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2020 Recap: Stephen MR Covey

Welcome to Week 2 of Pendulum’s 2020 Recap.

This week, we are reviewing the incredible work of Mr. Stephen MR Covey, a Global Authority on Trust, Leadership and Culture.
His topic for Pendulum 2020 was ‘The SPEED of TRUST’. 

He began illustrating the importance of trust to the audience, comparing it to the air that we breathe, ‘trust is like the air that we breathe, when it’s present nobody really notices, but when it’s absent everybody notices’. 

He outlined that there is both a business and a leadership case for trust. 

Business Case– Trust is an economic driver, not only a social virtue but there is a business case for it. 

Leadership Case– Trust is really the number one competency of leadership needed today. It coincides with other competencies which are all contributing factors to effective leadership, however the importance of trust cannot be underestimated. In fact, it can be seen as the most significant competency because it impacts every other competency. It is the thing that changes everything. The effect of leadership can be determined by trust, when it is present leadership can be so effective and when it is not, one’s leadership can be diminished. 

Covey’s third idea, trust is a Learnable Skill‘It is something we can learn and do and create and establish and expand and extend and in some cases even restore when it’s been lost’ 

In the same way one can diminish and lose trust through their behaviour, they can also consciously and deliberately create a growing relationship through it too. 

He offered the following steps for those in the audience to build trust-

The first lesson was for those to extend their trust. 

Primarily in themselves. Trust in their behaviours, their attitudes and their capabilities. 

Secondly, to others around them. Be it people they work for, people who work for them, those on their teams or in their organisation. He encouraged them to share smart trust. Not blindly trusting everyone they meet, but smartly trusting those around them. 

He deciphered between internal and external trust. Those who surround you in work everyday are recognised Internal Trust. They are people who other’s rely on and depend on. External trust on the other hand are those who are outside of an organisation like stakeholders, partners and customers. 

We are living in a world of declining trust. Covey compared it to different scenarios in Ireland which the audience could relate to. He referenced the Central Bank, the bailout of 2008 and the politics which ensued. Also, the FAI and the fallout of leadership in one of Ireland’s leading sporting identities. He voiced how things happen to organisations like them when people start to question the trust and confidence they once had. 

He stressed the danger of a low trust world, it can perpetuate itself. Everyone becomes a little more careful, cautious, holding back and becoming more reserved. A vicious cycle to get stuck in which can have a thundering effect as the distrustful attitude is contagious. Suspicion is the opposite of trust, therefore when one isn’t trusted others are suspicious of them. They’re integrity, their word and their ability is questioned. 

To have trust, a person must possess both competence and character. They go hand in hand, without one or the other- a person can be deemed as untrustworthy. With both, a person can be credible and trustworthy. 

A very important part of Covey’s presentation, ‘you have to give trust to get trust.’

You could have two trustworthy people working together, however if there is no trust between them and neither are willing to extend their trust to each other, it becomes an untrustworthy relationship destined to face trouble. 

For leaders, this is particularly essential. People need to be trustworthy as well as trusting to create trust. If leader’s don’t trust people, they cannot trust us back. But when a leader’s trust is extended to others, there is a reciprocity of trust and it comes back to them. He refers to this trust as Smart Trust. This extension of trust from leaders with their expectations recognised, accountability built in and surround those expectations with good judgement. As a leader, those in such positions will know best how to extend this trust and reep the rewards once their employees/ teams etc are inspired, and fulfilling their potential in response to such trust being extended. 

He used the fast food chain KFC as an example. As a new president was elected to take control of a failing business, he commented that his first official act as president was to get to know his people. He wanted to correct the distrust shown to franchises of the business and instead extended his trust to them. Recognising that his brand are their livelihoods, and chose to work with them rather than against them in a time of uncertainty. He applied what he learnt from those around him and in time, his franchises began to show their trust in him as he did in them. They created new best selling products on the menu together, they turned the brand around and he changed the whole culture and performance of the company because of his initial decision to extend his trust to those who he worked with, and a combined effort between all parties turned the brand into the huge success it is today once again. 

Again, he stressed the importance of Smart Trust in these scenarios. Situations and expectations need to be measured when extending trust like so. 

Covey then continued to speak to the Pendulum audience about the two measurable outcomes that arise from trust. Speed and Cost

This has a very simple formula- when trust goes down in a relationship, speed goes down and cost goes up. Everything will take longer and cost more for a business if there isn’t trust present in the working relationship. It is almost like a tax which the businesses can control themselves with how they react and treat their employees. 

