Stephen M.R. Covey

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, 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, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

That one thing is TRUST.

Trust means confidence. The opposite of trust–distrust–is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them–in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them–of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities, or their track record.

In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can me very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

I had assumed way too much. I assumed I had trust with people, when in fact, I didn’t. Is assumed that people were aware of my track record, which they were not. I assumed that because I was teeing up the tough issues in my private meetings and making decisions based on objective business criteria, this was being reported down line, but it was not. I also learned that I had been politically naive. The most significant mistake I made was in not being more proactive in establishing and increasing trust.

Only 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management.

Only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity.

“Our distrust is very expensive.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” Rupert Murdoch

When trust is low, speed goes down and cost goes up. When trust is high, speed goes up and cost goes down.

“Transcendent values like trust and integrity literally translate into revenue, profits, and prosperity.” Patricia Aberdene

Francis Fukuyamahas said, “Widespread distrust in a society…imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity, a tax that high-trust societies do not have to pay.” I contend that this low-trust tax is not only on economic activity, but on all activity–in every relationship, in every interaction, in every communication, in every decision, in every dimension of life.”

Robert Shaw has said, “Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organization execution. Distrust is the enemy of both.”

Trust is one of the most powerful forms of motivation and inspiration. People want to be trusted. They respond to trust.

Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.

You might think a person is sincere, even honest, but you won’t t rust that person fully if he or she doesn’t get results. And the opposite is true.

Character is a constant; it’s necessary for trust in any circumstance. Competence is situational; it depends on what the circumstances require.

There are 5 waves of trust as the image below illustrates:


This reflects the strength of the “inside-out” approach: to build trust with others, we must first start with ourselves.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today. Chinese Proverb

See, speak, and behave are the three dimensions used to establish trust.

Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust. It’s maximizing both your current contribution and your ability to contribute in the future by establishing the trust that makes it possible. 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. And there’s always a next time.

The 4 Cores of Credibility

  1. Integrity– you must be honest. It’s being congruent, inside and out. It’s walking the talk. It’s having courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. (Andy Roddick story of calling himself out of bounds–excellent example).  A person has integrity when there is no gap between intent and behavior. Integrity also includes humility. A humble person is more concerned about what is right than being right, about acting on good ideas than having the ideas, about embracing new truth than defending outdated position, about building the team than exalting self, about recognizing contribution than being recognized for making it. Being humble does not mean being weak, reticent, or self-effacing. Humble people can negotiate intensely. Humble people also realize clearly that they do not stand alone, but rather on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and that they move upward only with the help of others. Integrity also includes the courage too do the right thing–even when it’s hard.
  2. Intent– your intentions are pure and devoid of hidden agenda. This has to do with your motives, agendas, and resulting behavior.Trust grows when we genuinely care not only for ourselves, but also for the people we interact with, lead, and serve. While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent, we tend to judge others by their behavior.
  3. Capability– you have the expertise, knowledge and capability. Capabilities also deal with our ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust. Capable people are credible. They inspire trust. It’s that simple. To remain credible in today’s world, we need to constantly improve our capabilities. One way to think about various dimensions of capabilities is to use the acronym “TASKS.” Talents. Attitudes. Skills. Knowledge. Style.
  4. Results– you have a good track record of getting results and achieving goals. If we don’t accomplish what we are expected to do, it diminishes our credibility. People don’t trust you because you don’t get things done. And there’s no place to hide here–either you produce or you don’t. You have no 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. It’s just that simple; it’s just that harsh. Those who live the values but achieve low results can often be trained, coached, or moved to another role. If they don’t improve, they may need let go.

“A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.” Cardinal de Ritz

“Self-trust is the first secret to success…the essence of heroism.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you see why employees don’t trust their managers? Most of the time, it’s not the huge, visible withdrawals like Enron and WorldCom ethics violations that wipe out organizational trust. It’s the little things–a day at a time, a weak or dishonest act at a time–that gradually weaken and corrode credibility.

“You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, that knows how to behave, that trusts itself, and where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers, because without trust they won’t fight.” Peter Drucker

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Albert Einstein

“I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can trust  to be dishonest…honestly. Its the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly stupid.” Captain Jack Sparrow

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Roy Disney

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, 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 it it means developing new patterns and habits?

