THE FIVE ACTIONS OF SMART TRUST
There are five actions of smart trust:
- Choose to believe in trust.
- Start with self.
- Declare your intent … and assume positive intent in others.
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Lead out in extending trust to others.
There is a dramatically increasing number of people and organizations everywhere engaging in the five Actions of Smart Trust–thereby avoiding their opposites and counterfeits–and getting remarkable results, according to Covey and Link.
ACTION 1: CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN TRUST
Belief in trust is the first smart trust action that the authors consider, and it’s no accident that it’s number one. Belief is essential to getting results, and is the foundation of success. Deciding to believe in trust is the basic choice from which all of the other smart trust actions emanate. However, this belief in trust is not a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t thing, done only for convenience, appearance, or when there’s no risk involved. Trust has to be the underlying approach that determines day-to-day actions.
Among the companies offered as examples is W.L. Gore & Associates. Founder Bill Gore believed in trust so greatly that he set up what is known as a “lattice organization” that still exists. Employees are considered “associates,” and rate one another’s contributions. A new CEO was chosen in 2005 based on employee feedback of who they would like to follow.
The authors note that many organizations tend to be based on a top-down structure, and an assumption that people cannot be trusted. However, the highest form of control does not come from reams of rules and regulations, but from a high-trust culture.
An extraordinary example of trust–and all the good that can come from it–occurred in 2007, when Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook, got a call out of the blue from Steve Jobs of Apple, who was considering using the company’s technology. After fruitlessly trying to get Skyhook’s technology noticed, it seemed as if this was the company’s big opportunity. However, before the deal was done there was an Apple event, and Jobs needed Skyhook’s code to showcase its products there. The code was the key to Skyhook’s technology, and Morgan was advised not to give it out. However, he trusted Jobs, gave him the code, and was rewarded when Jobs showed off Skyhook’s technology to an eager audience. Skyhook took off from there, thanks to a single act of trust between Morgan and Jobs. Who knows what would have happened if Morgan had refused Jobs.
It can be hard to overcome life experiences–ones that have quite possibly led to distrust. However, it can be done. Trust glasses can be put on and used to view the world and govern actions. If a person believes in trust, they can trust. Covey and Link are convinced that developing a belief in trust is the most powerful thing people can do to begin to access the benefits of trust in their lives.
ACTION 2: START WITH SELF
The second smart trust action is to start with self. It is not enough to believe in trust; trust has to begin somewhere. Individuals, leaders, teams, and organizations that operate successfully in today’s world also behave in ways that grow out of that belief. It takes both character and competence to give a person the confidence to not only trust themselves, but inspire others to trust them as well. Self-trust affects not only a person’s worthiness to be trusted, but also the way people see and interact with others. The authors go outside the business realm to offer as an illustration the story of how a young rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers named Magic Johnson rose to the occasion in his team’s 1980 championship series with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers’ regular center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was injured, so Johnson filled in and led his team to victory. He drew on the trust in his own character and competence to inspire the Lakers to victory. It was not ego–self-trust is never ego, arrogance, or bravado–but a quiet confidence –a trust in his own abilities that compelled him.
Other examples of people with the capacity to be trusted include Peter Aceto, head of ING Direct Canada, who trusted himself enough to ask his employees outright if he should stay on, and John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who committed to the school when another came calling because he had given his word to UCLA. Another example of a person who has self-trust is Almaz Gebremedhin, a cleaning lady and single parent who put all five of her children through Penn State and was named Good Morning America’s Woman of the Year.
Self-trust works for countries as well. In Denmark, 88.8 percent of the people express a high level of trust in others. Denmark is one of the most productive countries in the world, considered the happiest nation in the world, has the least corruption (along with New Zealand and Singapore), ranks number two on the prosperity index, and has the fifth highest GDP in the world.
The authors also examine some companies that once had great trust then lost it. One is Johnson & Johnson, which established great trust in the Tylenol crisis of 1982, then badly fumbled their handling of the Motrin situation in 2008. Another is Toyota, which had established a deep bond of trust with its customers that was shattered when the company mishandled an incident with sticking accelerators.
Restoring trust is much more difficult than establishing trust. Take, for example, the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. A notorious con man early in life, he turned his life around and restored trust in himself as a security consultant who helped expose potential security system faults for businesses.
