Posts Tagged ‘Stephen M.R. Covey’


Recently, I presented at a conference for leaders running businesses with participants from over one hundred and fifty countries.  Having spoken on trust in more than fifty-eight countries on-site—and in even more virtually—I’ve noticed that although every culture is beautifully unique and different, there is one common thread that runs through them all: trust.  Regardless of the setting or the circumstances, each culture and country is shaped by trust – or the lack thereof. Every society, organization, team, group, and family functions well only to the degree there is trust.  Indeed, it can be said that trust “makes our world go ‘round.” 

If it feels like your world isn’t going ‘round right now, or it’s going slower than you’d like, I recommend looking at trust first.  The reality is, that low trust is almost always the root of the problem – or the most impeding barrier to the solution.  Indeed, most organizational performance issues are really trust issues in disguise.

Never before has the impact of low trust been more prevalent or apparent. More and more we see examples of this play out on the news, as well as in our own organizations, communities, and neighborhoods. On top of that, we have more research and data on how trust drives performance available at our fingertips than at any other time in history.  We know this is important. And yet, deliberately moving the needle on trust, which is vital for everyone and everywhere, continues to present an enormous challenge.  Why is that? 

Trust the Noun

For me, it begins with understanding what Trust means. Trust as a noun is both complex and eye-opening. 

Take for example, this exercise that I invite teams and audiences to participate in when I speak on this topic. Consider the statement below: 

It is possible to have two trustworthy people working together and to have no trust between them.

Take a few moments to ponder the significance of that statement, because in all my years of teaching trust, this is perhaps one of the most profound insights I’ve learned. 

Read it again.  What stands out to you? 

The idea that you can have two trustworthy people working together and also have no trust between them continues to be one of the biggest challenges I run into when working with people— regardless of the situation. Whether it be on a team, between teams, in an organization, in the relationship between partners and customers, or even just on a personal level, this problem comes up again and again. 

It exhibits itself as misalignment between departments, a lack of collaboration, weak retention, lethargic execution, an inability to innovate, and formation of silos.  It becomes greatly magnified in the context of nearly every form of organizational change. It becomes a silent stumbling block on the road to innovation and progress.  Have you experienced this or seen it in your own organization? The majority of people can relate to the frustration that comes hand in hand with low trust. 

However, the statement I shared is only part of the insight.  Take a moment to consider the completed message:

It is possible to have two trustworthy people working together and to have no trust between them . . . if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other. 

When most people think about trust, they simply think about trustworthiness – the level at which someone can be relied upon or trusted. Although insufficient by itself, trustworthiness is still a good place to start because it’s difficult to have real, meaningful trust between people when one or both parties isn’t worthy of it. 

But here’s the kicker: in my experience, our most significant challenge is not a lack of trustworthy people. Everywhere you go, you can find good, honest, trustworthy people to work with. So, that is less often the issue. Rather, the bigger challenge is trustworthy people who do not extend trust to other trustworthy people. Those same good, honest, trustworthy people are often the ones who find it hardest to give trust to others. 

I can’t tell you how many leaders I’ve worked with who are credible and authentic, who care deeply about both their work and their people, who are excited and eager to make a difference for their organization – and yet who just can’t seem to extend trust, or enough trust for it to really matter.  They are trustworthy but are not trusting.  Both dimensions are vital. And because trusting is reciprocal, it goes both ways: employees and team members who are distrusted by their leaders learn to withhold trust from those same leaders. And the cycle and impacts of low trust continue onward. To achieve Trust in its ultimate noun form, we must have both components present and operating – trustworthiness and trusting. 

The Good News

Although your organization might not currently be operating at the level of trust you want, I believe this insight provides hope that it can. If our teams and organizations really are full of trustworthy people, it means there is enormous potential waiting for us on just the other side of a meaningful extension of trust. There are enormous benefits we have yet to reap if we shift our focus from not only being trustworthy but also to being trusting.