Do I value–and am I involved in–continual learning?

Choose abundance…there is enough for everybody…in most of the important things in life–such as love, success, energy, results, and trust–abundance is not only a reality, it is an attractor and generator of even more. The important thing to understand is this: Abundance is a choice!

When I’m in hte middle of a negotiation, do I really believe it’s possible to come up with a solution that will provide benefit for us both–or deep down, do I believe that hte other person can gain benefit only at my expense?

Do I believe that if I love other people, my own supply of love with be repleneshed–or diminished?

Do I believe that , whatever my economic circumstances, I can share with and benefit others?

ONe attitude I believe we especially need to beware of is the “entitlement” mentality. This depletes credibility fast and is a huge trust buster.

“I am still learning. That is an important mark of a good leader…to know you don’t know it all and never will.” Anne Mulcahy, CEO Xerox

The problem is that many people aren’t into the idea of continuous improvement. So they’re working in a company–maybe they’ve been there for ten or fifteen years–but instead of having fifteen years of experience, they really have only one year of experience repeated fifteen times.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” F=General Eric Shinseki, US Army Chief of Staff

Peter Drucker encourages leaders to “feed opportunities and starve problems.”

What kind of results am I currently producing? Do those results increase or diminish my personal credibility? How good am I at identifying desired results and executing effectively to accomplish those results? Does my performance inspire confidence and trust?

I define leadership as getting results in a way that inspires trust. I am convinced that with regard to results, the how matters every bit as much s the what.

It is important to look at results in a Balanced Scorecard (Kaplan & Norton). A transparent culture of learning and growing will generally create credibility and trust, even when the immediate results are no the best. The more important desired result is growth, and growth cannons happen without risk. To always make decisions and give opportunity based on past observable performance is to severely limit our ability to achieve great results in the future.

It’s important to be able to appropriately communicate results to others.

How to Improve Results:

1. Take responsibility- a real key to success is in taking resonponsilbity for results–not activities. Like Yoga said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” As Winston Churchill said, “It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

2. Expect to Win-According to Greek mythology, Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, carved an ivory statue of the ideal woman. He named her Galatea. She was so beautiful that Pygmalion fell in love with her, and because of his deep Sevier and will for her to be real, with the help of the goddess Benus, he was actually able to bring her to life, and they lived happily ever after. This ancient myth has come to serve as a metaphor that illustrates the power of expectation. While this phenomenon is commonly referred to as “the Pygmalion effect,” it’s al bee call the Galatea effect, the Rosenthal effect, self-fulfilling prophecy, positive self-expectancy, confidence, optimism, or just plain faith. This phenomenon was clearly manifest in a 1968 study by Dr. Robert Rosenthal in which teachers were told that, based on IQ testing, students in a control group were high achievers–though in fact they had been randomly assigned. When the students were tested several months later, the control group students performed measurably better that their peers. Higher teacher expectations of students had been transloated into increased student learning. Expecting to win–and expecting others to win–is a fundamental approach to helping to bring it out.

3. Finish Strong- Results are all about finishing. You’re probably aware of the adage, Beginners are many; finishers are few. Finishing strong is a powerful antiodote to a culture of quitting.

“Don’talk of stars burning above; If you’re in love, show me!” Eliza in My Fair Lady

The truth is that in every relationship-personal and professional-what you do has far greater impact than anything you say…Good words have their place. They signal behavior. They declare intent. They can create enormous hope. And when those words are followed by validating behavior, they increase trust, sometimes dramatically.

13 Behaviors of Trust:

Like the emotional bank account, every relationship has a two-sided trust account. 

1. Talk Straight: Tell the truth and leave the right impression. Leaving the right impression means communicating so clearly that you cannot be misunderstood. As the Dell Code of Conduct says, “What you say is true and forthcoming–not just technically correct.”  A good example of Straight Talk: “Here are the specific things you need to do, and if you do not do these things, you will be fired.” This is hard for people to hear. Undoubtedly it’s hard for him to say. But saying it is a lot kinder than leaving the impression that there is any other option in mind. Write and say things as they really are, without spin. Most people don’t flat-out-lie–at least not blatantly. Instead, they engage in counterfeit behaviors of Talk Straight. These counterfeits include behaviors such as beating around the bush, withholding information, double talk, flattery, positioning, posturing, and the granddaddy of them all: “spinning” communication in order to manipulate the thoughts, feelings, or actions of others. Another dangerous counterfeit is “technically” telling the truth, but leaving a false impression. This is mincing words and legally splitting hairs. All these behaviors invariably diminish trust. Talk Straight can be taken too far. In most situations, it needs to be tempered by skill, tact, and good judgment.

