieve low results can be trained or coached and perhaps let go if they don't improve. Those who get results but don't measure up in integrity or intent must be let go in spite of their results, even though it is difficult. (111)

It's not just the results but others' awareness of the results. You need to be able to communicate properly. Take responsibility for the results, not just activities. Expect to get results. We tend to get what we expect. Results are all about finishing. "Whenever possible, finish, and finish strong." (123)

Relationship trust is all about consistent behavior, interacting with others in ways that increase trust. Build trust accounts and remember that not all deposits and withdrawals are equal: withdrawals are almost always larger.

Talk Straight. Tell the truth and don't leave false impressions.

Demonstrate Respect. "You can judge a person's character by the way he treats people who can't help him or hurt him." Behave in ways that demonstrate you care about people. Don't fake it! You can learn a lot about a person by the way he treats the waiter.

Create Transparency. It's about being open, real, genuine and telling the truth.

Right Wrongs. Go the extra mile. Don't stop with apologizing but make restitution. Make it right. Don't justify, rationalize, blame it on others, or fail to admit a mistake until you are forced to. Don't cover up. Admit mistakes quickly. Apologize and rectify them immediately.

Show Loyalty. Give credit to others and don't take credit for yourself for their contribution. Speak about others as if they were present, in a way that shows respect and serves their best interest.

Deliver Results. Results give you instant credibility. Delivering activities is not an adequate substitute. Don't over promise and under deliver. Don't make excuses.

Get Better. Renew, reinvent, refresh, and retool. Develop your skills. Learn new ones. Learn from your mistakes.

Confront Reality. Take the tough issues head-on. Address and share the bad news and the sacred cows. Don't try to spin everything into a positive light. Be real.

Clarify Expectations. Get agreement in advance of desired results. Avoid fuzzy expectations. Every interaction carries expectations and violation affects trust.

Practice Accountability. Hold yourself accountable. Don't blame someone else. Hold your direct reports accountable for their actions as well.

Listen First. Genuinely seek to understand the other person's thoughts, feelings, experience and point of view before you try to diagnose, influence or prescribe.

Keep Commitments. Do what you promise. Keeping commitments demonstrates integrity, performance, courage and humility. Don't break confidences.

Extend Trust. This not only builds trust but leverages it.

Organizational trust with internal stakeholders focuses on internal alignment. Market Trust with external stakeholders focuses on building your reputation in the marketplace. Societal trust focuses on building trust in society by making a contribution.

If you don't have a high-trust organization you are paying hidden taxes. These taxes take the forms of redundancy, bureaucracy, politics, disengagement, turnover, churn (turnover among customers and other outside stakeholders), fraud, etc.

A "brand" is trust with the market, "trust monetized." On the individual level everyone has their own reputation, or "brand." Does my brand have integrity?

"In a high-trust society, there's more for everyone. We have more options and opportunities. We interact with less friction, resulting in greater speed and lower cost." (Note what happened to air travel when trust plummeted after 9/11.) "The overriding principle of societal trust is contribution. It's the intent to create value instead of destroy it, to give back instead of take." (275)

Don't extend trust to everyone. Use judgment. Zone 4 describes many leaders. It is "high risk" and results in many low trust "taxes." Risk must not be avoided but assessed and managed.

"Somewhere along the way, most of us have had some kind of … experience where someone believed in us and made an enormous difference in our lives. What's most exciting is the realization that we can do that the same for others! We can believe in them. We can extend trust to them. We can help them rise to the challenge, discover their unseen potential, and make enormous contributions that benefit us all." (318)

The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything
Stephen M. R.Covey, 2008, 384 pp.

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