By Jeff Faull
Stephen M.R. Covey calls it “the one thing that changes everything.” When you have it, you can move forward quickly, confidently, and positively. When you don’t have it, your enterprise, organization, or endeavor is hindered and even paralyzed. According to Covey, trust is what changes everything. In fact his New York Times best seller on the subject is titled The Speed of Trust.
Covey contends the commodity most overlooked and underrated in organizational health and efficiency is the trust factor. No, he isn’t longing for a return to the days of deals sealed with a simple handshake or verbal agreement, but he does maintain that where genuine trust exists, progress occurs and the speed of our accomplishments and productivity is accelerated. In fact, Covey introduces one chapter with this striking statement, “Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.”
He says repeatedly, “The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.” He underscores his premise by quoting several prominent voices in regard to the incredible power of trust. Among them:
• Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and CEO of Xerox: “Leadership may have to come in a different package. It’s got to be credible. . . . Overall, its about credibility, walking the talk.”
• Tom Peters, author of books on business management: “Technique and technology are important, but adding trust is the issue of the decade.”
• Jim Burke, former chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson (now deceased): “You can’t have success without trust. The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you succeed.”
• John Whitney, formerly on faculty with Columbia Business School (now deceased): “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.”
• Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century essayist and poet: “Our distrust is very expensive.”
After powerfully demonstrating the value and necessity of trust, Covey spends the remainder of the book fleshing out practices and behaviors that create, build, and maintain trust. He calls them “the 13 behaviors”:
1. Talk straight. This is a call to avoid spin and doublespeak, to kindly tell the truth and paint an accurate picture of reality when you speak.
2. Demonstrate respect. Display kindness and respect toward everyone you deal with, even when there is no apparent reward for doing so.
3. Create transparency. Be authentic and honest with a “nothing to hide approach” that removes suspicion and mistrust.
4. Right wrongs. Apologize when necessary. Admit when you have been wrong. Try to make it up to people when you fail them. Make things right.
5. Show loyalty. Make sure you are loyal to other people on your team. Don’t throw others under the bus. Keep confidential information private, and protect the reputation of your team members.
6. Deliver results. Do what you promised to do. Over deliver. Be punctual and thorough in keeping your promises and meeting expectations. As Covey says, “Establish a track record of results.”
7. Get better. Constantly grow and improve. Be a lifetime learner. Consider and respond to constructive advice and even criticism.
8. Confront reality. Be willing to see things as they are and to own those unpleasantries. Readily acknowledge the truth in your situation
9. Clarify expectations. Never assume that everyone knows what is expected. Clarify and reclarify the desired results and the unacceptable alternatives.
10. Practice accountability. Take responsibility. Insist on ownership of outcomes from yourself and from others.
11. Listen first. Seek to understand. Open your ears before you open your mouth. Make sure you hear what the other person is saying before responding.
12. Keep commitments. Do what you say you are going to do. Make your word gold by following through when you make a promise.
13. Extend trust. You cannot receive trust if you are unwilling to extend it. Take the risk of trusting others and let them grow in integrity too.
Ours by Default?
This should be an unnecessary reminder for Christians. It wouldn’t be difficult to attach specific Scriptures onto each of these 13 behaviors. We are followers of the One who said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37, New King James Version). We believe the claim of the psalmist when he described integrity as one “who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind” (Psalm 15:4). We resonate with the apostle who tells us to “Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
The benefits of the speed of trust should be ours by default. Nowhere should the value of trust be more evident than in the church world. But sadly, in many churches and ministries, a lack of integrity, or even a perceived lack, helps create a deficiency of trust and stifles the work of the kingdom on multiple levels.
The numerous high-visibility character failures of religious leaders have created a climate of mistrust in our culture. The dysfunction and disingenuous behavior of leadership teams in dealing with their congregations have often helped perpetuate suspicion from church members toward the trustworthiness of internal church leadership. The failure to follow through on initiatives and commitments leads people to doubt the future will bring different results. Morale and cooperation suffer because the members and leaders in the body are not experiencing the natural benefits of mutual trust.
Several years ago I read a devotional article that highlighted the stories of some of the apostle Paul’s dearest friends and most valuable kingdom coworkers. They were people Paul gratefully mentioned by name in his letters. Onesiphorus, the man who showed up when everyone else deserted. Timothy, the only one with a kindred spirit who was genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. Epaphroditus, the one who persevered through illness and was worthy of high honor. Stephanas, who along with his family was devoted to the church and its ministry from the early days in Greece. Aquila and Priscilla, who risked their necks for Paul. Trust was the common denominator among all these people. Paul knew he could count on them because of their integrity and consistency.
Imagine what could happen if our church leaderships made trust-building a priority. What if church members were confident their leaders were telling truth, speaking transparently, and not sweeping things under the proverbial rug? What if elders knew the ministers could be counted on to follow through with every commitment? What if the staff knew the elders would always be fair, honest, and transparent? What if ministry staff could trust each other implicitly? What if we modeled and practiced these behaviors that promote trust?
What if this year, instead of chasing the next big thing , we simply focused on what it takes to be people of integrity who earn the trust of each other and our congregations by developing the strength and consistency of Christlike character and integrity? What other tangible benefits would come from an atmosphere and culture of trust in our churches? What would the speed of trust do for our kingdom endeavors?
Now more than ever, followers of Jesus need to rebuild and inspire trust in a world that seems to have lost the concept.
Jeff Faull serves as senior minister with Mount Gilead Church, Mooresville, Indiana, and as a contributing editor for CHRISTIAN STANDARD.