I have recently come across two pieces of article that were written by Stephen M.R. Covey and focusing on TRUST within organisations. One of the two pieces of article was published on the CEO Magazine in 2007 (‘The Business Case for Trust’); the second article was published on the Chief Learning Officer in 2008 (‘Trust Is a Competency’).
I found those articles very interesting. Also, their content reminded me of the concept developed by Patrick Lencioni for building a cohesive leadership team, with trust being the fundamental building block (see post).
Below is a summary that I have made by extrapolating some of the sentences (the ones that for me were more relevant in order to write this post) from the two articles by Stephen Covey. As always I encourage you to read the original source while I still hope that you can benefit from my marginalia.
Stephen Covey wrote that if we have a low-trust organisation, we are paying a tax. While these taxes may not show up on the income statement as ‘trust taxes’, they’re still there.
We can see low-trust organisational taxes everywhere, including:
DISENGAGEMENT: disengagement occurs when people put in enough effort to avoid getting fired but don’t contribute their talent, creativity, energy or passion. A primary reason for disengagement is that people feel they aren’t trusted.
POLITICS: Office politics divide a culture against itself, generating behaviours such as withholding information, infighting, operating with hidden agendas, spinning, manipulating and holding meetings after meetings. These kinds of behaviours result in all kinds of wasted time, talent, energy and money. In addition they poison company cultures, derail strategies and sabotage initiatives, relationships and careers.
Just as the taxes created by low trust are significant, so the dividends of high trust are also incredibly high. When trust is high, the dividend we receive is a ‘performance multiplier’, elevating and improving every dimension of the organisation. Those dividends include: IMPROVED COLLABORATION, HEIGHTENED LOYALTY, BETTER EXECUTION, ENHANCED INNOVATION and ACCELERATED GROWTH.
The author wrote about looking at ‘trust’ through new eyes, as one of the most significant things today’s leaders and organisations can do to achieve and sustain superior performance.
"We become so immersed in the presence of trust that we take its existence for granted, until the trust gets dangerously low or polluted. Increasingly, more leaders are rediscovering trust as they begin to see it with new eyes. Looking beyond the common view of trust as some soft, intangible and illusive social virtue, they are learning to see it as a critical, highly relevant and tangible asset. They are discovering that trust affects everything within an organisation, every dimension, activity, decision and relationship. They are also beginning to recognise that trust is quite possibly the single most powerful and influential lever for leaders and organisations today".
The author believed that we can do something about trust and he was convinced that there is actually a lot we can do about it. "We can increase trust and much faster that we might think. And doing so will have a huge impact, both in the quality of our organisations and in the results we are able to achieve".
Stephen Covey made a further observation that I found insightful. He suggested a distinction to be used: “Trust is both a noun and a verb. The noun refers to an outcome, a value, a state of being. But the noun is a direct result of the verb – of the actions we take that create and inspire that state of being. In other words, trust (the verb) is a competency and it can be developed.
In organisations, trust has almost always been seen as a noun, a value. However, we are now beginning to see some companies include trust (the ability to engender trust) in their competency models. They are starting to recognise that trust is something they can consciously work to improve”.
In that context, the author went further to say that “the ability to establish, grow and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy. In fact, there is no leadership without trust”.
Getting good at trust as a competency greatly accelerate an organisation’s improvement because high trust makes every other competency better.
Finally, with respect to trust, Stephen Covey suggested CEOs to:
Recognise the business case for trust – be an advocate
Personally model trust through character, competence and demonstrated trust-building behaviour. By doing this, you become the starting place for increasing trust.
Treat trust as a competency – as something you can do, create and measure – and help managers learn and understand how to behave in ways that establish, grow, extend and restore trust.
“Trust truly is the one thing that changes everything” (Stephen M.R. Covey)