2. Demonstrate Respect: It’s how you treat your fellow man, and how you treat your team members and how you treat your customers, your regulators, your general public, your audiences, your communities. how you value the worth of an individual, how you bring the human factor into real importance and not just a statement you make in your annual report.  The overarching principle is the intrinsic worth of individuals–the importance of each human being as a part of the human family. This behavior is the Golden Rule in action–a rule that is actually recognized by almost every culture and religion worldwide. There are no little things. Every act of kindness matters. The inverse of all these principles is also true and just as impactful to the negative. “The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.” Anita Roddick One quick way to judge this is by how you and others treat the waiter at a restaurant. “Don’t attempt to be efficient with people.”

3. Create Transparency: “Try to be transparent, clear and truthful. Even when it is difficult, and above all when it is difficult.” Jean-Cypril Spinetta CEO, Air France. Transparency is about being real and genuine and telling the truth in a way people can verify. I like to include the principle of light, because when something is transparent, light will flow through it. In the words of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” It cleanses. It dissipates the shadows. It casts out the darkness. It enables people to see. It gives them a sense of comfort and confidence because they know there’s nothing being hidden. The opposite of Create Transparency is to hide, cover, obscure, or make dark. It includes hoarding, withholding, having secrets, and failing to disclose It includes hidden agendas, hidden meanings, hidden objectives. The antonym for transparent is opaque–meaning something that is impervious to light and through which images cannot be seen. People don’t trust what they can’t see.

4. Right Wrongs: “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.” Confucius. Right wrongs is more than simply apologizing; it’s also making restitution. It’s making up and making whole. It’s taking action. It’s doing what you can to correct the mistake…and then a little more. The counterfeit of Right Wrongs is to cover up. It’s trying to hide a mistake, as opposed to repairing it. In the case of Right Wrongs, the counterfeit actually creates a double trust tax, one tax when you make the mistake, and another–usually a far greater tax–when you try to cover it up and get caught.

5. Show Loyalty: There are many ways to show loyalty, but in this chapter we will focus on two dimensions: giving credit to others, and speaking about people as though they were present. Jim Collins sayst that when things go well, you look through the window; in other words, you look at everyone out there and all they did to contribute, and you give them credit, attribution, recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation. When things don’t go well, you look in the mirror. You don’t look out there and blame and accuse others, you look at yourself.

6. Deliver Results: “If you want to establish a relationship with a new client, what is the one thing you can do to build trust the fastest?” Without hesitation, I reply, “Deliver results!” Results give you instant credibility and instant trust. They give you clout. They clearly demonstrate that you add value, that you can contribute, that you can perform. As well as being an integral part of your personal credibility, results provide a powerful tool for building trust in your relationships with others. Look for people who are short on talk and long on deliver. It’s not that they don’t make excellent presentations or anticipate high-level success. They do. But they don’t overhype. They just consistently deliver results. “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jack Welch speaks of flexibility as it relates to a boss’s willingness to support work-life balance: “Yes, bosses are agreeable to giving people the flexibility to come and go as they please–but only after they have earned it with performance and results.” Deliver results is how you convert the cynics. It’s how you establish trust fast in a new relationship. It’s how you gain flexibility and choices. In summary, establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen. Accomplish what you’re hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t make excuses for not delivering. 

7. Get Better: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

Technology, globalization and the knowledge worker economy have increased the degree of difficulty and put us in a more challenging context. Unless we improve our capabilities dramatically, we’re going to be inadequate to the challenge. Get Better has two common counterfeits. The first is represented by the “eternal student,” the person who is always learning but never producing. The second is represented by author Frank Herbert’s observation: “The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.” It’s like Maslow’s axiom, “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” 

In seeking to Get Better, there are two strategies that are particularly helpful in maximizing your effort: seek feedback, and learn from mistakes:

Seek Feedback: Appropriately seeking feedback and acting on it is the hallmark of a learning, growing, innovating company or individual. What differentiates the best from the good companies is not whether they ask questions, it’s how they respond to the answers. 

