If you think about any conflict or impediment to progress, it’s probably due to a lack of one thing – trust. Over the past two decades, no author or speaker has taught more people, organizations, and societies how to build this essential element of human relationships, both internally and externally, than Stephen M.R. Covey. Stephen is the author of The Speed of Trust, which is now in its second edition with over 2 million copies sold. In this episode Stephen joins Rob Cornilles and shares his practical yet profound concepts that encourage honesty, integrity, and caring for others – in any environment. At a time when remoteness increases the need for trust among co-workers and managers, Stephen, the epitome of a game face executive, provides valuable advice that can “change everything.”
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Stephen M.R. Covey | Trust Changes Everything
If you think about any conflict, an impediment to progress that you’ve experienced at work, or you’re seeing in your home, community, and world, it’s probably due to a lack of one thing, trust. My first guest this season has convincingly taught the leaders, workers, and families for that matter throughout the world that trust, once established and maintained, changes everything. It is my distinct honor and pleasure to welcome a friend and a bestselling author, world-renowned lecturer and thought leader, Stephen MR Covey.
Stephen, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Rob. I’m thrilled to be on this show and to be with you again.
When I get to visit with you, I walk away better, stimulated, and more thoughtful. As we launched this show, I thought, “Who could be the best person to set the table for this show moving forward and give my audience instant value?” Your name came to my mind immediately. I’m grateful that you are willing to be a guest and we have many things we want to talk about. Let’s get right to it. First of all, one of my all-time favorite books, whether you’re talking business or social relationships in the home, it doesn’t matter, The Speed of Trust, which Stephen published in 2006.
It’s a New York Times bestseller with over two million copies sold. It’s been a number one Wall Street Journal Bestseller as well. It is jam-packed full of goodness and wisdom that’s being used all over the world. I have to ask you, you wrote this book, it took years of thoughts and observations to put it together but it came out in 2006. You’ve reprinted it again in 2020. How is it different writing it in 2006 from rewriting it in 2020? What’s different now that makes your book even more valuable for your readers?
One of the reasons why I came out with this updated edition is because our world is changing rapidly around us that I wanted to reflect on how relevant and timely trust especially is now. It was vital and relevant in 2006 and even more so as we’re operating in a world of declining trust. We’re seeing trust going down in many of our institutions whether it be the trust in government, media, business, other institutions, or society at large. We’re seeing that reality but in such a world of disruption, change, and transition. The pace, type, amount of change, disruptive technologies, and all kinds of things happening. On top of that, in every sense in the digital age, we’re truly transitioned out of the industrial age where knowledge work is important. All these factors and many others have come together with such that in this new world, trust is the ultimate currency.
It’s what makes our world go round. While that was technically true in 2006, it becomes more obvious and even apparent in 2020 and beyond. It’s what makes everything works in a world of declining trust. To be trusted in a world of low trust is a huge asset and advantage for any person, leader, or salesperson to be trusted when people aren’t quite sure who they can trust. All these factors have conspired. Things like having multiple generations at work with the Millennials and Gen Z in much of our workforce, their social contract, and the expectations that they have. Even now with what’s going on with people working from home, that requires trust to do it well because if you try to micromanage from a distance instead of trust people, it won’t be near as effective. These factors have made this important topic even more important and relevant now. That’s what’s become clearer. That’s why I wrote an afterword of why trust is even more relevant now than it was when I first wrote this.
I will continue to encourage people to reread your book. It’s been on my desk, behind my chair in my office, sitting there for many years and I refer to it. I’m glad and grateful that you updated it. Not that it needed updating, but it helped to reinforce the principles that you talk about throughout. I want to start with the word trust. Where is trust born and where does trust die?Trust is the ultimate currency. Click To Tweet
Trust is the confidence that comes from having both character and competence. I believe trust is most quickly born out of our competence, delivering value for someone, and result coming through so that you make their life better. It’s built first on competence and that’s where it’s born. Where it dies fastest is on a character where we violate the integrity, have self-serving agendas, motives, or intent. Both character and competence are vital. To build, sustain, and keep trust, you need both character and competence. You built that fastest to your competence and you distract fastest through your character.
It was born through competence and it dies through character. I could flip it and show you how it works in the other direction too. In our environment with all that’s going on in the midst of this pandemic as well as other things that are happening in society, I’ve always said, “You build trust faster through competence, delivering results, creating value for somebody.” I’m going to amend and say that with all that’s going on in our society, I’m not so sure that we don’t build trust fastest through our character as well. To show someone that you understand them, listen to them, demonstrate care and concern for them at a time when there’s much uncertainty and for people to feel like you not only have their back, but that you care about them, not because of what they can deliver for your company but you care about them as a person, as a human being, their family, safety, welfare, and well-being. That is demonstrating an extraordinary care concern.
That’s a character dimension that right now, especially, is building trust fast. In a sense, it’s born in character fastest now and demonstrating that care. I saw this article where the person says, “We need Chief Empathy Officers, CEOs that demonstrate caring and concern more than your useful asset for our team to produce results. What about the person and showing that care matters enormously?” It’s hard for me to separate character and competence because you need both. I’ve always said, “You build it fastest through competence. You lose it fastest through a character.” That’s generally true. Especially now, we might go that fastest through character as well.
