The Asset of Trust

June 2008

I was intrigued by a recent article I read by Stephen Covey that captures some of the highlights of his book The Speed of Trust:  The One Thing That Changes Everything.  In it, he posits that today’s leaders are learning to see trust with new eyes.  Instead of an elusive and squishy social virtue, trust is being recognized as a “critical, highly relevant and tangible asset” that affects everything within an organization.  Not just relationships, but activities, decisions, and even the bottom line. 

Covey sees trust in three ways: as an economic driver; as the currency of the “new economy;” and as a competency.  This first assertion was new to me, as I had never thought about trust as connected directly to a balance sheet.  However, Covey’s simple explanation is that because trust always affects two measurable outcomes – speed and cost – we can measure the economics of trust quite easily.  When trust decreases, speed goes down and cost goes up, which creates a “trust tax.”  Conversely, when trust increases in an organization, speed goes up and cost goes down, creating a “trust dividend.”  I want to observe how this plays out in my professional world, now that I am aware of this concept.

We find ourselves in an increasingly trust-deficient world.  Covey points out that those with the “ability to create trust in a world of distrust” have a tremendous advantage in the workplace today, because trust is a currency.  It has value in a system that relies on collaboration and partnering.  Finally, by acknowledging trust is a competency, we can begin to measure trust levels, trust behaviors, and the effects of trust.  Covey calls on leaders to model trust through their own character and help those around them to understand and embrace behaviors that establish, grow, and restore trust.

The ideas in Covey’s article have helped me think more deeply about the importance of trust in my own professional (and personal) life.  I want my life and work to reflect trust in others, as well as in myself.  What is the level of trust in your organization?  How is your own trust competency?  If I can help you explore these and other questions about trust, please let me know. 

Sharon Keys Seal

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