The Speed of Trust | Blue Sky

The Speed of Trust

What do we actually mean by trust?

 We use the word trust frequently, but it never loses its emotional punch. If someone says they don’t trust you, it hurts. A lot. I’m a big fan of the Stephen M.R Covey book The Speed of Trust. In it, he discusses how we continually and subconsciously make decisions based on the confidence we have in a person or an organisation. This confidence is made up of character (a person [or organisation’s] intent and integrity) and competence (their capability, skills and track record).


If we do the maths – Trust is not a soft issue. 


Let’s start with the bottom line. How many of us would buy a car from a dodgy salesman? Or a pension from a company going bust? We simply won’t buy from people or company’s we don’t trust. Trust brings a massive internal saving too. High trust organisations are more efficient. People are honest about their struggles and get the support they need. Tough conversations are had, decisions are made, and meetings actually work. Internally, costs go down. Externally, sales go up.


Here are some startling stats

  • There are 53% less sick days in organisations with high trust
  • People are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust
  • Out of a survey of 300,000 leaders in over 60 countries, 89% of people put ‘honesty’ as the main trait they wanted to see in their leaders
  • The relationship with your boss is cited as the number one reason people leave an organisation
  • The CIPD quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work


Have a go at the following exercise:

Relax and take a moment to think about somebody you don’t trust. Imagine them in front of you (their clothes, their posture, their expression). Now, think about why you don’t trust this person and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is it their intent? Do you believe they’re always out for themselves? Or do they play for the bigger team? What motivates their actions? Is it good?
  • Are they straight? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Do they say one thing to you and another to somebody else? Do they have integrity?
  • Do they have the knowledge and expertise required for their job? The technical, leadership and people skills? Can they make the right decisions?
  • Do they have relevant experience to bring into their current role? Will they be able to tackle unknown problems? Do they have a track record of success?


So, what did you discover in going through that process? Is it their character or their competence that results in a lack of trust? Is it both?

Our behaviour creates or erodes trust

We all have people in our lives that we don’t trust and this is based on our experiences of them – the key question is whether we want to rebuild trust with them. When we’ve been hurt, we’re reluctant to give the perpetrator a second chance, but sometimes second chances can have magical results. If you want a more trustworthy organisation with more engaged employees, you must start by behaving in a trustworthy way yourself. You must commit to building trust on an individual level before you can expect it to scale.


Trust is not something you can fake. When individuals, teams and leaders understand how trusted they are personally, and that there are things they can do to grow or lose that trust, their motivation and capability to improve is massively increased.


This report is based on the work done by Stephen R Covey in the ‘Speed of Trust’ and is based on the four cores of trust: Intent and integrity (which he refers to as making up ‘character’) and capability and track record (which he refers to as ‘competence’).



Intent: What motivates a person/team/organisation? Is their motivation self-serving or is it for the good of others?

Capability: Do they have the skills and knowledge to do the role required of them both from a people perspective and an ‘expertise’ perspective?

Integrity: Is a person/team/organisation straight? Are they honourable, do they show humility and do what they say they will?

Track Record: Do they have a track record in delivering results in a similar area? Can you see from their past that it is worth putting your faith in them?

Stephen M.R Covey talks about the 13 behaviours that build or destroy trust. I’ve highlight 7 of them below:

Talk straight and demonstrate respect to your employees and customers alike. Many businesses are afraid of transparency, but it can have an amazing effect. Admitting that you’re in the middle of a change programme and you don’t know what the end looks like, or that the CEO is on his way out but you’re recruiting carefully, actually creates more trust and stability, not less.

Right wrongs admit mistakes. Apologise. Demonstrate how you will change. It’s as simple as that. A reclaimed customer is more loyal than one who never had a bad experience in the first place, so it’s not just the right thing to do – it works.

Get better when coaching the board of a very successful company, our team was recently told “whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you are coaches. Don’t even tell reception.” Why? “Because we can’t let anyone know our exec board are being coached.” Why not? Is getting better wrong? Or is it reassuring and inspiring?

Confront reality does your CEO get to hear the bad news? Do they want to? We recently did a diagnostic on a leadership team and were told to “take out a lot of the bad comments – our CEO won’t be able to take it.” It’s a scary prospect if the top people don’t get to hear what they need to!

Clarify expectations spend time letting people know what is really needed from them. All too often, people come unstuck for the lack of a proper briefing.

Practice accountability consider Jimmy Savile. What about all those people who knew what he was doing and didn’t speak up? Bad people are simply a fact of life, so it’s up to those around them to stand up for what is right.

Extend trust recently, an ex-senior director of AOL let slip that 75% of AOL customers were paying for dial up broadband service, even though AOL offer it for free. They had signed up years ago, when it wasn’t, and nobody had called to explain. This charge accounts for 80% of their profitability. Trust isn’t passive – it must be earned. Are you proactive in whistleblowing untrustworthiness?


Put simply, trust is our behaviour and our behaviour is under our control.

So, now you know what trust looks like, are you ready to work on it? Drop us a line

Get in touch



Blue Sky - Experts in People Change. All rights reserved 2019.