For me to add to anything you say because of your experience and the work that you do around the globe is truly impressive. As you’re saying that however, some thoughts are coming to my mind. First is character reminds me of the heart. It’s who you are. If I may, it’s your soul. Competence reminds me of your brain, skills, and abilities. Are you suggesting that it starts with the heart? If you are, how does one develop a heart of character, concern, and empathy towards others, especially in a world where trust is difficult to build or to find?
That’s a good assessment of it. Character and competence, heart and mind. It’s an overlapping piece, but it was accurate. You start with the heart. I always say that character and competence are equal, but the character is first among equals because it’s the right starting point. I use a metaphor of a tree with a character being the roots and the trunk of the tree. Competence is being the branches and the fruits of the tree. If you want to have branches and fruits, you’ve got to deliver, perform and come through but you’ll never have that without roots and a trunk with stability and foundation. That’s the character and heart. You do start there. Here’s a way of thinking about how you start with the heart. Using the tree metaphor, the roots are our basic integrity and it is the idea that we are who we say we are, and we do what we say that we value.
It includes honesty and truthfulness but it’s even more than that because honesty is when our words conform to reality. Integrity is when our reality conforms with our words. We are who we say we are. We’re real and authentic. That builds trust with people. It’s when you’re authentic, real, and a person of integrity. People can say, “I trust this person. They’re authentic, real, and not trying to pretend or to seem rather than to be.” That’s a foundation. If you always look in the mirror and you try to say, “Who am I? What do I value? What’s important to me? Am I living true to that?” None of us are perfect. We all fall short, but we’re striving.
We’re trying to be real, authentic, a person with integrity. That’s the roots. We all need to start there and get better. One way of getting better is to clarify what’s important to each of us. What do we value? You can’t have the integrity to your values if you’re not clear on what your values are. You focus on my value so that I could then be true to them. A whole other half is the trunk of the tree. That’s our intent which is our motive in our agenda. This is where I get back to caring, the motive that best builds credibility and trust is caring.
When I care about the people that I’m serving, lead-in, and I’m selling to, I care about their interests, business, wins, success, they know and feel that I care about them. When they believe that, feel that, they tend to trust me. If they don’t think I care or think that I care only at a superficial level, but then my real agenda is to make the sale, to get the deal, get the commission that I only care superficially, they tend to not trust me. They wonder if I’m trying to manipulate or use techniques on them versus my agenda to help them succeed because I care. Caring is the motive and the agenda is to seek mutual benefit.
That’s called a win-win. There’s nothing wrong with me wanting to make the sale and winning. I want to do that but I want to do that because I care about your win as a customer. I’m going to help you succeed and I want you to win too. That’s the only sustainable approach. It challenged us to look in the mirror, to go deep inside, and say, “Am I a person of integrity and authenticity? What’s my agenda and motive? Am I seeking mutual benefit? Do I care about those that I’m serving selling to?” That makes such a profound difference when it’s real and authentic. That’s why you start with integrity so that when you say my intent is to serve, you want to be true to that and not just give lip service to it. It makes such a profound difference. There’s a lot I packed into that. That’s the starting point. I would say, let each of us look in the mirror and try to say, “Who am I? What’s my integrity? What’s my real intent? Is it to serve or is it to make a sell to serve me?”
Do you think that quality of care is inherent in people or do you think it’s a learned characteristic?
There are elements of both but it’s also learned. At some level, some of this is inherent of us because we’re social beings and we like to interact with people. We’ve learned over time that if you’re in an interdependent world, win-win is the only sustainable long-term solution. The reason I say that is while we may have had a desire to be connected and interdependent, much of our life and our scripting is more towards win or lose. It happens in school, we have sometimes forced grading curves and there are many A’s because there’s got to be many fails and many B’s, D’s, and so forth. You grow up in a home with 1 or 2 siblings and sometimes you’re compared, “How come you can’t be like your brother or sister?” It’s almost like there are winners and losers. In sports, it’s an independent reality where two teams want to feel to play. There’s only one winner. You might have a tie in some sports and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Most people hate ties in sports.
There are only a few sports in which that continues. The reality is there are a winner and a loser. In sports, that’s okay because the nature of that reality is independent. There’s a broader interdependent reality which is we have sportsmanship and rules that we all agree to so that we can have this competitive environment. I love sports and the environment but it tends to script us towards win or lose. School tends to script a score when losing the family home and how we’re raised. There’s a lot of win-lose scripting.
There are a time and a place for that in competition. Most of life is not competition. Life is interdependent, collaboration, cooperation, and working together. Innovation is a team sport. Working to do things together as a team and increasing sales is team-based. There are some individual-based and some team-based combinations but we’re trying to help each other and that’s collaborative. That’s interdependent. That’s where we need to learn win-win, skills of interdependence and collaboration because we’re often scripted in how we’re raised growing up.
Fundamentally, I do think it’s learned, but it is innate in us that most people are good with a desire for integrity, social people, and care about others at some level. We might’ve been scripted in a different direction. We’ve got to become intentional and deliberate about saying, “This will work better if I am focusing on helping my clients succeed.” When that becomes my dominant mindset flowing from my heart, then all the skills that I learn and I do is in the context of intent that is about helping them succeed because I care about them. That then gives context for my skills and everything else I’m trying to do. Your intent matters more than your technique.
