Smart Trust in the Workplace

SUMMER READING: Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World

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By Steven E. Sacks

There are some ideals that never go out of style; they simply stand the test and challenges of time, enduring through disruptions caused by innovation, changes in public policy, globalization and a changing workforce.

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One of these ideals is trust. It can be a double-edged sword, however.

If restraints are placed on trust we cannot grow as a society. On the other hand, if we engage in blind trust, then we end up with the governments we disdain and bad corporate behavior we experienced in the early 2000s (e.g., Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing).

There has to be a smart balance struck; something referred to as smart trust. This concept is found in the Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link book, “Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World.”

Portrait of Stephen M.R. Covey

In his earlier book, “The Speed of Trust,” Covey explained the relevance of trust on a global level. Building on this concept, “Smart Trust” looks at trust on a more micro basis, specifically, how business leaders and organizations – whether for-profit or not-for-profit – are employing high-trust relationships, even during this time of low or no trust.

The book offers exemplars (though rarities) of people who have succeeded because they effectively managed trust: to give it and to earn it in all types of business cultures. As a byproduct of this practice they have been able to gain energy and joy. A remarkable situation of gaining the best when practicing the best.

Portrait of Greg Link

The prevailing view is we are at a low point of trust with our government and financial institutions. “Smart Trust” explains how individuals, teams and organizations covering various industries have built cultures of trust, while being able to attain greater financial results. A win-win situation, in other words.

5 Actions

The key takeaways are the 5 Actions of Smart Trust, interestingly enough, successfully implemented by a diverse group of organizations all across the globe:

Smart Trust Action 1: Choose to believe in trust. High-trust people and organizations use this as a foundation upon which to cultivate trust-building behaviors.

Smart Trust Action 2: Start with self. High-trust people and organizations place the focus on themselves first and develop character and competence that enable them to become a person, team or organization that others can trust.

Smart Trust Action 3: Declare your intent … and assume positive intent in others. High-trust people and organizations signal goals and intended actions and explain both the what and why aspects.

Smart Trust Action 4: Do what you say you are going to do. High-trust people and organizations say what they will do and they do it. A simple, yet often violated concept.

Smart Trust Action 5: Lead out in extending trust to others. High-trust people and organizations are the first to extend trust and build the upward virtuous cycle of trust that results in prosperity, energy and joy.

There is keen competition for top talent in industry, particularly in the technology space. Couple this with expectations millennials have as they enter the workforce. Money is no longer the number one driver that attracts them to companies. It is culture and part of the equation is trust. It should be encouraged, emphasized and practiced, no matter where your position is in the company or firm.

Earned trust enhances an organization’s image, makes it a magnet for good employees and creates a commitment to the vision and values.

The essence of what the book succeeds in explaining can be encapsulated in a quote by Covey: “The ability to establish, grow, extend and restore trust is the key professional and personal competency of our time.”