The Speed of Trust Summary (Stephen M.R. Covey)

Got trust issues?

Focusing on this trait can improve both our personal and professional lives.

From relationships at home to leadership skills at work, it’s an essential component of communication, productivity and efficiency.

Although we consider trust to be abstract and obscure, like love, it’s actually a measurable factor for performance improvement.

Written by Stephen M.R. Covey, son of the late Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People), The Speed of Trust summary attempts to improve our interactions with others.

Let’s dive in.

Communication and economics

Trust can be defined as the confidence you have in someone.

It affects all areas of life – from personal relationships to the confidence with have in our corporate institutions.

When we trust someone, we expect them to faithful in a relationship or pay back loaned money.

Trust affects:

  • Communication – when we trust someone, like a best friend, it’s easier to communicate with them in comparison to a stranger.
  • Economics – Trust affects how we do business, affecting the speed and cost of a transaction.

We call this the “economics of trust”, which is usually defined by the formula:

  • Strategy x execution = results

An example of this formula being affected was in the aftermath of 9/11, with airport security.

Due to the lowered trust, security checks went from 30 mins to 90 mins, with lower efficiency and higher cost.

This can cut both ways, in the form of a “trust tax” as shown in the example above, or a “trust dividend” where trust is high.

Therefore, we can amend the equation:

  • (Strategy x execution) x trust = results

Trusting yourself

If you can’t trust yourself, who else will trust you?

To begin trusting ourselves, the author recommends adopting the “The Four Cores”:

  • Integrity – standing by your principles (even if they’re uncomfortable) and doing what you say you will. Keeping the non-negotiable commitments you’ve made, like getting up with your alarm clock, is a wonderful way to developing self-trust
  • Intent – positive motives and behaviour – constantly analyse and redefine your intent in each interaction. Are you really listening to a person or do you just want to win an argument?
  • Capabilities – lifelong learning to improve our skills and proficiency is essential for developing self-confidence
  • Results – we actually need the results to show for our commitments, which is the real foundation for trust e.g. FedEx promise overnight delivery and they deliver


How we act determines everything. If we behave in a trustworthy way, we’ll be deemed trustworthy.

There are two enablers:

  • Tell the truth – needless to say, honesty fosters trust
  • Show people you care – demonstrate you’re not out to dupe people and they place faith in you. How? Thank you notes, acknowledgements, avoiding bad-mouthing etc.

Imagine a “trust account” when assessing your performance.

Every time you engage in trustworthy behaviour you make a deposit and vice versa, the main aim being to remain in credit.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback to analyse your progress.

Pleasing stakeholders

In business, it’s essential to appease our stakeholders and trust helps.

There are three types of stakeholders, each requiring a different approach:

  • Internal (employees) – to perform effectively, they must observe alignment, seeing the company acting in a trustworthy way. This leads to better communication, efficiency, and interpersonal trust, which all promote business growth
  • External (the market) – to gain the trust of your target market, reputation is essential, developed by brand perception. An example of eroded trust is the perception of goods which are “Made in China”.
  • Societal (the wider perception of your business) – contribution is key. In the Rodney King riots in the USA, looters left McDonald’s untouched because they offered employment to local youths and contributed to social welfare programmes.

Trust restoration

Trust, once lost, isn’t lost forever. It can be rebuilt through effort.

An interim measure is using “smart trust”, which lies between complete trust and naivete.

This allows both parties to tread cautiously and start rebuilding the foundations of the relationship.

Although people’s perceptions may not change overnight, especially if they feel betrayed, trust can also be regained by slowly increasing our credibility.

By consistently behaving in a credible way, committing to demonstrating our changed behaviour, we can gradually restore trust.

The Speed of Trust summary

Trust is a universal asset that can improve our communication and benefit our interactions in the form of increased efficiency and lowered costs.

  • First, develop self-trust
  • Act in alignment with your trust values
  • Customise your trust efforts for each business stakeholder
  • Restore lost trust through commitment and credibility

What to do next?

Focus on the small things you can do today to foster trusting relationships (calling contacts, acknowledging efforts etc.)

Working on this trait will pay huge dividends, so get trusting.

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