Gail McGovern, twice named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America” by Fortune Magazine, is a model of being trusting.  When she became CEO of The American Red Cross, she inherited a $209 million operating deficit, along with a Board mandate to eliminate said deficit within two years. On top of that, she was the 10th CEO of the prior decade. Walking into the struggling non-profit and assuming trustworthiness at scale may not have been the most natural position to take.

Knowing the difficult circumstances the organization faced, and how temporary the CEO role had been, Gail arranged a series of town hall meetings around the country—what she called a “listening tour”—with the intent to listen to and connect with employees as a foundation of developing a turnaround plan.  During one such meeting, an employee bravely asked the question on everyone’s mind, point blank: “Gail, you’re new and we’ve gone through a lot of leaders.  How do we know if we can trust you?”

Gail responded thoughtfully, “You’ll have to decide that for yourself but I certainly believe you’ll find in me someone you can trust.”  Then she leaned in and emphatically declared to everyone in the room, “But let me tell you that I trust each and every one of you.

This was an easy thing to say yet hard to do.  But Gail meant it.  She was trustworthy when she arrived, bringing with her an excellent track record, but that wasn’t what inspired her employees to trust her. It was her early decision to practice trusting others that people responded to powerfully.  This strong start inspired her people and helped them to buy into her plan and vision for the organization. This unified front served them well as they were able to eliminate the deficit and kick off a turnaround that continues to this day to perform and serve society in profound ways.

Trusting Globally

Another great example of trusting is Daniel Grieder, the CEO of global fashion retailer, HUGO BOSS, out of Germany.  When Daniel was brought in from outside the company to serve as the new CEO, he immediately met with his top leadership team, and outlined, in essence, two possible paths forward. In that meeting, he laid out his vision and invitation for the future:

“Team, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you.  So, we have two choices: we can spend the next year deciding whether or not we can trust each other . . . but then we’ll have wasted a year.  Or we can decide to trust each other from day one.  I choose the second option.  So please know this:  I trust youPlease trust me too.  Trust is how we we’ll create a new way of working together, and a new culture.”

Can you imagine the impact this immediate extension of trust had on those in the meeting?  In fact, I recently had the opportunity to meet with Daniel and his team, just about two years into his tenure and the results were obvious.  In those early days, the company had created a five-year strategic plan and, even though only two years had passed they were already on year four of the plan!  Indeed, they were operating at the speed of trust.  The decision to trust each other internally had long since been made, and their external performance—as well as internal culture—was the proof.  Through trust, Daniel and his team were able to build a strong culture of trust that allowed them to collaborate more frequently, innovate more fully, and achieve their goals more quickly. They were winning in the marketplace as a result of winning in the workplace first.  Daniel was trustworthy but he also trusted his people who in turn trusted him and together they were able to achieve remarkable results. 

Imagine how differently things might have gone in both scenarios had Daniel or Gail chosen not to extend trust. 

 What About You?

Stories like this are inspiring but may also feel overwhelming due to their scale. But in my experience, the results of extending trust are just as impactful and magnificent on a personal level as they are on an organizational or global level. Perhaps this can be seen most clearly, as you consider these three favorite questions of mine. 

The first is simply, “Who trusted you?”  I often ask people to identify someone in their life who trusted them. Someone who saw potential in them that maybe they didn’t even see in themselves, someone who believed in them, someone who took a chance on them.  Almost without exception, everyone can quickly, if not immediately, think of someone (and sometimes more than one). Whether it was a parent, a boss, a teacher, a coach, a friend – we all remember those people who trusted us and believed in us. 

The second question I like to ask is, “how did that extension of trust impact the way you saw yourself?”  We know these people had a great impact on us but there is something special about articulating how exactly they did and how it changed and inspired us. Regardless of the situation, deep down we all want to be trusted – and when we are, it does something for us.  Being trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation.  Being trustworthy is vital—but sometimes the very thing that makes a person worthy of trust is when they find themselves on the receiving end of it. People more often than not rise to the occasion when they are given the chance to prove themselves. 