The innate desire to be helpful and serve people is in all of us and because of our environment, upbringing, or our experiences, it starts to dissipate. Cynicism, doubt, and suspicion start to come into our lives. I love one of the examples in your book where you talk about, “We learn to stay in our lane when we’re out on the freeway or out on the street. We don’t cross over into the other lanes. We know that’s not appropriate. It’s not safe. It’s not only not safe for us, it’s not safe for other people.”Trust is born through competence and dies through character. Click To Tweet
To me, the innate desire to win, personally, coupled with the training, “One way you can win is to stay in your lane and don’t do harm to other people. In order to make that happen, you have to learn the skill of driving properly and you need to obey certain rules.” What’s causing a lot of disruption in our society is that some of the rules that we have become accustomed to whether in business, in societal interaction, or even in family life, those rules seem to be dissipating and getting fuzzy. As a result, at least as I see it, trust is being negatively impacted. Correct me if I’m wrong.
You’re right that there’s overlap, contention, and sometimes a violation of the norms and rules where you start to question, “Are there even norms anymore such that we can trust and confidence in this?” I love how French sociologist, Émile Durkheim put it. He said, “When mores or cultural norms are sufficient, laws are unnecessary. When the mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.” If the mores break down, then it’s hard to even enforce that. We have overlap. That’s part of the danger of a low trust world. That’s what’s happening and increasingly in our society, trust tends to be going down in a variety of different ways.
The danger of a low trust world is that it tends to perpetuate itself because we all become a little bit more careful, cautious, and guarded because none of us want to get burned. It’s natural as a defensive mechanism but then we lead out more guarded, protected, cautious, and people respond more guarded, protected, cautious, and we respond back the same. We can find ourselves perpetuating a vicious downward cycle of distress and suspicion, creating more distress and suspicion, and everybody feels justified in the process. Distressed is contagious. Thankfully, the converse is equally true. Trust and confidence can create more trust and confidence where people respond to it and they become inspired by it. To be trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in all of us, we want to live up to it and respond to it.
Warren Buffett, the great investor, acquired some 77-plus companies. These people that get acquired their company, they’re all now independently wealthy without a contract and employment agreements, they choose to stay and work with and for Warren Buffett. They don’t need to work again because they don’t have a need for money. There’s no contract that says you’ve got to stay with the business and they stay because they’re inspired by Warren Buffett. He trusts them abundantly. No one wants to let Warren down. I talked to one of these CEOs, Grady Rosier from McLane. He said, “We did the whole deal. We sold our business. This was a $23 billion business. We did it after one meeting of two hours, and we had a handshake deal, closed the deal in 29 days, no traditional due diligence and I’ve stayed.”
This was several years ago since I talked with him. He’s been there many years, no contract, and he doesn’t need to be there. I said, “Why do you stay?” He said, “Warren inspires me. I don’t want to let him down.” That’s what trust does because Warren trusts him. It’s inspiring. People are inspired by that. We need to be inspired and nothing inspires by being trusted. It can work in the downward direction of distress and suspicion grading more of the same and that’s going on in our world. Also, we can create in our own world relationships, team, those we associate with in our homes or communities an upward spiral of trust and confidence creating more of the same.
We get people a model of someone that can be trusted. We give a model of someone that’s trusting as well. A model of someone who’s inspiring and try to create that upward trend as well. In either direction, that’s going to happen. Even though it’s a low trust world, I’m optimistic that there’s a lot we can do as leaders and as salespeople to create an island of trust, perhaps in a sea of distrust, and become a ripple effect of impacting trust with those around us.
I love that sentiment and the sincerity that you shared with us is unquestionable. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty a little bit. Let’s say that I am a leader of a team whether I’m a CEO or a sales manager. In this new era that we’re living through, I have been forced to send my people home and have them work from home remotely. There’s no more managing by walking around and leaning over cubicles. If it makes me uncomfortable, how do I build a sense of trust with my own people to allow that to happen and I can sleep comfortably at night? Is there something I need to do? Is there something they need to do? What’s your prescription?
Now is a great opportunity for leaders and organizations to build trust with their people in an accelerated fashion because we’ve got people working from home and the numbers went from 30% to 68% overnight. It’s is a huge opportunity if we do this right as leaders. Your question is a good opportunity. Number one, if you can show that you care about your people during a time of crisis and disruption, that’s important. That’s why I said the character is important. Show that you care. The second thing is be deliberate and intentional about trusting your people. If they’re going to be working from home rather than not trusting them from a distance and trying to hover over a micromanage from a distance which will convey even more profoundly that’s like, “I didn’t trust you before when you were right under my thumb, not with me. Now that you’re in your home, I trust you less even because I can’t see you.”
There are productivity tools that can be useful, I’m not against them, but they also could be surveillance tools that some companies are using that taking screenshots of their employee’s screens every ten minutes. It’s one thing if the real intent is to try to increase productivity, we’re trying to get best practices and learning but it’s a whole other thing if your real intent is, “I don’t trust my people. I want to make sure that they’re doing this.” That is screaming to your people. “I don’t trust you. You’re working from home because I have no other choice.” It will amplify the distrust.
What I’m saying is here’s the opportunity to say to your team and people, “I do trust you.” Here’s how you can do it. If you’re a little leery and worried about that, you’re extending trust what I call a smart trust as opposed to a blind trust. A blind trust would be like, “I trust you, indiscriminately. One-size-fits-all without expectations and accountability.” That’s not going to work. Without expectations of accountability, it’s going to be not very smart and at some point, it’s going to be abused, taken advantage of, and you’re going to say, “I try trusting people but it didn’t work. I’ve got to go back to control.” You’ve got to always have clear expectations and accountability to the trust being given.
