Additional Resources: Speed of Trust™ Book Summary

Since 2006, The Speed of Trust™ has sold nearly one million copies and has been published in 22 languages. Author Stephen M. R. Covey has presented its principles to several hundred audiences within the U.S. and over 32 countries throughout the world. The Speed of Trust Transformation Process™ has delivered ground-breaking results in many notable Fortune 500 companies.

Stephen M. R. Covey asserts, "The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy."   Leaders are rediscovering trust as they see it with new eyes.   Looking beyond the common view of trust as a soft, social virtue, they're learning to see it as a critical, highly relevant, performance multiplier.

Below is a summary of the principles from The Speed of Trust™ Book:


Self Trust™ and the 4 Cores of Credibility™

Credibility boils down to two simple questions. First, do I trust myself? Second, am I someone who others can trust?   Covey talks about Four “Cores” that are key to building credibility. The Four Cores are: 1. Integrity, 2. Intent, 3. Capabilities, and 4. Results. Integrity and Intent are character cores. Capabilities and Results are competency cores. All Four Cores are necessary for credibility. A person of integrity that does not produce results is not credible. If you are not credible, you are not trustworthy!

Integrity (Character)

The First Core is Integrity.  Most of the major violations of trust are violations of integrity.   Covey asserts that integrity is more than honesty. In addition to honesty, integrity is made up of three other virtues.

Congruency is when one acts according to his values. It is when there is no gap between what one intends to do and what one actually does.

Humility is the ability to look out for the good of others in addition to what is good for you. Covey says, “A humble person is more concerned about what is right than about being right, about acting on good ideas than about having the ideas, about embracing new truth than defending an outdated position, about building the team than exalting self, about recognizing contribution than being recognized for it.”

Courage is the ability to do the right thing even when it may be difficult. It is when you do what you know is right regardless of the possible consequences.

Intent (Character)

The Second Core is Intent. Intent springs from our character. It is part of our value system. It is how we know we should act. Covey breaks intent down to three things.

Motive is why you do what you do. The best motive in building trust is genuinely caring about people. If you don’t care and have no desire to care, be honest and let people know you don’t care. If you don’t care but want to care, start to do caring things. Often, the feelings will follow the actions.

Agenda stems from our motive. The best agenda is honestly seeking what is good for others. Notice that your agenda is much more than wanting what is good for others, but seeking what is good for others.

Behavior is putting your agenda into practice. It is what we do based upon what we intend to do and what we are actively seeking. Behavior is where the rubber meets the road. Behavior is important because it is what people see and judge. Telling someone you love them is important, but showing them you love them is essential.
Covey gives three suggestions to improve intent. First, examine and refine your motives. Second, declare your intent. Third, choose abundance.

Capabilities (Competency)

The Third Core is Capabilities. Capabilities are “the talents, skills, knowledge, capacities and abilities that we have that enable us to perform with excellence.” To help think about the various dimensions of capabilities, Covey uses the acronym TASKS: Talents, Attitude, Skills, Knowledge, and Style.

Talents are the things we naturally do well. These are the things we usually love to do. Your attitude is how you see things. It is how we are inside. Skills are the things you have learned to do well. Covey does point out that it is easy to get so comfortable with our skills that we never fulfill our talents. He suggests that talent is a deeper well than skill. Knowledge is what you know and continue to learn. Style is your unique way of doing things. It involves your personality.

How to Increase Your Capabilities: First, follow your strengths and your passions. Second, remain relevant by continually increasing your knowledge and improving your skills. Third, know where you are going. The people you lead will follow if you know where you are going.

Results (Competency)

The Fourth Core is Results.  People don't trust people who don’t deliver results. Results are the deliverables. They are what you contribute to the company. You can’t hide from your results. Covey states, “... if the results aren’t there, neither is the credibility. Neither is the trust. It’s just that simple; it’s just that harsh.”

There are three areas of results people look at to judge your credibility. First, your past results: what you have proven you can do. Second, your current results: what you are contributing right now. Third, your potential results: what people anticipate you will accomplish in the future.

