Stephen MR Covey spoke recently at the World of Business Ideas' World Business Forum, expanding on the concept of trust in organisations.
The author and former CEO of leadership development company Covey Leadership Center explained why trust is the new currency of the world today.
At the 2008 World Economic Forum in China, in the midst of the snowballing global financial crisis, the driving issue was trust and confidence. The GFC had destroyed trust, reinforcing its gravity in making markets and organisations work.
Stephen introduced three paradigm shifts around trust – that it’s an economic driver, not a social virtue; it’s the single most necessary competency in leadership today, and it’s a learnable skill – you can lose it, but you can also build it.
Trust, he says, has a qualitative and quantitative price tag – it changes everything, and carries far lower risk than distrust.
And it’s reciprocal – the biggest reason staff don’t trust management is that management don’t trust them. Trust – and distrust – are contagious.
Stephen expanded on the economic benefits of trust within organisations, explaining the trust deficit: the notion low trust means low speed and high cost, while high trust increases speed and lowers cost.
High trust companies, he says, outperform low trust organisations threefold.
In leadership, it’s necessary to produce high performing teams – agility and innovation need trust. Build it, and you can create collaboration, rather than coordination or co-operation.
Trust leverages difference, encouraging calculated risk taking and creating a culture of learning, speed and engagement. It cultivates energy and joy among employees.
Lacking it, he says – as in the command and control style of leadership – is “like playing tennis
with a golf club”.
"You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into."
So how to build it? Stephen says it’s a function of credibility and behaviour.
Credibility is like a tree – intent and integrity form character (the roots and trunk), while the leaves and fruit comprise competence: results and capabilities. All four core values are necessary.
Building trust through behaviour means focusing not just on what we do but how we do it. Straight talk is imperative because counterfeit behaviour – or spin – blocks trust.
Stephen says we should focus on our own credibility and behaviour and assume positive intent in others, as we need to extend trust on order to receive it.
If trust is lost? It’s not easy but it can be restored.
“You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into.”
Building a culture of trust in an organisation takes a considered strategy, but the results are worth it. We tend in our society to hire for competence and fire for character, so it’s worth checking exactly how a potential new hire got their previous great results.
We need to work together to counteract suspicion and bring about a renaissance of trust.
– Ingrid Green