Having thought about the person who trusted you and how it impacted your life for the better, my third question is, “For whom can you be that person?” The cycle of extending trust shouldn’t end with you. There are people out there waiting for someone to offer them the chance to shine. You can be that person for them. 

I invite you to consider all three of these questions. No matter your circumstances – whether as CEO of a company, a manager of a small team, an hourly employee, a stay-at-home parent or simply as a human being, you have the opportunity to change lives through trust. Your organization, your team, the trustworthy people in your life can reap the benefits as you extend trust to them. And you will find in turn that they will extend trust to you. And this uplifting cycle, no matter where on the globe you might be, will indeed make your world go ‘round. 

by Stephen M. R. Covey (bestselling author of The Speed of Trust and Trust & Inspire)

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I remember speaking with Greg Link when he and Stephen M.R. Covey were writing their book Smart Trust.

And as Bill George said in his testimonial… Nothing is more important than building trust in relationships and in organizations. Trust is the glue that binds us together. Everywhere I go I see a remarkable loss of trust in leaders, and once lost, trust is very hard to regain. I feel this loss is tearing at the fabric of society, as so many people love to blame others for their misfortunes but fail to look in the mirror at themselves.

That was 9 years ago

What has changed? In essence accountable leaders who have assumed responsibility for trust continue to reap the rewards. Sadly only the most enlightened have done so over the past decade. The majority of big business leaders have chosen to follow a highly ineffective route via a check the box trust strategy recommended by their highly compensated advisors. Why? It’s fast, easy and can be delegated. Just attach the word “trust” to the flavor of the day, check the box, and voila! Your communications team now has some great talking points. Brand trust, purpose trust, AI trust, and the latest ESG trust. Who benefits from this approach? Primarily the consultants, speakers, academics and some powerful NGOs who have joined forces in monetizing counterfeit trust. Who loses? Business leaders, employees and most external stakeholders. Simply stated, check the box trust is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. It will not get you or your stakeholders to a place of trust. Instead, it will prolong the pain of low trust.

The following is a list of commonly used trust statements and approaches

I have personally heard them all. Can you identify which ones are “smart” trust?

  • We are big business and don’t budget for soft stuff like trust since it doesn’t impact our bottom line.
  • The corporate credo written on the lobby wall has trust covered.
  • We are already trustworthy since our quarterly earnings are growing.
  • We are checking all the ESG boxes and have added ESG experts to our Board of Directors, not to mention the women and other minority members. (That was last year’s misdirected trust advice.)
  • We give to charities and have an annual CSR event.
  • Our employee engagement survey has trust covered.
  • We have a great reputation.
  • We are spending “big” on wellness programs.
  • Our company has received every “Best Places” and “ethics” award.
  • Our communications efforts are focusing on diversity and inclusion.
  • Our compliance department “has trust covered.” We stay just on the “right side” of the law.
  • We always talk about trust as a core value after a crisis.
  • Every year we hire a motivational speaker to deliver an entertaining trust program.

If you answered “None of the above” you are correct. These are all popular, easy and ineffective short-term trust workarounds. And every one of them is a box checking opportunity.

In Smart Trust Covey and Link discuss 5 actions.

  • Choose to believe in trust. …
  • Start with self. …
  • Declare your intent and assume positive intent in others. …
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. …
  • Lead out in extending trust to others.

These actions are a great starting point, and there are many excellent and implementable programs and strategies that will result in smart trust. But don’t expect to know about them if you don’t ask the right questions of the right people. Paradoxically, while trust is more important than ever, those who have the power to elevate it continue to ignore not only those with the expertise, but also the steps required to ensure the trust foundation can support the structure. I call that a win/lose approach.

In the words of Covey and Link  There is a direct connection between trust and prosperity because trust always affects two key inputs to prosperity: speed and cost. In low-trust situations, speed goes down and costs go up because of the many extra steps that suspicions generate in a relationship, whereas two parties that trust each other accomplish things much quicker and, consequently, cheaper. The authors call high trust a “performance multiplier.” High trust creates a dividend, while low trust creates a wasted tax.

