Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Speed of Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey

Subtitled: The One Thing That Changes Everything. It's an incredible book. Well written, well researched, practical in its guidance and full of personal stories and anecdotes, it's an engaging read. And the ideas and concepts he outlines here I find myself recalling on almost a daily basis now.

This is another book recommended to me by my redoubtable business coach. I am fortunate to have a mentor who is a reader in the same intense way that I am, and we both enjoy a network of friends who are great readers as well. So book recommendations come to each of us and we digest them and recommend them outward again into the mainstream of our friends and business associates.

This was timely as I was struggling with how to deal with clients who are simply not paying the invoices I have sent them. I just couldn't conceive of how an agreement is made between two people (professionals), services rendered as promised, and then the person who is now enjoying the fruits of my labors simply decides they won't pay the bill. Or they will pay it when it's convenient for them. As a marketing consultant, I run my own small business that depends on services being rendered and bills being paid on time so that my bills are paid on time. And I am continually amazed at how others can simply breach such a basic trust and think it will have no impact.

Covey (who is the son of Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) shows clearly how trust does impact everything - in relationships, in the family, on the job and in the community. When there is a lack of trust it's like imposing a tax that takes away from the bottom line of a business. And when trust exists, it's like a dividend. He argues that trust affects speed and cost in any business and that translates directly to dollars and cents. Many examples are provided to illustrate his points throughout the book.

There were several concepts that made a particular impression on me. The first was a term coined by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great called "The Stockdale Paradox" which refers to famed prisoner of war Jim Stockdale. He quotes Stockdale as saying, "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be." I'm working within the real estate industry where that paradox is well applied to the many companies and agents that are faced with a challenging and changing market.

Another concept that resonated with me was "Windows & Mirrors." Again he pulls from Jim Collins in his chapter on Accountability. When things go wrong we have a tendency to look out the window - out there somewhere - to find the source of the problem. We need to always start by looking in the mirror, at ourselves, to discover the source and cause and to take what is our own responsibility for the situation. While I found that easy to do when I managed a staff, I find it a challenge to consistently apply it in all facets of my life - most certainly in my personal relationships.

The book takes on so many complex subjects and breaks them down into simpler elements and concepts that he supports with labels, diagrams, visual images and action steps. It's a primer for learning to incorporate trust into every aspect of our daily lives - in things both great and small.

I am a person who extends trust quite naturally and easily to others. This is an asset. And yet I find myself astonished time and again when the trust I extend is violated. The final section of the book is about extending "Smart Trust." Which is something I am coming to terms with and working on both professionally and personally. This book as been an important part of realizing this is something I need to be working on, and it has offered valuable and practical advice that has made a difference already. I highly recommend it.

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