Stephen M.R. Covey (yes, the son of the Stephen Covey) has written a book called the Speed of Trust in which he propagates trust as being the key to success in every business and personal relationship; and that trust is a core competence for managers to have if they want to succeed today. ‘There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organisation, nation, economy, and civilisation – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. Yet it is the least understood, the most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is Trust.’
Trust is the key to creating and maintaining deep-rooted relationships with employees, customers, business partners and investors. From being a ‘soft’ concept and a matter of ‘gut’ feeling, it becomes a management characteristic yielding measurable results. Covey Jr. does this by establishing a link between trust (and the speed with which it is gained) and the costs of an economic relationship. The higher the level of trust, the quicker business gets done, reducing the total costs for both supplier and customer. Conversely, the lower the trust, the more time it takes to do business and the more delays occur, making the total costs higher for all parties involved. Examples include concluding an agreement on the wage costs of, for example, specialists, account managers, lawyers, secretaries, and managers. But there are also direct costs, including the costs for maintaining extra stocks, and interest payments. And we mustn’t forget the latent costs as a result of not daring to deviate from agreed procedures and contracts, or the time spent on gaining internal and external consensus (and sometimes even arguments).
To be able to build up trust, the essential condition is that you can trust in the other person. And that starts by trusting in yourself, daring to show your self-confidence to others and taking care to be – and stay – credible. To achieve this you will need to address the following four personal themes: integrity, intentions, capabilities and results.
Integrity is about how congruent you are as a person. Are you ‘walking your talk’ and are you doing what you consider to be important? Even if this means deviating from the norm? This is where integrity goes further than honesty. It’s about thinking, acting and making decisions based on your values, norms and convictions. It’s about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in and acting accordingly. And when you are clear and honest about this, trust will automatically grow. Want more tips on leading a life of integrity? Then watch this short video.
When we talk about your intention, we are talking about what your goal is in starting a relationship. What are the drives and agendas initiating your actions? And are these open or hidden? Here again, the more visible your intentions, the more the process of building up trust will be accelerated. So express your intentions, and the actions you intend taking to achieve these, and provide explanations afterwards if asked to.
In addition to integrity and clarity about your intentions, it also involves capabilities. Do you possess the knowledge, expertise and resources to realise what you are promising? We’re talking here about the combination of talent, attitude, skills, knowledge and way of working. It’s not something you can achieve after a few years of study. It’s a lifelong learning process in which you acquire new knowledge, continue to reflect on your behaviour and actively work on personal (and business) growth.
Finally, trust and credibility are created through achieving tangible results and communicating these (instead of assuming that others will automatically see the results). Do this in a creative way. If your normal way of working isn’t getting the results you hoped for, then try something different. After all, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
By investing in these four themes, mutual trust will be created, and in the long term, a solid relationship will be forged. But it all starts with the relationship with yourself. The subject to reflect upon this time is: how would you describe yourself? As someone whose work is founded on a ‘healthy’ distrust? Or someone who works based on ‘blind’ faith? What is your preferred style? And how do the four personal themes reflect this?
Trust is a choice!