You do that together. You create a stewardship agreement, a trust agreement together. Some type of saying, “I trust you to work from home. Let’s be clear about what we’re trying to do together. Let’s get on the same page. Here are the desired results that we’re after and what we’re trying to achieve. Here are the guidelines to work with. There are some limits or some guardrails to make sure that we stay true to our values and don’t do anything illegal or stay in compliance with basic guidelines. Here are the resources we have to work with.”
It’s all results-oriented around the results. “I want to get these outcomes, get these results within these guidelines, and with these resources.” Simultaneously, to clarify those expectations, we also bring in an agreed-upon process for accountability which might say, “Once a week or once a month, you check in with me and against the agreement we created together, tell me how you’re doing.” If you agree upon this upfront, then what’s happening is the agreement is governing and it’s not me having to come in as the manager or the boss and hover over and saying, “Let me see what’s happening. Let me check on you.”
That feels like micromanagement. Instead, it’s the person coming back to the leader saying, “As we agreed, we’re going to check-in, and here’s how I’m doing against the criteria that we laid out of how we assessed how I’m doing.” It looks and feels different. It has a different impact. There’s a great opportunity to accelerate the building of trust with your people by telling them, “I trust you, let’s have the agreement governed as opposed to me micromanage over you.”
It’s a different approach and there’s a great opportunity. The nice thing is the agreement helps the leader feel like, “I’m not blindly telling people I trust them. I’ve got the expectations and the accountability built into a process.” What an opportunity to increase trust. I hope that we see this for what it is. This is an opportunity that accelerates, amplify, and grow trust if we’re intentional about it and deliberate as opposed to having it go the other direction because people now feel micromanaged from a distance.
I don’t mean to put myself underneath your umbrella. In my world, advising and consulting with sales leaders, I’ve been saying to them in this era that we’re living through right now, we have an opportunity to rewrite the sales playbook. The way sales are being done now is totally different than the way it was being done before. It’s exciting that we get to rewrite. You’re talking about this from a trust aspect how a leader of an organization or an office can rewrite a new way and trusting to their people tasks, assignments, and responsibilities, building accountability along the way. It makes me think about the idea of athletics. We have a rule book.
The referee is supposed to abide by that rule book. When the referee to the observer appears to be breaking the rules or not adhering to the rules then trust is broken, isn’t it? We blew the ref. We don’t think that they’re being honest and we feel slighted or whatever word you want to use. The player feels like, “You’re picking on me. You’ve got it out for me.” I want to ask you about the player inside an office. Let’s say that their boss doesn’t have your training and counsel, what does that person do? How do they approach that boss so that they can perhaps rebuild trust?You build trust fast when you create value for somebody. Click To Tweet
I bet that many of us have experienced that. Many of our readers are saying, “That describes me or my situation.” The more you focus on your credibility as a salesperson or employee, whatever your role might be, the more credible you are, the more courage, influence, clout, and permission that gives you to have conversations with your boss and leader. The less credible you are, the more it sounds like you’re whining so you’re not credible to have a conversation with your boss.
You always look in the mirror. The point is if we think that the problem is out there as everybody else, that thought often is the problem because we’ve disempowered ourselves. We may do have a non-trusting boss but we’ve got to still look in the mirror and say, “What can I do to show my boss that he should trust me because I deliver, perform, and get the job done? I’m a person of credibility in both character and competence. I’m delivering and performing.” That’s job one. I start with that. I can work on that.
If you do that first, that gives you far more confidence, clout, and influence to have the conversation. You have to do the second thing I’m going to say. Start with yourself. Second, make it less about the weaknesses of your boss and more about what you can do to earn their confidence. Here’s a way of doing it. Rather than going to your boss and saying, “How come you don’t trust me? You’re micromanaging me. You’re doing all these things.” That’s like, “What’s wrong with you, boss? You need to learn to trust people.” You’d have to feel confident yourself to have that conversation of, “You don’t trust me, boss.”
That’s focusing on the weaknesses of the boss. Turn it around and say, “Boss, what could I do so you have more confidence and trust in me? I want to be that player for you. I want to be someone that you can have confidence in and you can rely upon. I’m willing to do what I need to do to earn that from you. What can I do so that you feel like I’m your go-to person and I’ll deliver for you? I want to be that person.”
I flipped it instead of saying, “Why don’t you trust me?” I say, “What can I do to earn your trust? I’m willing to do it.” Most bosses, even if it’s a non-trusting will think about it. They might say, “I’ve got to know you’re going to deliver, get it done, and you need to report on it. That’s why I hover over. I need to know.” You’re trying to listen and understand what’s important to the boss so you’ll be trusted by the boss and they’re not going to do this. You listen and say, “I’m hearing this. Anything else? I’m going to work on that and try to do it.”
Try to deliver and do that. If the boss says, “I’ve got to be involved.” Report back frequently. “Boss, I want to report back. I had this sales call. It went great. Here’s what we did.” He said, “Here’s what your next steps.” You say, “I’m going to do that.” You keep doing that over time. What happened if the boss says, “That’s great. Why don’t you tell me at the end of the week?” They have more trust in you. Let me tell you a little story on this. We saw this happen in an organization where there was a micromanaging boss that’s visionary but didn’t trust anyone. Everyone bad mouth the boss behind his back and got together.
