CovSpee 09-07-118

The Speed of Trust

The One Thing That Changes Everything


Stephen M. R. Covey

Free Press, 2006, 353 pp., ISBN 978-0-7432-9730-1



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.  This book surveys four core constituents of trust: integrity, intent, capability, and results.  All four are needed to engender trust in relationships, organizations, and society.  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)



"How would you describe a low-trust organization?

How would you describe a high-trust organization?

Which description best represents your organization?

What are the results?"  (the impact)  (237)


"Whether you're on a sports team, in an office or a member of a family, if you can't trust one another there's going to be trouble."  Joe Paterno (11)


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is intended to prevent corporate scandals like WorldCom and Enron.  The cost of implementing one part of it is estimated at $35 billion. This amounts to a huge "tax" resulting from a loss of trust in corporate institutions. (14) 


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.  (29)  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.  (30)  Live the values (character) and deliver results (competence).  (31)


Covey deals with five circles, or waves, of trust: trust in yourself (confidence in ourselves, our ability to set and achieve goals), in relationships, in organizations, in the market (your brand reputation), and in society (creating value for others). 


"Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust." (40)  "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)


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?  (45)  "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:

  1. Integrity: honesty, integratedness, being congruent inside and out, acting our values and beliefs
  2. Intent: our motives, agenda, and resulting behavior
  3. Capabilities: talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style
  4. Results: our track record, performance, getting the right things done


Core 1--Integrity - Are you congruent?

"Rules cannot take the place of character."  Alan Greenspan  (61)


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. 


You can increase your integrity by making and keeping commitments to yourself.  Stand for something.  Create a personal mission statement and live by it.  Recognize you might know things that aren't so.  Learn, unlearn and relearn. 


Core 2--Intent - What's your agenda?

"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) 


NGOs are consistently more trusted than politicians because their motives are generally clear and honorable.  (77)  A person could have integrity, capability and results but, if their motives are suspect, they wouldn't be trusted.  "What kind of tax is my organization paying because employees don't trust management's intent?  What is the impact on speed and cost?" (78) 


Your intent includes your motive (your reason for doing something), your agenda (what you intend to do because of your motive), and your behavior.  "The motive that inspires the greatest trust is genuine caring…." (78)  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)  People judge us on the behavior they see and sometimes poor behavior results from poor execution of good intent.  Therefore it's a good practice to assume good motives and don't interpret others' intent by projecting your own. 


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. 


Core 3--Capabilities - Are you relevant?

"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?  Capabilities fit in five dimensions: talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style.  The challenge is to match the style to the highest effectiveness for the task.  Identify your strengths in these five areas and focus on developing and leveraging what's distinctly yours.  Run with your strengths and keep yourself relevant.  Assess where you can create the most effective improvement. 


Core 4--Results - What's your track record? 

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)  What results am I producing?  How good is my track record?  People believe FedEx will deliver on time because they have done so consistently. (113) 


"The greatest profit may not be in the current transaction, but in the credibility and trust that comes from that transaction that paves the way for even greater results in the future." (115)


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) 


The Second Wave--Relationship Trust - The Principle of Behavior

 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. 


Behavior #1:  Talk Straight.  Tell the truth and don't leave false impressions. Counterfeiting straight talk includes beating around the bush, double-talk, flattery, and spin.  Spin keeps trust low in many organizations.  You don't have to be brutal or tell everything.  There is a place for tact and good judgment. 


Behavior #2:  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. 


"What creates trust, in the end, is the leader's manifest respect for the followers." (James O'Toole, 149) 


Behavior #3:  Create Transparency.  It's about being open, real, genuine and telling the truth.  The opposite is withholding information, having secrets, and failing to disclose.  The counterfeit is illusion, pretending, falsely representing.  "Particularly when trust is low, people don't trust what they can't see."  (154)  There must be balance: you can't disclose everything.  Failure to create transparency often indicates a lack of honesty or courage or a hidden agenda.


Behavior #4:  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.


Behavior #5:  Show Loyalty.  Give credit to others and don't take credit for yourself for their contribution.  Don't be two-faced, appearing to give credit in their presence and then downplaying it later.  Speak about others as if they were present, in a way that shows respect and serves their best interest.


Behavior #6:  Deliver Results.  Results give you instant credibility.  Delivering activities is not an adequate substitute.  Producing results provides more choices, options, and flexibility.  That's the way to convert the cynics and establish trust in new relationships.  Define the desired results up front.  Don't over promise and under deliver.  Don't make excuses.


Behavior #7:  Get Better.  Renew, reinvent, refresh, and retool.  Develop your skills.  Learn new ones.  This is a requirement for success in today's world.  Seek feedback and act on it.  Learn from your mistakes. 


Behavior #8:  Confront Reality.  Take the tough issues head-on.  Address and share the bad news and the sacred cows.  Don't substitute hyper-activity for confronting real issues.  Don't wait; it doesn't get easier.  Don't try to spin everything into a positive light.  Be real. 


Behavior #9:  Clarify Expectations.  Get agreement in advance of desired results.  Avoid fuzzy expectations.  Every interaction carries expectations and violation affects trust.  Unethical behavior often results from cutting corners to meet unrealistic expectations.  Consider quality, speed, and cost.  Which can you sacrifice?  Where trust is high enough, increasing all three is a possibility.  Don't assume anything. 


Behavior #10:  Practice Accountability.  Hold yourself accountable.  Don't blame someone else.  This is challenging in a victimized society, but it builds incredible trust and commitment.  Hold your direct reports accountable for their actions as well. 


Behavior #11:  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.  Listening helps you understand what builds trust.  After your next conversation, ask, "Did I really listen?" 


Behavior #12:  Keep Commitments.  Do what you promise.  Keeping commitments demonstrates integrity, performance, courage and humility.  Keep commitments with your family.  Follow the "  10-year rule."  Ten years from now will I be glad I did it?  Don't break confidences. 


Behavior #13: Extend Trust.  This not only builds trust but leverages it. 


Creating an Action Plan.  The book includes a chart to evaluate your behavior in each of the above areas.  Circle the two or three that will make the greatest positive difference.  Identify one or two next steps for each one.  Make them actionable and hold yourself accountable to do them.   


The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Waves--Stakeholder Trust

This section focuses on the context for increasing speed, lowering cost, and creating value by exercising trust building behaviors.  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.  


"All organizations are perfectly aligned to get the level of trust they get." (238)  Trust is the hidden variable that affects everything.  Symbols are powerful images for what is right or wrong in an organization.  They may be objects, systems, processes, consistently applied behaviors or legendary stories.  What symbols exist in your organization and what do they communicate?  Do they create high trust? 


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.  High-trust organizations benefit from trust dividends such as increased value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, stronger partnering, better execution, and increased loyalty. 


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?  Demonstrate good intent?  Demonstrate capabilities?  Produce good results?  The 4 Cores provide a diagnostic tool to help you improve your brand.  Remember: "Whatever trust we are able to create in our organizations and in the marketplace is a result of the credibility we first create in ourselves." (271)


"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) 


Some people trust too little (They're suspicious.) and some too much (They're gullible.)  Some trust with little inquiry and others analyze to death.  Covey provides a trust matrix with four quadrants. 


High tendency to trust with low analysis = gullibility (Zone 1)

High tendency to trust with high analysis = judgment (Zone 2)

Low tendency to trust with low analysis = indecision (Zone 3)

Low tendency to trust with high analysis = suspicion (Zone 4)


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. 


"The obsession with measurement is the problem.  There is something we can use instead of measurement: judgment.  Some of the most important things in the world cannot be measured."  Henry Mintzberg


"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)



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