Friday, April 24, 2009

BOOK: The Speed of Trust

I read Stephen Covey's The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (see I listened to it on audiobook during my commute a few months ago and parts of it definitely struck a chord with me.

I like how he described the relationship between "trust" and speed+cost, and how low trust makes things slower and more costly. He also defined "5 levels of trust" (more like concentric circles) as follows:

  1. Self-Trust ("giving trust" - do you trust yourself? are you willing & able to trust of others?)
  2. Relationship Trust (establishing trust within interpersonal relationships)
  3. Organizational Trust (establishing trust within & across an organization)
  4. Market Trust (establishing trust within & across your market - stockholders, patrons, consumers. This is like "Brand trust")
  5. Global Trust (I forget the examples of this one)

There is a good summary of the book here, and another one here. There is also an early draft of chapters 1-2 available online.

Covey actually doesnt try to define trust very precisely. He simply quotes Jack Welch saying "I know it when I feel it." He says trust implies confidence in something/someone, and that lack of trust implies suspicion.

Trusting someone is a function of our perception of their character, and their competency.
  • "Character" includes a person's integrity, motives/agenda, intent and behavior with people, where
  • "Integrity" is mostly congruence (with an appropriate dash of humility and courage thrown in). Lack of congruence results in a lack of credibility.
  • "Competency" includes a person's capabilities, skills, results and "track record"
  • "Capability" is defined in terms of TASKS: talent, attitudes, skills, knowledge & style.

In addition to observing the five "waves" (or "levels of evolutionary scale") of trust above, he says about the first level/wave that it is very much about credibility, and describes the "four cores" of credibility are a person's integrity, intentions, capability and results. Demonstrating those things builds credibility in your words and actions. Credibility is a necessary (but not sufficient) ingredient for trust. People are less able to trust you if they don't find you credible.

The rest of the book is about the so called "13 behaviors" that, when demonstrated, will help you "build trust". Those are:
  1. talk straight
  2. demonstrate respect
  3. create transparency
  4. right wrongs
  5. show loyalty
  6. deliver results
  7. get better (improve)
  8. confront reality
  9. clarify expectations
  10. practice accountability
  11. listen first
  12. keep commitments
  13. extend trust
Regarding "higher" (more evolved) levels of trust, he refers to the following principles:
  • the principle of alignment
  • the principle of reputation
  • the principle of contribution
He also describes some myths about trust:

Trust is soft. Trust is hard, real, and quantifiable.
It measurably affects both speed and cost.
Trust is slow. Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.
Trust is built solely on integrity. Trust is a function of both character (which includes integrity) and competence.
You either have trust or you don’t. Trust can be both created and destroyed.
Once lost, trust cannot be restored. Though difficult, in most cases lost trust can be restored
You can’t teach trust. Trust can be effectively taught and learned, and it can become a leverageable, strategic advantage.
Trusting people is too risky. Not trusting people is a greater risk.
You establish trust one person at a time. Establishing trust with the one establishes trust with the many.


accurev said...

Thanks for posting this Brad, I didn't know that Covey had a new book out, I downloaded it to my Kindle immediately.

I know of two other books coming out this year on trust, I think this will be a big buzz topic for this year.

Austin Hastings said...


If you haven't done so, I recommend adding "Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity" by Francis Fukuyama to your reading list. His approach is analytical, instead of self-improvement, and at the macro-economic level. As a result, he doesn't care about the mechanics of trust (trustworthiness, shared values, etc.) so much as the tangible results.

I find it interesting that he was able to derive a trust metric, and even more interesting what that metric seems to indicate. He does make some pretty blunt socio-political points, but I have a hard time disagreeing with them based on everyday experience. :(

Anonymous said...

We had Mr. Covey conduct a workshop for us on 12/3/09 and he did a fantastic job. All the management in my firm attended and we're going to have a follow-on event with our entire company. Mr. Cover is down-to-earth and covers a lot of real-world material in the work shop so the material is immedately useful.
thank you,
Marty Poniatowski

MediaSage said...

Brad, is Covey the source of the T.A.S.K.S. model? If not, can you identify source?

Brad Appleton said...

I don't know whether or not Covey is the source of the T.A.S.K.S model. I thought it came form this book. I "googled" on it and didn't find any other source, so perhaps he is, but I'm not sure.

David Arella said...

Hello Brad,

I have appreciated reading several of your posts regarding trust. I also wrote a blog article on Covey's book "The Speed of Trust" here ( My comments focused on several of Covey's specific behaviors for building trust.

I was also interested to see your follow up article on the Flores book on the same topic. I am quite familiar with Flores' work. In fact, our software company ( offers web applications that follow his model of speech acts and conversation flow.

I just wanted to let you know we were out here and interested in furthering some of the same ideas and practices.

Keep up the good work.

David Arella
CEO, 4 Spires, Inc.