How to improve your results: First, take responsibility for results, not activity. Second, expect to achieve your goals. Assume you will be successful. This assumption will translate into action. Third, finish strong. “Results are all about finishing. You are probably aware of the old adage; Beginners are many; finishers are few.”

Relationship Trust™ and the 13 Behaviors of High Trust™

Relationship Trust is all about consistent behavior.   People judge us on behavior not intent. People can’t see our heart but they can see our behavior.

Building Trust Accounts: There are several keys to trust accounts. The fastest way to build a trust account is to stop making withdrawals.   You also have to be aware that withdrawals are bigger than deposits. Each trust account is unique. There are two ways of viewing a trust account: your way and their way. What is a deposit in one person’s account may be a withdrawal from another person’s account.

1. Talk Straight

Say what is on your mind. Don’t hide your agenda. When we talk straight, we tell the truth and leave the right impression. Most employees don't think their bosses communicate honestly. This creates a trust tax. This causes speed to go down and costs to go up. We spend entirely too much time trying to decipher truth from spin.
Straight talk needs to be paired with tact. There is no excuse for being so blunt that you hurt feelings and destroy relationships. Tact is a skill that can be learned and when coupled with straight talk, will build Relationship Trust.

2. Demonstrate Respect

The principle behind demonstrating respect is the value of the individual. The behavior is acting out the Golden Rule. Almost every culture and religion recognizes the value of the Golden Rule. We should treat people the way we want to be treated.   Our actions should show we care. They should be sincere. People will notice if an action is motivated by a lesser reason or an impure value. Respect is demonstrated in the “little” things we do daily.

3. Create Transparency

Tell the truth in a way that can be verified. Transparency is based on principles of honesty, openness, integrity and authenticity. It is based on doing things in the open where all can see.

Part of transparency is sharing information. If ever in question, err on the side of disclosure. Rollin King, founder of Southwest Airlines states, “We adopted the philosophy that we wouldn’t hide anything, not any of our problems, from the employees.” That’s transparency.

4. Right Wrongs

To right a wrong is much more than apologizing. It involves making restitution. With customers it may include that free gift along with the sincere apology. We have all been to a restaurant where we received an apology along with a free dessert or a coupon for something free the next time we eat there. It is the principle of going the extra mile.  Some will justify their wrongful behavior while others will try covering up their misdeeds. Both of these attempts will not only fail to make deposits in trust accounts, but are certain to make substantial withdrawals.

5. Show Loyalty

There are many ways to show loyalty to your employees. Covey focuses on two. First, give credit to others. As a leader you need to give credit to the individuals responsible for success. A leader should never take credit for the hard work of others. Just as bad is the one who gives credit to someone in their presence, but then down-plays their contribution to others.

Giving credit to others is the right thing to do. It will foster an environment where people are encouraged to be creative and innovative. It will increase trust and have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Second, speak about others as if they were present. Some people think it builds relationships to talk about others. The opposite is true. Talking about others behind their back will decrease trust with your current audience.

6. Deliver Results

The fastest way to build trust with a client is to deliver results. Results give you instant credibility and trust. Delivering results is based on competence. “This behavior grows out of the principles of responsibility, accountability and performance. The opposite of Deliver Results is performing poorly or failing to deliver. The counterfeit is delivering activities instead of results.” Delivering results converts the cynics, establishes trust in new relationships, and restores trust that has been lost due to lack of competence. It is also the first half of Covey’s definition of leadership: getting results in a way that inspires trust.

7. Get Better

In today’s ever changing environment one must continue to improve or become obsolete. You cannot learn a skill and ride that one skill for 30 years. You have to constantly be improving. When others see you continually learning and adapting to change, they become more confident in your ability to lead into the future. Be careful not to become a life-long learner that does not produce, or one who sees only one way to improve self and others.

Covey suggest two ways to get better. First, seek feedback from those around you. Second, learn from your mistakes.