And don’t forget, the strength of capitalism is also its weakness.

Regardless of whether you choose to be part of the trust problem or the solution, these are a few indisputable facts:

Trust is the outcome of principled behavior.

Trust is always interpersonal.

Trust takes time to build.

Trust is built in incremental steps.

Trust is built from the inside out, not the outside in.

If leadership isn’t accountable for trust, there is no reason to assume it exists within the organization and you cannot expect it from your stakeholders in return. If you are being counseled on trust make sure those advising you have the expertise to do so. Most are good at the workarounds and smoke screens, but have no knowledge of smart trust. Also, don’t assume that someone who has written a book with the word “trust” in the title is an expert. Again, a few are but most are not.  Don’t buy into the trust “smokescreen.” It will continue to get you nowhere close to a smart trust outcome.

For more information and resources on elevating trust, please visit

Or contact us directly.

Copyright 2021, Next Decade, Inc.


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This week we are providing a quarterly wrap up of our Trust Insights series. Many of the world’s leading trust scholars and practitioners are collaborating on this project to bring you actionable insights that you can use to elevate trust at both the team and organizational level.



Simply click on the blue link in the list below to read more.


Trust Insights Week #1: Stephen M.R. Covey
Trust is both earned and given. January 7, 2020
Trust Insights Week #2: David Reiling
Developing trust starts in the C-Suite. January 14, 2020
Trust Insights Week #3: Margaret Heffernan
Trust is always and only about what you DO; nothing else matters. January 21, 2020
Trust Insights Week #4: Special Announcement
2020 Top Thought Leaders. January 28, 2020
Trust Insights Week #5: Charles H. Green
Trust is what happens when a risk-taking trustor meets a virtuous trustee. February 4, 2020
Trust Insights Week #6: Walt Rakowich
Real leadership starts by building trust; without trust, you have no platform from which to build positive influence with others. February 11, 2020
Trust Insights Week #7: Bob Vanourek
Three trust questions are the best way to deal with the ethical dilemmas we face. February 18, 2020
Trust Insights Week #8: Barbara Brooks Kimmel
The benefits of high trust are too numerous for leaders to ignore. February 25, 2020
Trust Insights Week #9: Bob Whipple
The absence of fear is the incubator of trust. March 3 , 2020
Trust Insights Week #10: Doug Conant
Building trust doesn’t have to be overwhelming… March 10, 2020
Trust Insights Week #11: Lea Brovedani
It is easier to trust someone and for others to trust you if there is genuine care… March 17, 2020
Trust Insights Week #12: Sean Flaherty
Developing trust starts with building a culture that values trust. March 24, 2020



Before you leave, Tap Into Trust and complete our 1 minute/1 question quiz. Find out how the level of trust in your workplace compares to hundreds of others. 

Have you reviewed how our workshops are helping teams and organizations just like yours elevate trust? Schedule an ONLINE webinar today.

Did you miss our previous 2020 Trust Insights? Access them at this link.

Contact us for more information on elevating trust on your team or in your organization or email me directly:

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.

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Stephen, thank you for kicking off our 2020 Trust Insights series. What is your trust insight?

Trust is both earned and given—therefore to build trust, it’s not enough to be trustworthy; you also have to be trusting.  Stephen M.R. Covey





Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

We earn trust through our character and competence—our credibility—along with our behavior.  This makes a leader trustworthy.  But consider this:  you could have two trustworthy people working together, and no trust between them . . . if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other. 

While I believe most leaders today recognize the need to be trustworthy, I’m not sure if most recognize the equally vital need to be trusting.  And that’s where I think we’re got to put special focus in our leadership work by learning to lead out in extending trust (smartly) to others.

And it’s the leader’s job to go first.  Someone needs to go first; that’s what leaders do—leaders go first.  Yes, there’s risk in trusting people.  But there’s also risk in not trusting people.  And in today’s collaborative world, filled with multiple generations and characterized by disruption, not trusting people is quite often the greater risk.