Learn from Mistakes: Thomas Edison said, ” I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated ten thousand materials and combinations that didn’t work.” “Success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the one percent of your work that results from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure.” Soichiro Honda

Send out a “Continue/Stop/Start” inquiry to your direct reports to your customers, to members of your team, or members of your family. Ask three simple questions:

1. What is the one thing we are now doing that you think we should continue?

2. What is the one thing we are now doing that you think we should stop doing?

3. What is one thing we are not doing that you think we should start doing?

Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems–both formal and informal. 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. 

8. Confront Reality: “The responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Max DePree 

Confronting reality is about taking hte tough issues head-on. It’s about sharing the bad news as well as the good, naming the “elephant in the room,” addressing “sacred cows,” and discussing the “undiscussables.” 

Confront reality is based on the principles of courage, responsibility, awareness, and respect. An outstanding example of Confront Reality is US Admiral James Stockdale. In dealing with the harsh realities of surviving eight years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he demonstrated what Jim Collins has called the “Stockdale Paradox.” In his book Good to Great, Collins quotes Stockdale as saying:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

The opposit one Contront Reality is to ignore it, to act as though it doesn’t exist. It’s focusing on busywork while skirting the real issues.  

Don’t be afraid to deliver bad news. Don’t feel like you have to spin everything in a positive light. Of course, you don’t want to be on the far right end of the bell curve saying, “Everything’s terrible and we’re all going to die!” But, as Jim Collins points out, you can “confront the brutal facts yet never lose faith.”

Work on being completely honest with yourself. 

Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid. Lead out courageously in conversation. Don’t skirt the real issues. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

9. Clarify Expectations: “Almost all conflict is a result of violated expectation.” Blaine Lee

Clarifying Expectations is about creating a shared vision and agreement about what is to be done up front. How much “poor performance” is really due to lack of clarity around what is expected? 

Someone once asked me why we put business agreements in writing if we trust the other party. My response is that the agreements identify and clarify expectations, which actually help preserve and even enhance trust over time. 

According to a recent study by AMA/HRI, the number one reason for unethical behavior is unrealistic expectations. People are handed expectations, given deadlines, and told things have to be done by a certain time and for a certain cost. The pressure of delivering the result by the deadline becomes intense, so they start cutting corners. They start doing unethical things in order to meet the expectation. (American Managment Association/Human Resource Institute, Business Ethics Survey, 2005, New York, 2006)

Clarifying expectations can be achieved by quantifying everything: What result? By whom? By when? At what cost? How will we measure it? How will we know we have accomplished it? It’s generally more effective to focus on results rather than activities. 

When you communicate with others, recognize that clarity is power. One way of checking to see if your communication has been clear is to “check for clarity” by asking a few simple questions:

What have you understood from this conversation?

As a result of our interaction, what do you see as your next steps? What do you see as mine?

Do you feel that others are clear regarding expectations?

What can we do to make it more clear?

Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible. Don’t violate expectations. Don’t assume that expectations are cleare or shared.

10. Practice Accountability: The reason to Clarify Expectations precedes this behavior is that you can practice accountability far better when you’ve clarified expectations first. It’s hard to hold someone accountable if they’re not clear on what the expectations are. 

Hold yourself accountable means to follow the Jim Collins window and mirror metaphor…stop looking out the window–to not look out at others and to blame and accuse–but to look in the mirror, to focus on your own responsibility in the situation.

“A good leader takes more than their fair share of the blame and gives more than their share of the credit.”  Arnold Glasgow

Hold Others Accountable: People respond to accountability–particularly the performers. They want to be held accountable. They feel trust grows with bosses, leaders, team members, peers and other stakeholders as they are given the opportunity to account for performing well. They also feel the increase of their own self trust and self-confidence as they repeatedly make and keep commitments. 

“Get good people and expect them to perform. Terminate them quickly and fairly if you make the wrong choice.” J. Willard Marriott

Accountability builds extraordinary trust in the culture when people feel secure in the knowledge that everyone will be held to certain standards. 

Listen to you language and to your thoughts. When things go wrong and you find yourself blaming or accusing others, stop. Draw back and ask, How can I close the window and focus on the mirror? In your mind, compare the difference in establishing trust between an approach of blaming and pointing fingers versus an approach of taking personal responsibility. 