8. Confront Reality

We cannot close our eyes to the tough realities we face. If we are honest about the difficult issues and are addressing them head-on, people will trust us. We have to avoid the temptation to avoid reality or act as if we are addressing the difficult issues while we are actually evading them.

9. Clarify Expectations

It is important to focus on a shared vision of success up front. This is a preventative measure. When expectations are not clearly defined up front, trust and speed both go down. A lot of time is wasted due to leaders not clearly defining expectations.

Failure to clarify expectations leaves people guessing. When results are delivered they fall short and are not valued.

10. Practice Accountability

In a 2002 Golin/Harris poll, “assuming personal responsibility and accountability” was ranked as the second highest factor in building trust. Great leaders build trust by first holding themselves accountable then holding others accountable.

Holding yourself accountable includes taking responsibility for bad results. It is often our natural response to blame others for failure. When we fail, we need to look in the mirror.

Holding others accountable allows performers to feel good about the job they are doing. It also increases trust by assuring performers that slackers and poor performers will not pull them down.

11. Listen First

Listening before prescribing, builds trust. Trying to give advice before knowing all the facts is a waste of time and simply not fair. You need to be careful not to learn the mechanics of listening and leave the impression you are listening when you really are not. Remember that communication is more than just words so you will have to listen to nonverbal messages as well. If a person is displaying a high level of emotion, they don’t feel understood. Keep listening. Also, a person is not likely to ask for advice until they feel you understand all the pertinent information. Don’t give advice too early.

12. Keep Commitments

Covey refers to this as the “Big Kahuna” of all the trust behaviors. When you make a commitment you build hope. When you keep a commitment you build trust. Be careful when making commitments. Make only the commitments you can keep. Also, don’t be vague when making commitments.

There are implicit and explicit commitments, and violating either is a huge withdrawal from the trust account. Be aware of the expectations to a commitment i.e. Some companies are strict with internal meeting times and others are more flexible. Also, remember family commitments are just as important if not more so than work commitments.

13. Extend Trust

The other behaviors help you become a trusted leader; this behavior helps you become a trusting leader. We should extend trust to those who have earned it. Be willing to extend trust to those who are still earning it. Be wise in extending trust to those who have not exemplified a character worth trusting.

Organizational Trust

The principle of Organizational Trust is based on alignment. “All organizations are perfectly aligned to get the level of trust they get.” If your organization is not reaping the trust benefits it desires, you need to look at your structures and your systems.

Symbols: Manifestation of Alignment. Symbols are more powerful than rhetoric. “Symbols include everything from 500-page policy manuals to top managers who park their expensive cars in reserved executive parking spaces, to newly appointed CEOs who refuse to accept a pay raise because it might send the wrong message to workers, to legends such as Howard Shultz responding in a caring way when the Starbucks employees were murdered...” Your symbols have to match your rhetoric or trust and speed will go down and costs will go up.

The 7 Low-Trust Organizational Taxes™

  • Redundancy:  Redundancy is unnecessary duplication.  A costly redundancy tax is often paid in excessive organizational hierarchy with layers of management and overlapping structures designed to ensure control.

  • Bureaucracy:  Bureaucracy includes complex and cumbersome rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and processes. One estimate put the cost of complying with federal rules and regulations in the U.S. alone at $1.1 trillion more than 10 percent of the GDP.

  • Politics:  Office politics divide a culture against itself. The result is wasted time, talent, energy, and money.  In addition, they poison company cultures, derail strategies and sabotage initiatives, relationships and careers.

  • Disengagement:  Disengagement occurs when people put in enough effort to avoid getting fired but don’t contribute their talent, creativity, energy or passion.  Gallup’s research puts a price tag of $250 billion - $300 billion a year on the cost of disengagement.

  • Turnover:  Employee turnover represents a huge cost and in low-trust companies, turnover is in excess of the industry standard – particularly of the people you least want to lose.  Performers like to be trusted and they like to work in high-trust environments.