Extending trust to others not only improves performance, it also generates a reciprocity of trust: when we give trust, people receive it and return it.  When we withhold it, they withhold it. 

Indeed, the act of extending trust to others is the defining act of leadership.  It’s a game-changer, both for the leader extending the trust and for the person being trusted.  Indeed, to be trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation. 

That’s why the first job of a leader is to inspire trust, and the second job is to extend it.

Can you provide a real life example of a trust “challenge” where your insight has been effectively applied.

I recently presented at the University of Missouri with David Novak, former CEO of Yum! Brands for over 16 years.  David validated the impact of applying this approach of leading out in extending trust to others as he shared with me his experience of when he first took the job as President of KFC and inherited a situation where there was massive distrust, and even hostility, between the corporation and the franchisees.

In his own words, he said:  “My first official act as president was to get together with my executive team and let them know things had to change…. I said, ‘I want you to know something.  I love working with franchisees.  And from now on we’re going to trust our franchisees.”

From this decision to extend trust, new ideas, collaboration and innovation began to emerge from the franchisees and new products resulted from it.  The business experienced a dramatic turnaround in both results and culture. 

Novak continues: “If you ask the finance people what ignited the business, they will tell you it was the new products, but my answer would be that it was the triumph of the human spirit.  It all started with one simple decision: to trust franchisees.  That opened the way for them to trust me and the corporation in return, and together we unleashed the power of our people to succeed.”

Stephen, generally, do you think the global “trust” climate is improving or worsening? What actions are making it better or worse?

On balance, given the current state of our society and politics, I believe it’s worsening.  And the internet, social media, and 24/7 connectivity immediately highlights untrustworthy behavior and often exacerbates the challenges we face.  The danger of a low-trust world is that it tends to perpetuate itself.  When we see scandals, corruption, self-serving and untrustworthy behavior, we tend to become more careful, guarded and suspicious because none of us want to get burned.  Distrust and suspicion tend to create more distrust and suspicion, and we can find ourselves perpetuating a vicious downward cycle.  Distrust is contagious.

But thankfully, trust is also contagious.  And there are increasing actions by leaders and organizations and movements that are seeking to counteract this decline in trust.  Both because it’s the right thing to do, and also because it’s the economic thing to do.  In other words, there’s a compelling business case for trust. 

And the internet, social media and 24/7 connectivity can also immediately highlight the numerous positive actions being taken by leaders and organizations everywhere to model trust, trustworthiness, transparency, integrity, service and contribution—ranging from ethics initiatives to good governance frameworks to effective leadership development in establishing high-trust cultures within organizations, among countless efforts.

Many claim we have a crisis of trust. Do you agree?

Yes, I do believe with all the changes and challenges going on in our world and in society that there is, in many ways, a crisis of trust.  There’s a lot of data that would back that up. 

But I also believe that simultaneously, and paradoxically, there is also a “renaissance of trust” taking place.  A renaissance of trust in the sense of having people, leaders, organizations, and movements that are saying, in effect, “there is a better way to lead, a better way to operate.”  And they’re modeling the way, and pointing out to others a better way.  I believe Trust Across America-Trust Around the World is one of many such organizations.

So the paradox is that in the midst of the crisis of trust, there’s simultaneously a renaissance of trust taking place.

I hope to be a co-catalyst, with countless others, in helping to bring about this renaissance of trust.

Stephen, how has your membership in our Trust Alliance benefitted you professionally?

I like to think that Trust Across America-Trust Around the World is part of the renaissance of trust.  It brings together like minded leaders, practitioners, thought leaders, and organizations to focus their best thinking and energies on how to bring attention to this critical currency of trust—and how to increase trust in our lives, our relationships, our organizations, and our society.

I like being part of and aligned with such an effort that’s so vital to my personal and professional mission to help increase trust in the world.

Stephen, thank you so much for your time and more importantly for your commitment to elevating organizational trust. What would you like our audience to know about you?