She was the boss of the lead. I say, “What’s wrong with this person?” Everyone complained but one person took this other approach and said, “This boss is a visionary in a lot of ways. He doesn’t trust people. When the boss asks for something, I wonder why he’s asking for that. This may be what he’s worried about. He projected a little bit. I’m going to do more. I’m going to do this.” He then would present to the boss what the boss had asked for and more, he said, “You asked for this, here it is. I also thought that you’re worried about this. This is the reason you’ve asked for this. I also analyzed this.” The boss is like, “That is helpful. Thank you.”
It happened again and bit by bit, this person working in his circle of influence. That circle of influence expands. He worked on what he could do, not on the weakness of the boss but what I can do to add more value and be more credible to the boss. What happened is over time, that boss started to have confidence and trust in this person. He’d sit around the table and tell people, “Go do this, go do that.” He dictates but when he turned to this person, “What do you think? What’s your opinion?”
This person had built that trust. The point is, if a boss can do it with one, you can do it with another but you do it from the inside out. This is not easy. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it. This is hard especially when the boss doesn’t trust. If you become more credible and then you make it about, “What can I do to earn your trust?” You listen, you hear it out, and then you do what you said you were going to do. You can find yourself earning the trust of that boss and getting to where the boss can now start to trust you. In a sense, you’re leading your boss but you’re doing it from the inside out. You’re modeling that. You’re giving the boss a vision of what they could do with others by learning how to do it with you.
It reminds me again of what your father taught which is, “Seek first to understand.” When you go to that boss and you say, “I want to understand how I can provide a greater value to you.” Your father meant it more in a listening context when someone was sharing an opinion, thought, complaint, or seek to understand. In this case, it’s suggesting to us that we need to try to get inside the boss’s head a little bit because some bosses are not communicative.
They don’t know how to express their fears and why they mistrust or distrust people. I like what you’re saying. In The Speed of Trust, you’ve talked about thirteen behaviors. One of the behaviors has always been important to me because it’s one of the founding principles that we have gained phase try to teach and reinforce with our clients. That principle is the behavior of results. My clients and friends who are reading this, I hope they don’t roll their eyes when I say that because they know that’s my favorite word. Always produce results. Think about results more than your product. Don’t talk about your product or your service. Talk about the results it brings. Can you expand a little bit from your perspective, why is the result one of your top thirteen behaviors?
It’s back to what I was saying at the outset. The fastest way to build trust with someone on the competence side, in particular, on the results side. You deliver results for them and you create value for them. If you, as a salesperson, can demonstrate and you will do what you say you’re going to do, you’ll deliver. I learned to make commitments that add some value and then do it even if you’re in the process and you don’t have the deal yet, but you say, “I’m going to get you a copy of that survey and I’ll get you this other thing.” When you do it, you say, “As promised.” It’s saying, “I’m adding some value and I’m delivering some results. I’m doing what I said I was going to do.” It starts in little things but then over time, you can get bigger and you’re creating more value. You’re delivering results and performing. You’re helping your clients succeed and you do it in the sales process as well as after the sale. You build trust fast when you create value for somebody.
In this context, especially if you’re part of a sales team and the results are not being delivered, no fault of yours. What do you do in that situation? Do you go and palms up with your prospect or your client and say, “We’re not delivering?” When the results are not being produced as you promise, what should you do at that point to maintain or at least to try to build trust?
First, you’ve got to talk to your team like, “Team, we’ve got to deliver and perform or else we’re better off not making these promises.” If you make a promise and then don’t deliver on that, you will lose trust fast. You make a promise and deliver on it, you can gain trust fast. In either direction, you can build or lose trust fast on making and keeping commitments. Before you make that promise, you make sure with your team and you’re clear on what you can and can’t do. You’d be better off not making the promise than to make it and not deliver on it. I was at an architect’s conference with all the managing partners of architectural firms. We’re talking about sales and they’re trying to grow their firms.
When a managing partner was saying, “We lost business one time to another architectural firm that was making a promise to the client that they knew they couldn’t deliver on.” The client was saying, “Can you help us design this thing for this amount of cost?” The design was far too sophisticated and everything. This gentleman’s firm said, “Not for that cost. We could do another thing for that cost but to do what you’re wanting, it would cost a lot more.” They were upfront and honest about it. Another firm said, “Yes.” Knowing that they couldn’t do it. They got the deal but that deal went south. That deal got unraveled when they couldn’t deliver on that.
They got the deal but they lost the trust. The client left that other firm and they came over to this firm and said, “We’re coming back to you because from the beginning, you told us the truth. You could not do that but that here’s what you could do and here’s what it would take to deliver what we wanted. We went with his other firm that told us what we wanted to hear but they can’t deliver on that. We didn’t like what we heard from you but I learned I can trust what I’ve heard from you. I want a relationship of trust.” It’s the same thing with your team. Make sure you’re clear on what you can and can’t deliver so that you can go in with confidence and make some commitments that will be value-added commitments that when you deliver on them, you’ll not only do what you said you’re going to do but you added value.You build trust fast when you create value for somebody. Click To Tweet
You delivered some kind of result even if it’s a process result. Something in between, getting back to someone with some value-added piece, and over time you do that. I’d first meet with my team. They sure were clear. If we’re not coming through, I’d meet with my team again and say, “We’ve got to deliver.” Finally, you would go back to your client and you’d say, “We’ve told you we’re going to do this. We are falling short now, we’re going to make up for it and come through on this.” What you don’t want to do is go into that prospect and say, “I made you this commitment. It’s not my fault. I got this person in my team that can’t deliver this.” When you do that, you’re bad-mouthing your team.