At work, Practice Accountability by holding your direct reports accountable for their actions. Always clarify expectations first so that everyone knows what they’re accountable for and by when. When people account to you, allow them to evaluate themselves first against the results you’ve agreed upon; then follow through with the agreed-upon or natural consequences of people performing (or not). 

11. Listen First:“If there is any great secret of accuses in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view–as well as your own.” Henry Ford

To List First means not only to really listen (to genuinely seek to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, experience, and pint of view), but to do it first (before you try to diagnose, influence, or prescribe). The principles behind Listen First include understanding, respect, and mutual benefit. The opposite is to speak first and listen last–or not to listen at all. It’s focusing on getting out your agenda without considering whether others may have information, ideas, or perspectives that could influence what you have to say. It’s ignoring other people’s need to be understood–often before they’re ready to listen to anyone else. It’s self-focused, ego-driven behavior, and it does not build trust.

The counterfeit is pretend listening. It’s spending “listening” time thinking about your reply and just waiting your turn to speak. Or it’s listening without understanding. 

Listen First means to listen with more than your ears; it means to also listen with your ears and your heart. Listen First means to listen to yourself, to your gut feelings, your own inner voice, before you decide, before you act. 

The next time you’re in a conversation, stop and ask yourself, Have I really listened to this other person? Do I really understand how he feels? If not, simply stop and do it. Set your own agenda aside and really focus on understanding the other person’s point of view before you share your own. 

In your company, take proactive steps to understand your stakeholders–both internal and external. Don’t get caught up in the illusion that you know everything or have all the right answers. Consider what you can to do ensure others that you are listening to them and making and effort to meet their concerns and needs. 

12. Keep Committments:

When you make a commitment, you build hope, when you keep a commitment you build trust. 

When facing tough decisions between home and work, always remember the 10-year rule: “In 10-years, what will I be glad I did?”

When you make a commitment, make sure it is realistic. Even if you have to disappoint someone, it’s far better to do it up front than to overpromise and under deliver. If you have to miss a deadline, attempt to renegotiate expectations as early ad possible; don’t just ignore it and be late. 

Keeping committments at home is every bit as important as keeping them at work. 

13. Extend Trust:

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you trust people, other people tend to trust you in return…You don’t want to extend trust indiscriminately or unwisely. You’ll get taken to the cleaners. You’ll get burned. But neither do you want to withhold trust when extending it could bring such enormous benefits.

Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend conditionally to those who are earning your trust. Learn how to appropriately extend trust to others based on the situation, risk, and credibility of the people involved. But have a propensity to trust. Don’t withhold trust because there is risk involved. 

The 7 Low-Trust Oranizational Taxes:

1. Redundancy

2. Bureaucracy: “Rules cannot substitute for character.” Alan Greenspan

3. Politics

4. Disengagement

5. Turnover

6. Churn

7. Fraud

The 7 High-Trust Organizational Dividends:

1. Increased value

2. Accelerated Growth

3. Enhanced Innovation

4. Improved Collaboration

5. Stronger Partnering

6. Better Execution

7. Heightened Loyalty

“In the end, all you have is your reputation.” Oprah Winfrey

“Executives tempted to take shortcuts should remember the dictum of Confucius that good government needs weapons, food, and trust. If the ruler cannot hold onto all three, he should give up weapons first and food next. Trust should be guarded to the end, because “without trust, we cannons stand.”  Financial Times Editorial 


My Thoughts:

How can we expect people to follow us or have trust in us if they don’t know us? This is why rounding and “walking in their shoes” is so important. Our teammates have to trust us before they will follow us. You have to overcome the suspicion of a hidden agenda. It is critical to listen and seek to understand concerns of our employees.

Trust can be achieved by attaining results.

Self-trust is one of my weaknesses. When I make commitments to myself and don’t follow through, I lose confidence and trust in myself. To some degree, we need to accept our insecurity and self-esteem (but never your self-worth) and use those as motivators to achieve a goal. The goal is to learn to accomplish hard things without continuously distracting yourself. You want to develop pleasure in pain and experiencing internal conflict, be comfortable with that. Saying no to sugar, but yes to exercise is the struggle. Play with the struggle.