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Book Summary: The Speed Of Trust

In this book, Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill demonstrate that in business where, instead of compliance, the focus is on optimisation through developing an ethical character, transparent motivation, and superb competence in producing sustained, superior results.

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organisation, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world - one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship.

That one thing is Trust.

Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, elusive quality that you either have or you don’t. Rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create - much faster than you probably think. This book sets you on that path.

Consider the following circumstances:

  • I can’t stand the politics at work. I feel sabotaged by my peers. It seems like everyone is out for himself and will do anything to get ahead. 
  • I work in an organisation that’s bogged down with bureaucracy. It takes forever to get anything done. I have to get authorisation to buy a pencil!
  • My boss micromanages me and everyone else at work. He treats us all like we can’t be trusted. 

Trust always affects two outcomes - speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs will go up. When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down. Trust is therefore the basis on which to build pace and success.

Think about it - people trust people who make things happen. 

Covey and Merrill have identified a hierarchy of Trust that they call the 'Five Waves.' Let's look at these 'waves' in turn.

The First Wave - Self Trust

Self-trust is made up of Integrity. This is what most people think about when they think of trust. It’s walking your talk. It’s being consistent, inside and out. It’s having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. 

'Integrity' comes from the same Latin root as the words 'integrated' and 'integer.' A person has integrity when there is no gap between intent and it is this that will ultimately create credibility and trust. Trustworthy people walk their talk. When they feel they ought to do something, they do it. 

Integrity also includes humility. It means recognising principle and putting it ahead of one's self. It means standing firmly for principle, even in the face of opposition. Integrity also includes the courage to do the right thing - even when it’s hard.

So how can you build integrity? Covey and Merrill suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I believe that the way I see the world is totally accurate and complete - or am I honestly willing to listen to and consider new viewpoints and ideas? 
  • Do I seriously consider differing points of view (from a boss, direct report, team member, spouse, or child), and am I willing to be influenced by them? 
  • Do I believe there may be principles that I have not yet discovered? Am I determined to live in harmony with them, even if it means developing new thinking patterns and habits? 

Self-trust includes Intent. This has to do with our motives, our agendas, and our resulting behaviour. Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefit. Intent has three pillars: Motive, Agenda, and Behaviour. 

  • Motive is your reason for doing something. It’s the 'why' that motivates the 'what.' The motive that inspires the greatest trust is genuine caring - caring about people, caring about purposes, caring about the quality of what you do, caring about society as a whole. 
  • Agenda grows out of motive. It’s what you intend to do or promote because of your motive. The agenda that generally inspires the greatest trust is seeking mutual benefit - genuinely wanting what’s best for everyone involved. It’s not just that you care about others; you also genuinely want them to win. Yes, you’re seeking a win for yourself; that’s natural, desirable, and to be expected. But you’re also seeking a win for all others involved. 
  • Typically, behaviour is the manifestation of motive and agenda. The behaviour that best creates credibility and inspires trust is acting in the best interest of others. When we do so, we clearly demonstrate the intent of caring and the agenda of seeking mutual benefit. And this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s easy to say "I care" and "I want you to win", but it is our actual behaviour that demonstrates whether or not we mean it. 

How to Improve Intent

  1. Examine and refine your motives. It’s human tendency to assume we have good - or at least, justifiable - intent. But is it? Time to take honest stock.
  2. Declare your intent. It 'signals your behaviour' - it lets people know what to look for so that they can recognise, understand, and acknowledge it when they see it. 
  3. Choose abundance. Abundance means that there is enough for everybody. The opposite - scarcity - says that there is only so much to go around, and if you get it, I won’t. 

Self-trust embraces capabilities. These are the abilities we have that inspire confidence - our talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style. They are the means we use to produce results. To remain credible in today’s world, we need to constantly improve our capabilities. Covey and Merrill suggest one way to think about the various dimensions of capabilities is to use the acronym 'TASKS'.

  • T for Talents that are our natural gifts and strengths. 
  • A for Attitudes that represent our paradigms - our ways of seeing, as well as our ways of being. 
  • S for Skills that are our proficiencies or the things we can do well. 
  • K for Knowledge that represents our learning, insight, understanding, and awareness. 
  • S for Style that represents our unique approach and personality. 