Stephen M. R. Covey is The New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Speed of Trust, which has been translated into 22 languages and has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.  He is co-author of the #1 Amazon bestseller Smart Trust.

Stephen is the former President & CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which became, at the time, the largest leadership development company in the world.  A Harvard MBA, Stephen co-founded and currently leads FranklinCovey’s Trust Practice. 

Stephen has taught trust in 55 countries to leaders and organizations, spanning business, government, education, healthcare, and NGO sectors.

And while you are here, Tap Into Trust and complete our 1 minute/1 question quiz. Find out how the level of trust in your workplace compares to hundreds of others.

Contact us for more information on elevating trust on your team or in your organization.

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.


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Once again, the scandal plagued banking industry has a new CEO vowing to rebuild trust. This time the headline is out of Copenhagen… 


Trust in Danske Bank has collapsed, says its new chief executive

How many times have we heard these words before? “As reported by Reuters, Trust in Danske Bank has collapsed amid its involvement in a damaging money laundering scandal said the bank’s Chief Executive Chris Vogelzang, as he vowed to strengthen the bank’s defense.”

Fresh out of ABN Amro, another scandal plagued bank, the newly elected Danske CEO cites the primary cause for the loss of trust: “The high level of trust in Denmark, which enjoys a reputation as being one of the least corrupt nations, mean(ing) that there had been fewer incentives to control risks.” And his solution… As a result, he said, nine out of 10 people in the top compliance team are now from outside Denmark.

And also… “There was also some “bad” product in the mix. Trust in the bank has been further dented after a scandal, in which it failed to inform customers that it expected a poor performance from an investment product called Flexinvest Fri and continued to sell the product after raising fees associated with it.”

Once again I asked the members of our Trust Council to read the article and share some advice for Chris Vogelzang.

Donna Boehme, our “Lion” of compliance weighed in first, offering the following observations: 

To rebuild trust and establish a culture of ethical leadership is a huge undertaking that takes years, not days, and requires the advice and coaching of experts, not just PR Wizards of Smart.  One area the experts would focus this company on would be the entire system of “incentives” which has an outsized effect on culture and business decisions, as demonstrated so vividly by Wells Fargo and its fake accounts scandal. Danske might want to look at the leading edge examples being set by a number of companies In this arena.

It is also encouraging that the CEO has brought a compliance team together that has AML and other compliance SME. But if he wants that team to be successful, he must ensure that it has independence, empowerment, line  of sight, seat at the table and resources adequate to do the job well. Gone are the days when reputation and brand can be entrusted to an in-house legal team with no legitimate compliance SME (earned in the trenches) and lacking the positioning and authority to do the job. 


Stephen M.R. Covey  shared the following thoughts:

First, “you can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.”  In other words, the only way to restore trust here will be through actions—behaviors—not merely words (although words can be helpful to signal what you’re going to do).  Key behaviors to restore trust here include:  Confront Reality (acknowledge it), Practice Accountability (own it), Right Wrongs (make it right as best you can), Clarify Expectations (tell people what you’re going to do to re-earn their trust), and Keep Commitments (do what you say you’re going to do).

Second, trust in the marketplace is an extension of trust in the workplace.  It’s inside out.  So in order to restore trust with customers, it will be vital to also restore trust with your own people.  Too often organizations who have lost trust in the marketplace focus primarily (sometimes almost exclusively) on the customer/market trust and don’t recognize that they also need to be rebuilding internal workplace trust.  Without the workplace trust, it’s hard to sustain market trust.  Indeed, it’s incongruent.

Third, while building/rebuilding trust is definitely an inside-out process, starting with each leader and with the leadership team, it’s also vital that the process move out to the organizational level where they can better and more appropriately align systems and structures to ensure they build trust the right way.  Some of these systems/structures may have been misaligned in the past and may have contributed to the challenge.

There’s a lot more they need to do but those are just a couple of thoughts.


I’ll add a few more observations to the sage advice provided by Donna and Stephen. 

