The Power of Truth

Trust in the Marketplace

Isn’t it interesting?

The American Society for Training and Development’s (ASTD) International Conference was packed with sessions on virtual learning, social media, 3D, best practices for webinars and so on. I attended the conference, and while there, I received a press release about Ken Blanchard’s acquisition of the Trustworks Group. Yes, I did receive it on my iphone, and I admit, I read it while listening to the speaker. Seems this is typical behavior for certain generations.

Well, that definitely peeked my interest given that I have been working with Stephen M.R. Covey for the past three years to bring engaging and dynamic learning programs to the market based on his best-selling book, The Speed of Trust.

Obviously, other thought leaders besides Stephen M.R. are catching on to the idea that trust is a key leadership competency, and that there is a great need to develop leaders who inspire trust.

This is certainly no surprise given that in the past decade, both business and government have violated stakeholder trust and demonstrated how its loss erodes reputation. As a result, trust has emerged as a new line of business.

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that, to advance reputation, companies need to be everywhere, engaging everyone. That they must build a “mosaic of trust.” In fact, the barometer shows that trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services.

High trust organizations out perform low-trust organizations. Total return to shareholders is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations. So we assert that trust is clearly a key competency. A competency or skill that can be learned, taught, and improved, and one talent to screen for.

Leaders need to be transparent and talk straight, instead of creating illusions, having hidden agendas, making things seem different from reality, or spinning the truth. These are two of the key behaviors in Stephen M.R. Covey’s book that came out of his work on trust.

We are glad to hear more buzz about trust in the marketplace. And we hope your trust work is based on trust as an economic driver, and about implementing the behaviors of trust at all levels in your organization – getting people to speak the language of trust and understand how to extend, restore and build it.

There are no trust falls or funny hats in our Speed of Trust simulation and Speed of Trust Meeting in a Box. These dynamic learning solutions are about trust as an economic driver; about making trust your operating system; about learning and applying the behaviors common to high trust. Now there is something to tweet about (or we’ll send a press release if you prefer)!

Trust in the Headlines

Turn on the TV or click to your favorite news website and it won’t take long to find a story about the decline of trust in organizations. Damaged trust is at the heart of economic turmoil, and millions of workers have felt the effects in painful and personal ways.graph

The 2009 annual Edelman Trust Barometer reports that “the world has more reasons than ever before to suspend its trust.”

The report goes on to say: “In no country is trust in a more dismal state than the United States, where government, business, and media are all distrusted by respondents to do what is right.”

Many of us don’t need a news headline to tell us this because we feel the effects of damaged trust every day.

So what do we do about it?

Stephen M. R. Covey, in his best selling book, The Speed of Trust, says “you can’t talk yourself out of a situation you behaved yourself into. You can behave yourself out of a situation you behaved your way into.”

Stephen identifies 13 behaviors that build trust:

  1. Talk Straight
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Delivery Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality
  9. Clarify Expectations
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Listen First
  12. Keep Commitments
  13. Extend Trust

People and companies can learn these behaviors.  It’s not a simple process that happens overnight, but is a systemic, cultural process that can happen one leader at a time.

When you find yourself in a situation where trust needs to be restored, practice restoring it using these thirteen behaviors common to high trust individuals.

The Vital Lie

I recently listened to a dialog between Warren Bennis and Daniel Goleman on transparency.  The question they were reflecting upon was:  “Is Transparency Inevitable?”

I thought it might be fun to blog about this topic so I share below some of the take-aways for me from their conversation (which by the way is on a CD and entitled, “The Power of Truth: A Leading with Emotional Intelligence Conversation with Warren Bennis).

Daniel asked Warren why he felt transparency is inevitable.  Warren’s response?  Mainly because:

  • People need truth to operate effectively and efficiently;
  • Truth will make organizations and leaders more effective, more efficient and get more work, “capacity to motivate” out of people;
  • Transparency is like oxygen;

During this dialog they explored the obstacles to transparency.  And the idea that there are hidden ground rules to what we can and cannot say.  Such as, in any organization, there are four unspoken rules:

1. Here’s what we notice
2. Here’s what we say about them
3. Here’s what we don’t notice
4. We never say anything to outsiders about that third category – (Henry Gibson called this the “Vital Lie” — the operative fiction that hides a painful truth.)

Stephen M.R. Covey in his best selling book, “The Speed of Trust“, defines the counterfeits of “creating transparency” creating illusion, pretending, “seeming” rather than being and making things different than they appear.

Of course, we all have worked in places where no one addressed the problem that everyone knew about:  the peak performer who wasn’t held to the same rules as others; the budget games where numbers are exaggerated or the “story” isn’t clear; the arrogant doctor who makes mistakes but nurses are afraid to point them out.

So, just for fun… take a moment and consider your “vital lies”. And begin to think about what you can do as a leader to practice creating transparency and to create “a culture of candor.”

>> Do you have a great example of a vital lie or how a leader can create transparency? Please share.