I “attended” a webinar titled “Trust in the Modern Workplace” delivered by Stephen Covey the other day.  He was promoting his new book The SPEED of Trust.

In the He presented three big ideas:

  1. Trust is an economic driver, not merely a social virtue.
  2. Trust is the #1 leadership competency of the new global economy.
  3. Trust is a learnable competency.

It is on the last point that I want to focus.  Covey splits trust into two categories, credibility and behavior.  He presents credibility as a matter of character comprised of integrity, intent, capabilities, and results.  A person builds trust by being consistent in word an deed and by presenting an agenda based on mutual benefit.

Intent is an area where I have seen people seemingly sabotage their efforts.  In one case I attended several (long) meetings where the outcome seemed clear and the solution feasible.  I did not agree with this apparent outcome but could have lived with the decision to go against my recommendation.  It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.  The meeting organizer failed to recognize is that he was undermining his credibility and trust by drawing out the process, especially when the outcome was clear to everyone involved.  I have great respect for this person and am confident of his integrity.  I believe in this case he was unaware of the impact his handling of the situation had on trust.

So how do you learn to create and sustain trust?  First you must make a deliberate effort to operate with mutual respect and focus on continually improving your capabilities.  Covey points out, and I agree with him, that people who are trusted extend it to others.  It becomes part of an organization’s culture.  Second, be transparent.  To say you’re transparent has almost become a cliche.   Real transparency admits that you don’t have all the answers.  Real transparency admits errors.  Real transparency seeks forgiveness.  Real transparency welcomes opinions.  Covey provides some additional ideas for creating and sustaining trust in this executive summary of his book.

Did Covey present any truly new ideas?  No.  Was he thought-provoking?  Definitely.  Was it worth 30 minutes of my time?  Yes.