  • Churn:  Churn is the turnover of stakeholders other than employees.  When trust inside an organization is low, it gets perpetuated in interactions in the marketplace causing great turnover among customers, suppliers, distributors and investors. Studies indicate the cost of acquiring a new customer versus keeping an existing one is as much as 500 percent. 

  • Fraud:  Fraud is flat out dishonesty, sabotage, obstruction, deception and disruption – and the cost is enormous.  One study estimated that the average U.S. company lost 6 percent of its annual revenue to some sort of fraudulent activity.

The 7 High-Trust Organizational Dividends™

  • Increased value:  Watson Wyatt study shows high-trust organizations outperform low-trust organizations in total return to shareholders by 286 percent. 

  • Accelerated growth:  Research clearly shows customers buy more, buy more often, refer more and stay longer with companies they trust.  And, these companies actually outperform with less cost. 

  • Enhanced innovation:  High creativity and sustained innovation thrive in a culture of high trust. The benefits of innovation are clear – opportunity, revenue growth, and market share. 

  • Improved collaboration:  High-trust environments foster the collaboration and teamwork required for success in the new global economy.  Without trust, collaboration is mere coordination, or at best, cooperation.

  • Stronger partnering:  A Warwick Business School study shows that partnering relationships that are based on trust experience a dividend of up to 40 percent of the contract. 

  • Better execution:  FranklinCovey’s execution quotient tool (xQ) has consistently shown a strong correlation between higher levels of organizational execution and higher levels of trust.  In a 2006 study of grocery stores, top executing locations had significantly higher trust levels than lower executing locations in every dimension measured. 

  • Heightened loyalty:  High-trust companies elicit far greater loyalty from their primary stakeholders than low-trust companies.  Employees, customers, suppliers, distributors and investors stay longer.

    Market Trust

    Market Trust is based on the principle of reputation. When you see certain company logos, you have positive feelings based on experience. Other company logos conjure up negative feeling based on personal experience and/or reputation.

    “Brand” Matters on every Level.  It is easy for us to see that corporations depend heavily on their brand name. However, other entities such as schools, governments and individuals rely heavily on reputation.

    The Speed of Trust in Building (Or Destroying) Reputation

    In the global market, trust can be built or destroyed at incredible speed. In a 2005 study conducted by Harris Interactive which ranks the 60 most recognizable companies in America, Johnson & Johnson ranked first for the seventh straight year. However, Google ranked third. Google has only been in business seven years. Of course trust can also be destroyed at warp speed.  WorldCom was 59th on the list and Enron was 60th.

    To increase Market Trust, apply the 4 Cores and the 13 Behaviors at the organizational level. Also, put on your "trust glasses" and ask the following questions about your organization:

    1. Does my brand have integrity?
    2. Does my brand demonstrate good intent?
    3. Does my brand demonstrate capabilities?
    4. Is my brand associated with results?

    Societal Trust

    Societal Trust is based on the principle of contribution. During the 1992 L.A. riots sparked by the Rodney King trial many neighborhoods were burned and looted. Amazingly, all McDonald’s remained untouched. When asked why, the people in the community responded by saying they would not want to harm a company that gives so much back to the community. McDonald's received a huge trust dividend base on their contribution to society.

    Fish Discover Water Last

    Fish discover water last because water “just is.” They are surrounded by it. They don’t come to see the importance of water until it is polluted or nonexistent. Humans often discover the essential nature of trust only when it is polluted or nonexistent.

    The Principle of Contribution

    Contribution is the intent to create value instead of destroying it. It is when we give back instead of take away. Many high profile individuals have given back huge amounts of money and time. Bill and Melinda Gates started a charitable foundation. Two weeks later Warren Buffett donated $30.7 billion dollars to the Gates’ foundation. Oprah Winfrey created the “Angel Network” and has been instrumental in building schools in eleven different countries. Buckminster Fuller used to pay his company’s bills, then give away any additional funds. He said, “If you devote your time and attention to the highest advantage of others, the Universe will support you, always and only in the nick of time.”

