BOOKCASE : The Speed of Trust

• Stephen M R Covey • Simon & Schuster
• $34.99

Believe the figures and trust looks like diminishing global resource. Perhaps that’s what makes it so valuable. Not exactly, says author, speaker and management advisor Stephen M R Covey who, by the way, should not be confused with his father Stephen R Covey, author of best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
There is, writes Covey the younger, “crisis of trust” in the world with countries everywhere reporting often dramatic falls in levels of societal trust. recent survey by British sociologist David Halpern revealed, for example, that only 34 percent of Americans believe that other people can be trusted. Four decades ago 60 percent of Brits believed others could be trusted but today that figure has plummeted to 29 percent. Only the Danes, Norwegians, Swedes and Dutch report relatively high, 60 percent plus, levels of trust.
Organisational trust is, according to Covey, also universally low. Only 51 percent of employees have trust and confidence in senior management; just 36 percent believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity; and over the past year 76 percent of employees have observed illegal or unethical on-the-job conduct which, if exposed, would seriously violate public trust.
Ironically, Covey argues, nothing accomplishes things as rapidly as trust. Trusting in yourself and building trust in relationships, organisationally, in the market and in society is, he says, key leadership competency in the new global economy. He is convinced that in “every situation”, nothing is as fast as the speed of trust and, contrary to popular belief trust is something you can do something about. In fact, you can get good at creating it. He spends the bulk of this book telling readers how.
There are two realities about contemporary organisational life that give the focus of this book relevance and currency. One is the speed of change. As former GE chief executive Jack Welch has been quoted as saying: “if you’re not fast you’re dead”. If that’s the case, anything that speeds the decision-making process should be near the top of management priority lists.
Second, this is the age of merger and acquisition. To make M&As work, organisations need trust in spades. Trust, or more accurately the lack of it, constantly undoes the good that can come from strategically sound merger or acquisition.
Covey convincingly makes the case that trust is measurable accelerator to performance. When trust goes up, so too does speed and costs come down. His formula for successful trust-based leadership is as simple as that.
In my experience trust brings out the best in people. And as Covey puts it, trust literally changes the dynamics of intera-ction and, therefore, of an organisation. Distrustful leaders invariably reap what they sow. Covey provides well reasoned and forcefully argued case for more trust in every relationship. Despite the statistics, or perhaps because of them, this is must-have book.

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