The end in mind here is to develop our TASKS and to match them to the tasks at hand - to create the best possible alignment between our natural gifts, our passions, our skills, knowledge, and style and the opportunity to earn, to contribute, to make a difference. The same is true of corporations that simply rely on what has been successful in the past and fail to respond to the needs and challenges of the new global economy. If corporations aren’t engaged in continuous improvement, and in some cases radical improvement, they risk becoming irrelevant and obsolete. 

How to Increase Your Capabilities 

  1. Run with your strengths (and with Your purpose). The idea here is simply to identify your strengths (whether they be Talents, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, or Style), and then focus on engaging, developing, and leveraging what’s distinctly yours. 
  2. Keep yourself relevant. You need to be engaged in lifelong learning. Schooling may teach you how to read, write, think, and reason, but its main purpose is to set you up for ongoing learning. 
  3. Know where you’re going. To know where you’re going and to have the capabilities to get there is another way of demonstrating competence. And that competence, coupled with character, creates a credible leader whom others will follow - not because they’re forced, but because they’re inspired to do so. 

Self-trust depends on results: This refers to our track record, our performance, our getting the right things done. If we don’t accomplish what we are expected to do, it diminishes our credibility. When we achieve the results we promised, we establish a positive reputation of being a producer.

Results matter! You may have excuses. You may even have good reasons. But at the end of the day, if the results aren’t there, neither is the credibility and neither is the trust. Our credibility comes not only from our past results and our present results, but also from the degree of confidence others have in our ability to produce results in the future. 

In considering results, you need to ask two critical questions: What results am I getting? And how am I getting those results?

Most people only ask the what. They have no idea that the answer to the how may be doing them in. The how can generate huge roadblocks to future results - or it can grease the skids. It’s so much easier to get results the next time around if people trust you and if they know you’re going to give credit, to seek mutual benefit, to not place blame. They trust that you will go for results in a way that will benefit them and everyone involved. 

The reality is that no results ever come exclusively from the work of one individual or organisation; they represent the efforts of many. Understanding and appreciating the importance of a supportive role in getting results helps us all to more appropriately value our own contributions, as well as the contributions of others. 

How can we Improve our Results? 

Covey and Merrill believe the three accelerators below are most effective ways to improve our results: 

  1. Take responsibility for results. At the end of the day that’s why businesses exist - so why shouldn’t results be our #1 focus?
  2. Expect to win. The principle is simply this: We tend to get what we expect - both from ourselves and from others. When we expect more, we tend to get more; when we expect less, we tend to get less. 
  3. Finish strong. When the successful marathon runner 'hits the wall' they don’t focus on exhaustion or going into the ‘survival shuffle'. They lift up their head and pick up their pace. By picking up the pace, you’re really saying to yourself that you’re not just going to finish; you’re going to finish strong. 

The Second Wave - Relationship Trust

The Second Wave - Relationship Trust - is all about behaviour... consistent behaviour. It’s about learning how to interact with others in ways that increase trust and avoid interacting in ways that destroy it. 

Covey and Merrill, have created another list of 13 behaviours common to high-trust leaders and people that grow out of the four cores of self-trust to support this wave:

    Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Call things what they are. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions. 
    Genuinely care for others. Show you care. Respect the dignity of every person and every role. Show kindness in the little things. Don’t fake caring. 
    Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic. Operate on the premise of 'What you see is what you get'. Don’t have hidden agendas. 
    Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologise quickly. Demonstrate personal humility. Don’t cover things up. Don’t let pride get in the way of doing the right thing. 
    Give credit freely. Acknowledge the contributions of others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves. 
    Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Accomplish what you’re hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. 
    Continuously improve. Be a constant learner. Act on the feedback you receive. Thank people for feedback. Don’t consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume today’s knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges. 
    Take issues head on, even the 'undiscussables'. Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid. Lead out courageously in conversation. Don’t skirt the real issues. 
    Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible. Don’t assume that expectations are clear or shared. 
    Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results. Be clear on how you’ll communicate how you’re doing - and how others are doing. 
    Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears - and your eyes and heart. Don’t assume you know what matters most to others. Don’t presume you have all the answers-or all the questions. 
    Say what you’re going to do, then do what you say you’re going to do. Make commitments carefully and keep them. Don’t break confidences. Don’t attempt to 'PR' your way out of a commitment you’ve broken. 
    Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust. Don’t withhold trust because there is risk involved. 

