In the Preface to Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, his father, Stephen R. Covey (of Seven Habits fame), stated: “My interactions with business leaders around the world have made it increasingly evident that ‘speed to market’ is now the ultimate competitive weapon.”
Just think about that for a moment — the ultimate competitive weapon. What a remarkable thought: The most important thing you can do to win out over the competition is get your product to market fast. As I’ve said in the past, money loves speed, and one of the main reasons for that is that it gives you an edge over the competition.
In his book, Covey takes the speed issue a giant step beyond his father’s statement. He not only identifies the greatest catalyst for speed, he explains how and why it produces speed. The catalyst, he says, is trust.
Covey says that where there is a lack of trust, everything takes longer and costs more. And he’s absolutely right. Isn’t it a lot faster and less expensive if you trust someone enough to make a deal on a handshake rather than having to bring in a brigade of problem-creating, fee-building attorneys to cross the t’s and dot the i’s?
On a macro level, the greatest threat to America is not Islamic terrorists. Our greatest threat is our loss of virtues, and at the top of the list of decaying virtues is trust. Americans don’t trust religious leaders, they don’t trust schools, they don’t trust corporate chieftains, and, above all, they don’t trust politicians. And I hasten to add that all this distrust has been well earned.
Covey points out that trust is based on a demonstration of both character (most commonly manifested as honesty) and competence (most commonly manifested in results). It’s possible to trust someone’s honesty, but not trust him to deliver results — just as it’s possible to trust someone to deliver results, but not trust his honesty. Either way, dealing with such people will slow you down, because there is a lack of trust.
I never cease to be amazed by people who repeatedly make adamant promises, yet consistently fail to follow through on them and deliver results. I’ve grown weary of listening to those who always speak in the future tense, promising that they’re going to take care of this or that tomorrow. As one tomorrow rolls into the next, my trust in these folks declines at an accelerating rate.
At a minimum, I prefer to hear some speak in the present tense — telling me that he’s in the process of doing something. Even better is the past tense: “Yes, I’ve done it.” The past tense promotes trust. Words like “Not yet, but …” arouse doubt.
As for demonstrating character, Covey emphasizes that it’s not so much how people act in the presence of others, it’s what they do behind the scenes. (Anyone who doesn’t understand why this is so probably isn’t curable.) If they have a hidden agenda, a shrewd person will see it right through the facade they’re hiding behind.
You don’t even have to know the other person to detect the truth. In fact, I’ll bet you can think of two or three news commentators whom you do not trust because it’s so painfully obvious that they aren’t reporting the news at all. What they’re really doing is promoting their own agendas and passing them off as news.
If you have a hidden agenda, it’s best to trash it or bring it out in the open. If you want to be trusted, you have to play every card face up. Strive for consistency between what you do and say behind closed doors and what you do and say in public. You simply can’t afford the cost of people not trusting you.
Finally, there’s that tired cliché about “a level playing field.” I am convinced that nothing does more to level the 21st century playing field than trust, because in today’s fast-moving world, it’s speed, not size, that carries the day. Trust pays off in high speed and low costs, which gives David the best chance he’s had against Goliath since he used his homemade slingshot against him.
This fact was underscored by none other than News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, when he said, in an interview, “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
Do you realize how exciting that is — a multi-billionaire media giant saying that being big is not enough to win? That in this millennium — the age that you and I are living in — the little guy can beat the big guys just by moving faster. I don’t know about you, but that is a highly motivating thought to me.