Your prospect is thinking, “This guy is not responsible, bad-mouthing his team, and is going to be bad-mouthing me too.” Instead, if you own it, take responsibility but you’re going to also right the wrong. They might not like it at first but if you do right the wrong, you own it as a member of the team, and not throw the rest of the team under the bus, you can earn that prospect’s trust by righting the wrong, behaving your way back into the trust, and you’ll be in a better place than trying to think, “It’s not my fault. It’s my team member’s fault.” That’s not inspiring and attractive.
It’s evident that you would be the manager director leader and also you were a CEO that people would want to work for and work with. I remember when you were the CEO of the Covey Leadership Center. At that time, you wrote a mission statement that always intrigued me. I’d like you to talk a little bit about that and give us some insights into your leadership as well. The mission statement, if I can remember, it was, “To increase the economic well-being and quality of life of all stakeholders.” The first part of that is interesting to me which is the economic well-being. You didn’t say the social well-being or communal well-being, you said the economic well-being of your employees, customers, shareholders, whatever the case may be. Why was that such an important part of that mission statement?
We called this the universal mission statement. We did apply it to ourselves and we said, “This is a universal one that everyone can take and apply.” We had another customized one too, for us, but this universal mission statement is to increase the economic well-being and quality of life of all stakeholders. Twelve words but each word is filled with meaning. Why economic well-being? It’s because that’s results, outcomes, and economics matters to all of us. We say, “Of all stakeholders.” I want to increase the economic well-being of salespeople. I want them to make more money because when their economic well-being goes up, they’re happier. Life is better and more fun. I also want to increase the economic well-being of my customers and all stakeholders.
That includes my salespeople and customers because when they’re succeeding and their profits and revenues are higher, life is better for them too. There are results. I want to help my clients succeed and increase their economic well-being. We separated out economic well-being to emphasize the point that you emphasize with your focus on results that I say, the quickest way to build trust is results, competence, economic well-being is the quickest way. You’re improving someone’s life and someone’s business if you impact their economics, revenues, and profits. For a person, their income. That’s improving their life. That is an objective as a universal mission for all stakeholders. With my suppliers, I want them to win too. When they’re more successful, they’ll stay along.
If I have a supplier whose economic well-being goes down, I’m going to lose them as a supplier. If I go lose with a supplier, at some point, that’ll be a loss for me because they’ll be gone. I want them to win too. I want their economic well-being to improve. The whole idea is an abundance mentality. There’s enough for all of us to win. The pie can get bigger versus a scarcity mentality which is there’s only so much in a pie and if someone gets some, there’s less for me. That’s scarcity. Abundance has grown the pie, expand this, we can have multiple winners here so I want to increase the economic well-being of all stakeholders. That is everybody, including my salespeople, clients, distributors, suppliers, colleagues, and peers within the business to increase their economic well-being and also their quality of life.
Before I tell you about the quality of life, I start with economic well-being because that’s the fastest way to build trust, add value to someone, change their world by changing their economic well-being. It speaks volumes and it shows also that you care. It’s a survival need. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you’ve got to start with that. We also did add quality of life and that’s meant to hit all those other issues of communal, social, mental, and spiritual, all kinds of other needs. You want a high quality of life.
There’s not enough to only do economic well-being. We want to have a quality of life which is trying to cover every other need out there. It’s like an umbrella to cover them all but we put economic well-being first because that comes first. It’s the hierarchy of needs and it’s the quickest way to gain value and to build trust with people. That’s the universal mission statement, to increase the economic well-being and quality of life of all stakeholders. Any team and business can apply that to go along with their other mission statement that they might have. It’s a powerful way to build trust.
Do we have permission to use that?
I hope you do. It will be valuable. Economic well-being, quality of life, all stakeholders. We’re trying to increase all of it.
When you talk about trust as you do, I’ve often wondered, would you mind sharing with us, in your life and career, is there a person or an institution or a group that has been consistent in earning and keeping your trust? How does that happen? How do they win and keep your trust?
I’ll get personal and I’ll broaden it. My father passed away many years ago, he was someone that I trusted enormously, for many reasons, because he was so trustworthy and a person of great integrity, but also his intent, love, and care for me, I knew he had my best interest at heart always. I never questioned that. That enabled him to sometimes correct me and improve me. Also, not only was he trustworthy, he was trusting. He trusted me. For those that have read his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about the story of Green and Clean, how he thought his son who was me, a seven-year-old boy how to take care of the lawn and yard. Long story, as I was as a seven-year-old boy, I was given the responsibility by taking care of this huge yard and lawn. This is in the days before automatic sprinklers.
You had to manually do it. It was a big thing. People didn’t think a seven-year-old could do this but I did. My father trusted me and my father would use that story of teaching me how to take care of the yard. He called it Green and Clean. “I want the yard green, I want it clean.” Those are what? They are the words of the results. It wasn’t nice, but it was green and clean. He was delegating the responsibility for results to me, “Here’s how we’ll be accountable. Let’s walk around once a week, let’s walk the yard.” That way, there was accountability built-in. It wasn’t him blindly trusting me. We had expectations, green and clean, results-oriented words. We had accountability to work the yard once a week and see how we are doing.