Similarly, when trust is increased in a relationship, speed goes up and cost goes down. Everything becomes faster and easier, increasing turnover and productivity for a business. Instead of being seen as a tax, trust can become a dividend for a business. An asset that they can use to their distinct advantage.  

In Covey’s words, ‘nothing is as fast as the Speed of Trust, nothing is as profitable as the Economics of Trust.’ 

He recognised the diverse careers present at Pendulum hence compared, what profit is to the private sector, trust is to the public sector for those nurses, teachers etc who are in the audience and are not subject to monetary gain in their industries. 

It is trust that turns a group into a team. It is transformative to the very nature of their working relationships and fundamental to their progress. Differences can be viewed as suspicious between individuals, and can often be divisive if people don’t trust each other in working relationships. In order to build a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it must start with trust. Allow individuals and teams to transform these differences from weaknesses to strengths. It will encourage idea generation, innovation and productivity. It will encourage people to take risks and succeed. 

In particular, Covey refers to millenials which are a huge portion of today’s workforce. In a study from Deloitte, it shows that millenials want ‘an open, transparent & collaborative leadership’. In a high trust culture, this study has proven that companies are 22 times more likely to retain their millennial workforce. They don’t want to be managed, they want to be lead and inspired. He referenced that they want to be trusted, but not just millennials, every generation does and too many people today are still operating with a command and control attitude in a collaborative, independent world with multiple generations in the workforce are crying out for change. Those who are still adopting this style of leadership are people who are doing the equivalent of playing tennis with a golf club. 

Having looked at the quantitative element of high and low trust culture in a business which qualifies as the business case. If you look at it from the leadership case, it’s qualitative

It refers to the energy and joy people possess and show in the workplace. Similar to the quantitative formulas, when trust is low, energy and joy are low. When it is high, they are high. It can be the difference between somebody being happy or unhappy in their workplace, between their job becoming exhilarating or exhausting and their relationships with others being strong or fragile. 

One’s behaviour is the building blocks of trust. Covey compared trust to a tree metaphor, using four contributing chords. The root, the trunk, the branches and the fruit.

The roots refer to one’s character- their integrity, honesty, truthfulness, courage. 

The trunk refers to one’s intent- their motive, one’s credibility and their caring nature which allows people to give their trust more openly. Openly displaying your intent in any given situation adds to one’s capability. As a leader, if you are clear about what you’re doing, and WHY you’re doing so, your team is more likely to work with you and work to achieve this. Transparency is fundamental when seeking other’s trust. 

The branches refer to one’s capabilities- our talents, skillset, expertise, knowledge. This determines our relevance. Whether we are learning, growing and improving which encourages trust in a shifting world. It instills confidence in those around us, that we can adapt and change with shifting scenarios. 

The fruit refers to one’s results- ones past performance is the biggests teller of their future performance and the biggest sign other’s rely on when giving their trust. If you look at someone’s track record of results, it is the biggest indication of whether or not they can be trusted to deliver on future projects. ‘Our results matter enormously to the building of trust’. 

If someone demonstrates all of these character traits, it is easy for others to place their trust in them and to create successful trusting relationships. 

Covey warns of counterfeit behaviour which may arise in these relationships and how some people may technically be telling the truth but misleading others. Telling people the technical truth but allowing them to believe what they want to believe is a fault that can disrupt a trusting relationship and one element that he warns the Pendulum audience to be mindful of when developing smart trusting relationships. 

To successfully create trusting relationships, he encourages people to listen, hear what their team members, co-workers or customers are saying. Then, keep their commitment- follow the steps above and ensure they stick to their word. He reiterated his very first point of the morning- one must extend their trust in others in order to receive it in return.

Abolish the blame culture that may surround their teams/workplace. It is a clear sign of an untrusting environment. To be truly trustworthy, one must be accountable for their actions and the decisions they make. If a finger-pointing, blame culture is present, they will suffer the consequences. As a leader, your first job is to inspire trust, second job is to extend it to those around you.

As he came to the end of his presentation, Covey voiced his goal for the morning session, ‘to make trust practical, tangible and actionable’ for the leaders in the room and to give them as much information to do so as he could for them to take two elements to work on. 

Firstly, for them to take a look in the mirror and honestly review themselves and their relationships. Commit to behaving credibly and nicely to those around them, then to identify a key relationship in their lives that they can either build or restore. 

He asked all of the audience to commit to practice this for the next 30/60/90 days and become good at extending their trust to others. 

If they do so, they will become a catalyst to generating trust throughout their personal and professional lives. 

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