The concept of rebuilding something implies that it was built before.There is one question that the new CEO must answer before a trust-building strategy can be developed. What exactly did we trust our bank to do in the past that we are currently failing to do? 

While compliance plays a role in elevating trust, it must first come as a directive from the top. If the Board of Directors doesn’t understand or support the importance of creating a long-term strategy to elevate trust, the leadership team will be ineffective. The Danske Board currently consists of five committees: audit, compliance, nomination, remuneration and risk. I would suggest adding a sixth called “trust” and immediately calling in some trust subject matter experts to assist in outlining this critical trust-building strategy.

And speaking of strategy, whether post crisis or proactive, trust can never be delegated, yet this is what we see time and time again. It is not a legal or PR “tactic,” but rather an outcome of an intentional trust “plan” that leadership executes, practices and reinforces daily. In other words, trust “talk” must be followed up with action.

I hope someone at Danske reads this and passes the article up the chain. Perhaps Danske will someday become the industry role model in building trust. After all Denmark, with its high level of trust, should demand nothing less.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic trust, contact her at 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

This is the link to the original Reuters article.

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It’s Week #8 of 2016. This is our latest article in a series of  ideas to elevate trust in your organization, drawn from our 3rd annual 2016 Trust Poster….now hanging in hundreds of offices around the world. Get yours today!

52 Ideas That You Can Implement to Build Trust

Stephen M.R. Covey a Trust Alliance Member and one of our 2016 Top Thought Leaders in Trust, and a Lifetime Achievement Award winner offers this:

“The first job of a leader is to inspire trust; the second job is to extend trust.”

As leaders, we inspire trust through our credibility—our character and our competence—and through our behavior—how we do what we do. While I believe that most leaders today recognize the need to inspire trust by modeling it through who they are and what they can do, I’m not sure that most recognize the equally vital need to extend trust to others. And that’s where I think we’re got to put special focus in our leadership work—leading out in extending trust to others.

Indeed, I believe that the defining skill that transforms a manager into a leader is the extending of trust. And the extension of trust generates reciprocity: when we give it, people receive it, and they return it. When we withhold it, they withhold it. As Abraham Lincoln put it in the affirmative: “The people, when rightly and fully trusted, will return the trust.” And Lao Tzu expressed the other side: “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted. No trust given, none received. Mistrust begets mistrust.”

In my work in over 40 countries over the past few years, I have found this common pattern in lower-trust organizations: the primary reason why employees don’t trust their management in lower-trust companies is first and foremost because the management doesn’t trust the employees—and the employees reciprocate that distrust right back at them. The same thing can happen with partners, and even with customers. If you don’t trust them, they’ll tend to not trust you.

But, thankfully, it works the other direction as well. When we extend trust to others, people receive it, and they return it. They’re inspired by it. They rise to the occasion. They perform better. They want to prove the trust justified. There is a genuine reciprocity of trust. Yes, a few may abuse the trust but the vast majority will be inspired by it. Don’t penalize the many because of the few. Don’t let the 5% of the people you can’t trust define for you the 95% who you can. Far better to build your culture around the 95% who you can trust and let that culture crowd out, weed out, starve out the 5% who you can’t. Some are afraid of extending trust out of fear that they might lose control. But think about it: at the end of the day, there is actually more control in a high-trust culture than there is in a rules-based culture because you can’t come up with enough rules for people who you can’t trust. The French sociologist Emile Dirkheim put it this way: “When mores [cultural values] are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”

In my judgment, the very act of extending trust is the defining act of leadership. And it’s the leaders job to go first. Someone needs to go first; that’s what leaders do—leaders go first. Yes, there’s a risk in trusting people. But there’s also a risk in not trusting people. And I’m going to submit that in today’s collaborative, interdependent, knowledge-worker world, not trusting people is more often the greater risk. Now I’m not suggesting that we extend trust blindly or naively, without clear expectations or accountability—that’s not smart. But I am suggesting that we lead out with a decided propensity to trust—to extend trust wisely (what I refer to as “smart trust”).