The Third Wave - Organisational Trust - The Principle of Alignment 

In a low-trust organisation, cultural behaviours such as the following exist: 

  • People manipulate or distort facts 
  • People withhold and hoard information 
  • Getting the credit is very important 
  • People spin the truth to their advantage 
  • New ideas are openly resisted and stifled 
  • Mistakes are covered up or covered over 
  • Most people are involved in a blame game, bad-mouthing others 
  • There is an abundance of watercooler talk 
  • There are numerous 'meetings after the meetings'
  • By contrast, in a high-trust organisation:
    • Information is shared openly 
    • Mistakes are tolerated and encouraged as a way of learning 
    • The culture is innovative and creative 
    • People are loyal to those who are absent 
    • People talk straight and confront real issues 
    • There is real communication and real collaboration 

If the symbols in your organisation communicate and cultivate distrust - or less trust than you would like to have-you need to go back to the Four Cores with your organisational hat on and ask yourself: 

  • Does my organisation have Integrity?
  • Do we know what we stand for? 
  • Does my organisation have good Intent?
  • Do we have a culture of caring - for one another? For our customers?
  • Do we genuinely want everyone to win? 
  • What are the capabilities of my organisation?
  • Do we have the means to deliver value?
  • Do we attract and retain the Talents, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Style (TASKS) we need to compete in today’s market? 
  • Does my organisation get results?
  • Do we deliver what we promise? 

The Fourth Wave - Market Trust - The Principle of Reputation

Market Trust is all about brand or reputation. It’s about the feeling you have that makes you want to buy products or services or invest your money or time - and/or recommend such action to others. This is the level where most people clearly see the relationship between trust, speed, and cost. 
Here are some statistics to consider.
  1. Thirty-nine percent of individuals say they would start or increase their business with a company specifically because of the trust or trustworthiness of that company. 
  2. Fifty-three percent say they would stop, reduce, or switch their business to a competitor because they have concerns about a company’s trust or trustworthiness. 
  3. Eighty-three percent say they are more likely to give a company they trust the benefit of the doubt and listen to their side of the story before making a judgment about corporate behaviour. 
So, to improve you need to look through the lens of your own 'organisation' in terms of Market Trust. Consider the perspective of your 'customers'. 
Again going back to the 'Four Cores,' ask yourself: 
  • Does my brand have Integrity?
  • Do we have a reputation for honesty?  
  • Do we have values people believe in and can trust?
  • Do we have a reputation in the market for courageously addressing tough issues quickly and for honestly admitting and repairing mistakes? 
  • Does my brand demonstrate good Intent?
  • Are we perceived as simply 'out to make a profit' or do people feel that we genuinely care and that we want to help others win? 
  • Does my brand demonstrate capabilities?
  • Do people associate our name with quality, excellence, continuous improvement, and the ability to change and maintain relevance in a global economy age? 
  • Is my brand associated with results?
  • Do people feel we deliver what we promise? 

The Fifth Wave - Societal Trust - The Principle of Contribution

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. And more and more, people are realising how important contribution - and the causes it inspires - are to a healthy society. 

While many meaningful contributions still come in the form of the industrial age notion of philanthropy - of earning profits and then donating money to worthwhile causes - the trend today is turning toward the more comprehensive knowledge worker age paradigm of globalisation.

So with our organisations, we ask - yes, the 'Four Cores' again -  Is our organisation credible? Do we have Integrity, and do we model it in our behaviour? Do we demonstrate Intent to do good, to contribute, to give back? Do we have the capabilities to make a difference? Do we produce results, not only for shareholders but for all stakeholders? 



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