    Businesses are seeing the value in giving back to society. This includes giving money but also incorporates a spirit of societal benefit into the very fabric of the business.

    The idea of corporate social responsibility is nothing new. It was originally the framework of the free enterprise system. Adam Smith, father of the free enterprise, stated that for a society to be a prosperous people had to compete for their own self-interest within the framework of intentional virtue. When companies try to make a profit at any cost, trust is lost and the company will eventually fail.

    Global citizenship is an economic necessity and an individual choice. One must see the value of contribution then make a concerted effort to contribute.

    Extending Smart Trust™

    There is a Trust Spectrum and a Trust Matrix. The Trust Spectrum is divided into three sections. On the far left you have distrust or suspicion. In the center you have smart trust which is characterized by judgment. On the far right hand side you have gullibility or blind trust.

    The Trust Matrix (pictured at the right) describes four quadrants of trust. The vertical axis is a measure of one’s propensity to trust. The horizontal axis is a measure of degree of analysis.

    Zone 1 is characterized by gullibility. This is a person with a high propensity to trust combined with low analysis.

    Zone 2 is characterized by judgment. This is one with a high propensity to trust combined with a high degree of analysis. This is the ideal quadrant.

    Zone 3 is characterized by indecision. This is one with a low propensity of trust coupled with a low degree of analysis. Zone three is the worst zone. It is high risk and low reward.

    Zone 4 is characterized by a low propensity to trust coupled with a high degree of analysis. This zone will decrease trust and speed. It limits collaboration and team work. At the end of the day you are left with a single point of view (yours) which may be skewed.

    Many competent managers never become leaders because they never learn to extend trust. They live in the suspicion quadrant. Many of them pay lip service to the concept of extending trust, however they continue to micromanage. “They don’t give others the stewardships (responsibility with a trust) that engage genuine ownership and accountability, bring out people’s greatest resourcefulness, and create the environment that generates high-trust dividends.

    The number one responsibility of all leaders is to inspire trust.

    Restoring Trust When it Has Been Lost

    Some say trust can never be restored. While it is best never to break trust, trust can be restored— and often even enhanced.

    It is harder to overcome a loss of trust based on a violation of character than competence. Let’s look at building trust in each of the Five Waves:

    SOCIETAL TRUST— can and often is restored. After the Enron and WorldCom scandals a study showed an employee’s trust in management to be 44 percent. A few years later it was 51 percent.

    MARKET TRUST—sometimes when you violate trust with a customer, you lose that customer forever. Other times the incident, when handled correctly, actually builds trust.

    ORGANIZATIONAL TRUST— Covey uses himself as an example of restoring Organizational Trust. When he took over at the Covey Leadership Center, he questioned the Educational Department’s ability to deliver profits. He violated some of the 13 Behaviors, including not talking about others behind their back. Later, when more accurate numbers showed the Education Department was not only profitable but their margins were as high as other divisions, Covey went directly to the Education Department head.  He not only apologized but went out of his way to tell everyone how profitable they were.  He became the chief advocate for the Education Division. Trust was not only restored - it was enhanced.

    RELATIONSHIP TRUST if a company violated your trust, you may not give them a chance to restore it.  That's a transactional thing.  If a family member violates your trust, it's not transactional because family relationships are significantly more important and have far-reaching implications.  Trust can be restored even in the most difficult and tender situations if people are willing.  Even in difficult situations and in close personal relationships, trust can be restored.  And the very effort of restoring it can make the relationship stronger than before.

    SELF TRUST— often the most difficult trust to restore is trust in ourselves when we violate a promise we've made to ourselves like failure to follow through on a goal or act in ways that go against our deepest values. With repeated infractions, we often beat ourselves up so thoroughly we wonder if we can ever have faith in ourselves again. You can behave your way back to Self Trust and regain peace. The key is to apply the 13 Behaviors in your relationship with yourself. This will strengthen your 4 Cores, increase Integrity, improve Intent, increase Capabilities, and improve Results. You become a person that you, as well as others, can trust. 


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