Does trust matter?

A Review of
The Speed of Trust The One Thing that Changes Everything
By: Stephen M. R. Covey
with Rebecca R. Merril

book captureThanks to the Entre Leadership podcasts I was introduced to the value of The Speed of Trust and as Stephen M. R. Covey says it really is the one thing that changes everything.  Though not directly mentioned in many leadership theories, it underlies the strength and willingness of your supporters to follow you and produce continuing results.  Covey concluded, “I have come to this simple definition of leadership: Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust” (p. 40).

Based on personal experience and noted references, Covey takes on the idea that trust is a soft, immeasurable skill with detailed explanations of why it’s really the one skill that affects everyone and everything.  From individual to group to organization and to society as a whole, the levels
(Screenshot from Amazon)

of trust we have for each other impact our daily interactions.  Covey noted that whether you are leading a group of people or just yourself trust makes a difference.  He proceeded in detail to explain the four cores of credibility which include integrity (character), intent (character), capabilities (competency) and results (competency).  Integrity comes from the combination of honesty, congruency, humility and courage and our behaviour lets people know where we are at. Intent, why we do what we do shapes our agenda.  This too leaks through in our actions.

Covey explained our talents, attitude, skills, knowledge and style (TASKS) make up our capabilities (p.94). The fourth core competency is results.  People are going to make decisions about you based on your past, present and potential results.  What I appreciate most is that for each aspect Covey presented, he offered concrete ways for you to improve trust.  As he mentioned over and over: if trust goes down, then speed goes down and costs go up. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down.  He reminded the reader that costs may be financial but they can also be measured in human relationships.

Covey compared trust to a bank account.  You can’t just make ongoing withdrawals you have to make trust deposits and he outlined 13 specific behaviours that you can follow to grow your trust account.  These included:

  1. Talk Straight
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Deliver Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality
  9. Clarify Expectations
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Listen First
  12. Keep Commitments ***
    Covey called this the big Kahuna. Fail to follow through on your commitments and it’s the fastest way to break trust.  Don’t say you will if you can’t (p. 215).  I would say you are safer to under promise and over deliver.
  13. Extend Trust

I appreciate Covey’s honest approach to sharing both public and personal stories and by including both positive and negative example of why trust matters.  As I read through this book I shared my readings with those I crossed paths.  While they often nodded and agreed that yes it made sense.  I think many people, including leaders often think we don’t need to work on trust we already have it.   As I reflect,  I wonder how often we as leaders (myself included) stop to ask our team members how they feel or do I make an assumption for them about trust levels?  In the end, leaders only have the opportunity to lead because of their followers.  It’s leaders interactions with people and their intent behind their interactions that strengthens or weakens the relationships.  As Covey asserted several times, trust “is the key leadership competency of the new global economy” (p.107).  Do you know where your trust account is at?

Leadership Connections: 

  • I appreciated the practical steps and strategies that Covey explained in his book.  Whether you are leading a huge team or looking to improve your self trust, this book is filled with useful strategies you can choose to apply in your own life.
  • It’s not a one time listen.  I first listened through audible and later purchased the book as a way to continue to go back and reference the key ideas.  I’ve found the supporting website helpful at reminding me of key aspects of the book along with online surveys and resources to support further development.
  • The more I learn about leadership the clearer it is that while the traits of a leader are an important part of leadership the theories which include the role of the follower are extremely significant.  True, healthy, effective leadership that produces tangible results will increase only when a leader truly makes an effort to lead his/her followers in a way that not only meets their needs but inspires them to commit to higher levels of engagement.  Leadership is a two way street and we are all on it together.

Covey, S. M. (2006). The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. New York: Free Press.

Speed of Trust Additional Resources:



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