I would tell him how I’m doing against the standard of green and clean. He was trusting with me as a seven-year-old my whole life. If I display those two things I learned from my father, being trustworthy and trusting, and say, “I find the people and the groups that I tend to trust the most and go deepest with are those who first look in the mirror and they’re trustworthy.” That means they have credibility, character, and competence. They’re authentic and real. They deliver results. They do what they say they’re going to do. That’s all part of being trustworthy. In The Speed of Trust, I had those thirteen behaviors. The first twelve are about being trustworthy and the credibility piece that’s about being trustworthy. That’s vital but it’s not enough.
You could have two trustworthy people working together and yet no trust between them even though they’re both trustworthy. If neither person is willing to extend trust to the other. You would have trustworthy teams in your department working together and both on paper, they’re trustworthy, and yet no trust between them. It’s neither team, department, nor function is willing to extend trust to the other. There’s a second part of what triggers trust and that is to be trusting. You’ve got to give it to get it. There’s a reciprocity of trust when you give it, people receive it, they return it. When you withhold it, they withhold it. I’ve seen sales teams and organizations where the trust is so low between sales and engineering or sales and marketing sometimes. Some of them are under the same roof, competing or, there’s distrust between them, sales organization, engineering, or operations.
They’re trapped in a distrustful cycle versus being partners. Part of it is that making on paper, they’re both trustworthy but they’re not trusting and extending trust to each other. Even on a sales team, people not extending trust to each other on the team. Look at it this way. How are you going to build trust with your customer if you don’t trust your own teammate? It’s got to be inside out in the long run. Be trustworthy and be trusting. I learned it from my father and we got to do both. Is trust earned or is it given? Both. It is earned. How do you earn it? Through your character, competence, behavior, delivering results, but you’ve also got to give it. You’ve got to be trusting, you’ve got to extend trust and that inspires people.Be trustworthy and be trusting. We need more of both in the world today. Click To Tweet
It brings out the best in them. They rise, engage, perform better, and they give it back to you and you begin that virtuous upward viral. I would add one more thing that is relevant. You want to model, trust, and inspire. We need inspiration now. There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is a good thing. You move up a hierarchy. The highest form of motivation is an inspiration because that’s intrinsic. It’s inside of people. You’re trying to tap into that. If it’s pure motivation, that’s extrinsic, external, that’s carrot and stick, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. You get rewards if you perform and you motivate people. That happens in sales all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that inherently.
If that’s the only form of motivation, then what you’ll get is people wanting more rewards. You want to tap into the intrinsic motivation of inspiration. What’s inside of people, a desire to contribute, to add value, to increase the economic well-being and quality of life of all stakeholders. A desire to make a difference in the world, significance and mattering. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m also motivated by a sales incentive and I’m inspired by adding value, making a difference, and impacting lives and people. I want to tap into both, get into inspiration. When I have a leader who models it, who trusts me, and inspires me by connecting to why it matters to me, what’s important to me, in a sense of belonging on a team and the work that we’re doing, why it matters to the world and as a society into our clients.
There are lots of ways to connect. The stories told of John F. Kennedy. In 1962, he said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon.” We got to the moon in ‘69. In 1962, a NASA site walking the grounds and he sees a janitor. He comes to the janitor and says, “I’m President Kennedy, what’s your name? What do you do?” The janitor says, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” That is an inspiration. That’s connecting to why at any level. You can do this. You can connect a why and that inspires people. Everyone can inspire. You don’t have to be charismatic to inspire. There are a lot of charismatic people who don’t inspire, they might motivate, but they don’t inspire the whole Level 5 Leader that Jim calls about in Good to Great are not charismatic, but they’re all inspiring because they inspire because of who they are as a person, they model because of how they lead.
They trust because they also connect people to why it matters. Even if all the connection is, “What matters to you, salesperson? What matters to you, client?” We can connect the dot. Everyone can do it and can inspire. We need inspiration in our world now. It will change our world. We need more trust and more trusting people to help us do it. You can’t do that if you’re not adding any enormous value and have a relationship of trust. You can see how trust is vital to every dimension and an aspect of both sales, leadership, and life. It’s the currency of our world.
I much appreciate what you’re saying, what you’ve taught. We are concluding but I’d like to ask you one last question. You’re a global thought leader. It runs in the family. Your siblings have had a great impact on business and society. They’re leaders as well. You are the oldest of the Covey children. You perhaps knew your father as well as anyone. If you look at his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the greatest business books of all time and we look at The Speed of Trust, one of the most impactful business books in many years. Imagine your father was with us now, but he wasn’t with us, he was with you. It was Stephen R. Covey and Stephen MR Covey sitting in your office chatting about the world now, where we’re at in 2020. Can you give us a little bit of a peek into what that conversation would sound like between these two worldwide global thought leaders, but also a father and son?
First of all, thank you for your kindness and kind thoughts about my father and me. I appreciate it. It’s generous. What was most important to my father always was relationships. He said, “Relationships are more important than things.” He also taught that contribution is more important than accumulation. He taught us as kids that it’s a hierarchy. You go from survival to stability, success, and significance. In other words, success is not the end game, significance which is mattering making a difference, giving back, adding value, contributing.