ACTION 3: DECLARE YOUR INTENT … AND ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT IN OTHERS
The third smart trust action is to declare your intent and assume positive intent in others. To declare intent, a person is signaling his behavior to others, telling people why an intended action is going to occur. As an example, the authors talk about the Charlotte County, Florida, school district. A hurricane devastated some of their facilities. The district superintendent called a meeting and declared his intent that all employees were going to be paid as soon as possible and that no jobs would be cut. As a result, the district built a strong trust with their employees, one that has carried over to contract negotiations and beyond. Two other famous cases of declared intent are Babe Ruth indicating that he was going to hit a home run on the next pitch and then doing it, and President John F. Kennedy declaring America’s intent to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Declaring intent is a performance multiplier that provides numerous benefits. It creates context, inspires hope, encourages reciprocity, and shows respect for others. It also increases trust. Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter said: “We’ve learned that the best way of building trust is by letting people see for themselves what we’re doing.”
Failure to declare intent will usually cause people to react in one of two ways: Either they will try to guess intent, or they will project their own intent. In low-trust organizations, the guess is usually a worst-case scenario. A low-trust relationship will cause people to project their fears, suspicions, and worries more often than their hopes and dreams. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”
Declaring intent builds trust fastest if the intent is based on caring and mutual benefit. No motive builds trust as quickly and deeply as the motive of caring. Numerous examples are given of caring intent, such as Zappos’ slogan: “Zappos is about delivering happiness to the world.” Another example is Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey, who said: “Ultimately we cannot create high-trust organizations without creating cultures based on love and care.” Other examples of caring intent include PepsiCo, whose mantra is “Performance with Purpose,” and Procter & Gamble, which strives for “purpose-inspired growth,” evidenced by its giveaway of a water purification powder that resulted in the creation of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program.
Most effective leaders assume positive intent, which is an extension of trust. The act of assuming good intent changes the dynamic of a relationship. It inspires reciprocity. It leads to trust-building behaviors. It creates a virtuous upward cycle of trust and confidence rather than a vicious downward cycle of suspicion and distrust.
ACTION 4: DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO
The fourth smart trust action is do what you say you are going to do. Trust will fail if the person promising trust does not “walk the talk.” Delivering promised results builds trust faster than any other action. This smart trust action combined with action three (declare intent) packs a powerful one-two punch. These two actions have the greatest power to knock out suspicion and distrust. If something happens so it becomes impossible to do what was said, communicate that fact quickly. It helps to reframe expectations and can also engage others in either renegotiating or helping to find alternative solutions.
Doing what you say you are going to do is the ultimate brand creator. It defines a person’s own brand and it defines a company brand. In today’s business world, a strong brand is imperative. The authors cite studies that the trusted brand is the most popular, as well as the most profitable. In addition, trusted brands (Rolex, Sony, Mercedes, etc.) command higher prices in the marketplace. As a bonus, declaring intent and doing what you say are the fastest ways to build a reputation and trust. Among the stories used as illustrations of this action is that of Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines. By instituting a smart trust policy, and doing what he said he was going to do, Bethune turned a struggling airline into the most admired airline in the world.
ACTION 5: LEAD OUT IN EXTENDING TRUST TO OTHERS
The fifth and final smart trust action is lead out in extending trust to others. This is what leaders do–they go first, they are the initial ones to extend trust. If a person is not inspiring and extending trust, they are managing, or maybe administrating, but they are not leading. Extending trust produces results, increases trust, and elicits reciprocity. Extending trust can break negative cycles of distrust and suspicion. This leads to greater prosperity, energy, and joy for all stakeholders.
Covey and Link offer numerous stories as illustrations of extending trust, such as that of the Ritz-Carlton employee who was searching for a guest’s lost ring. He did not find it, so he searched the laundry. Still not finding it, he took a washing machine apart and there it was. The Ritz-Carlton had extended the trust to him to follow his own initiative, and this sort of trust pays off for the hotel chain. Research reveals that guests who are actively engaged with Ritz-Carlton and its staff spend 23 percent more money than those who are only moderately engaged. A four-point increase in employee engagement scores companywide means an extra $40 million in incremental revenue for Ritz-Carlton.
When leaders lead out in wisely extending smart trust, their actions have a ripple effect that cascades throughout the team, organization, community, or family and begins to transform the behavior of the entire culture.
Businesses can also extend smart trust to their customers. Connecticut-based Zane’s Cycles, one of the three largest bike shops in the United States, allows customers to go for test drives without asking for identification. “We choose to believe our customers,” says founder Chris Zane. The company loses only five bikes each year out of 5,000.
One area in which smart trust can be particularly useful is with mergers and acquisitions. Eighty-three percent of mergers fail to create value, while more than 50 percent actually destroy value, mainly because of the people and cultural differences. Smart trust is the “secret sauce” of a successful merger. It creates the trust necessary to integrate the two cultures.