He expresses with contribution is infinitely more important than accumulation, which is more success and wants to give back. I learned those principles and he had a great expression to live, love, learn, and leave a legacy. That describes all the elements, all the needs of a person or an organization to live as the survival, the economic need, to love this as social-emotional lead, to learn as the mental-intellectual need to use your strengths and run with them, to leave a legacy as the spiritual or integrity need, the need for purpose, contribution and meaning in the life.
These are some of his constructs that I’ve had in my whole life. I think he would come back to these but then he’d also overlay it with are the challenges in our world now and how it’s increasing in a low trust world and how there’s distress. He would say what you said, each of us needs to do far more habit five which is, seeks first to understand than to be understood. What’s happening now in our society, we’re all trying to be understood. We need to seek first to understand. That’s a principle of influence, that will have far more influence with others when others feel we understand them and understanding does not necessarily mean agreement.
You may agree. You may disagree. You may see it differently. It means you’re understanding them to their satisfaction. Once they feel understood to their satisfaction, they become far more open to understanding you and being influenced by you. The key to influence is to first be influenced and your influence when you seek understanding of another person and not waiting your turn and listening, but trying to understand to their satisfaction, both their content and feeling. That’s powerful. He talked about that. We need more understanding in our world because that’s the foundation from which we can then create third alternatives and synergy that can innovate. It requires a mindset of think win-win. A mindset of an abundance mentality but here’s a skill. Seek first to understand than to be understood. That enables people that see the world differently to create things differently.
It’s the essence of great cells. You diagnose before you prescribe. You try to understand needs before you sell solutions, to go in and start selling products and not understanding needs so that you can then have solutions to needs. You miss the bullet point or you’re jumping the gun. The sequence matters. These are all things he talked about. The need for significance in the world, the need for understanding, but also, he would say that it’s easy to see this low trust world and to think that, “What can you do when it’s distressed all around me at societal levels, country levels, and organizational levels? What if you’re in a bad low trust company? What if you got a low trust boss?”
All these things. I also try to do this with my work with The Speed of Trust, that each of us needs to look in the mirror, start with ourselves. Use the airline metaphor before helping others that, “You put your own mask on first, and then we’re in a position to help others because we’re modeling and leading it.” I would say this and my father would concur, “We need models, not critics.” Models then can become mentors rather than being critical, be a model of what’s possible. Be that island of trust in a sea of distrust. Be the island of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. Be an island of selling the right way where you’re adding and creating value, where you’re getting the deal and building a relationship of trust in a world where everyone is over-promising and under-delivering, making the sale, but not building long-term relationships.
Model first then mentor. A mentor is a model with a relationship. You can’t mentor if you’re not a model. You’ve got to be a model first, then a mentor. We get enough of us doing that. We build a critical mass. We can begin to change our world. If we can change our world, we can change the world. We work from the inside out. We can do this and he’d be hopeful and optimistic. He wouldn’t be pessimistic about what’s going on. He’d be saying, “All more reason why we need models who can become mentors.” Start with yourself, look in the mirror. I take a similar approach to The Speed of Trust. I call it The Five Waves Of Trust. It’s inside out.
All trust begins with self-trust. Trust in yourself, give to your team a leader they can trust, give to your client a salesperson they can trust, and then rippling out from there to your relationships, team, organization, customers, partners, and society. We need to build trust from the inside out. We need to change this world from the inside out and we can do it. I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic. Each of us can do it in our world. Starting with ourselves, even if all we do is affect our own home, neighborhood, people around us, team at work, the teams around us, and you watch it ripple out. That’s what it would be. I would conclude with this and say that, “It takes two or more people to have trust, it only takes one person to start.”
Each of us can be that one. I want to say to our readers how much I admire you, Rob. Not only we’ve been friends for many years but we’re colleagues. I admire you and your work at Game Face and your book, The Sales Game Changer. If we can do sales the right way, that is a game-changer. That’s what you’re all about. I see you as a colleague appears in a friend and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to be part of your show. I wish you every continued success and I admire the contribution you’re making to people and leaders everywhere. I thank you for that.
Thank you, Stephen. You’ve given us a lot to think about. There has been enough said and a lot for us to digest. Hopefully, we’re going to become better Game Face Executives because we were an audience to you now. Thank you again. We wish you continued success and even more influence with The Speed of Trust. If our readers haven’t read it, I’m sure they’re going to grab a copy. If they have a copy, dig into it again. Stephen MR Covey, thank you for being with us.
Thank you, Rob. It’s great to be with you and our readers.
- Stephen MR Covey
- The Speed of Trust
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Good to Great
- The Sales Game Changer
About Stephen M. R. Covey
Stephen M. R. Covey is a New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The SPEED of Trust—The One Thing That Changes Everything. He is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which, under his stewardship, became the largest leadership development company in the world. Stephen personally led the strategy that propelled his father’s book, Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to become one of the two most influential business books of the 20th Century, according to CEO Magazine.
As President and CEO of Covey Leadership Center, Stephen nearly doubled revenues while increasing profits by 12 times. During that period, the company expanded throughout the world into over 40 countries, greatly increasing the value of the brand and enterprise. The company was valued at $2.4 million when Stephen was named CEO, and, within three years, he had grown shareholder value to $160 million in a merger he orchestrated with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey.
Stephen co-founded CoveyLink, a consulting practice, which focuses on enabling leaders and organizations to increase and leverage trust to achieve superior performance.
Stephen recently merged CoveyLink with FranklinCovey, forming the Global Speed of Trust Practice, where Stephen serves as Global Practice Leader.