The reality is that we need more willingness to extend trust in our world today, not less. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to have two trustworthy people working together—and no trust—when neither person is willing to extend it to the other.

That’s why I reiterate: the first job of a leader is to inspire trust; the second job is to extend it.

Extending trust not only transforms a manager into a leader, it is a game-changer—both for the leader extending the trust and for the person being trusted. Indeed, to be trusted is the most inspiring and compelling form of human motivation.

People today don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. Millenials don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. They want to be inspired. The reality is that we manage things (which have no agency or choice) but we lead people (who do have agency and choice).   We should strive to be efficient with things and effective with people. But too often, too many of us treat people like things and attempt to manage them, be efficient with them, and withhold trust from them. That doesn’t inspire. What does inspire is to lead out in extending trust to others.

In the beautiful words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “In everybody’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful to those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

When we extend trust to another person, we rekindle the inner spirit—both theirs, and ours, and in so doing, we can also produce an extraordinary dividend: what I call “the speed of trust.”

Thank you Stephen. We hope our readers heed your advice.

It’s not too late to catch up on our weekly series…..

Week #1 Kouzes & Posner 

Week #2 Bob Vanourek

Week #3 Barbara Kimmel

Week #4 Mark Fernandes

Week #5 Doug Conant

Week #6 Roger Steare

Week #7 Nan Russell

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO & Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust and integrity. She facilitates the world’s largest membership program for those interested in the subject. Barbara also serves as editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Copyright 2016, Next Decade, Inc.



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“One can’t assume that trust accrues automatically through the mere passage of time. It grows through incremental steps and deliberate actions.” Charles H. Green, Trusted Advisor Associates

This quote will appear on the cover of the third book in our award-winning TRUST INC. series. The book, TRUST INC., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust will be published in November 2014 as an inspirational holiday gift.


Stephen M.R. Covey speaks frequently about the 5 Waves (Incremental Steps) of Trust:

WAVE 1: Self Trust (personal credibility)

WAVE 2: Relationship Trust (behavior with others)

WAVE 3: Stakeholder Trust (alignment with internal stakeholders)

WAVE 4: Market Trust (external reputation)

WAVE 5: Societal Trust ( global citizenship- social consciousness, corporate citizenship, and corporate social responsibility.)

Organizations cannot effectively build Wave 5 until the first 4 are constructed. Imagine waking up in the morning and putting your shoes on first. Yet that’s exactly what many organizations have done.

Said another way, building organizational trust cannot be accomplished via an a-la- carte menu. Choosing to start building trust at Wave 4 or 5, with the intent of using it as a short-term promotional or communications tool, rather than a long-term, ground up, incremental trust strategy is a bad choice. Planning and executing a corporate citizenship or corporate social responsibility program without first mastering self trust, relationship trust, stakeholder trust and market trust eventually backfires. And when the crisis strikes, the weak trust foundation crumbles. We see evidence of this almost daily. Some of the biggest names in CSR also happen to be some of the greatest trust & ethics violators. Just pick up the newspaper on any given day. In this age of increasing transparency, these organizations are fooling no one but themselves.

So my advice today to all organizations, but particularly corporate America, get dressed before you put on your shoes.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

PrintND Trust CEO cvr 140602-ft914Trust front Cover

                                                                                                  Coming Soon!

Should you wish to communicate directly with Barbara, drop her a note at

Copyright © 2014, Next Decade, Inc.



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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Michelle Clarke in the UK. Michelle is the organizer of the Global Trust Conference, which completed its second annual event just yesterday. I was lucky enough to virtually attend the conference, and to catch Stephen M.R. Covey delivering a great speech, packed with insight and advice. Stephen wrote the cover quote for our award-winning book TRUST Inc. and also contributed an essay.

I took notes and am happy to provide some highlights in today’s blog post.

What are the three most important facts about trust?

  • Trust is an economic driver
  • Trust is the #1 competency of leadership
  • Trust is a learnable competency.

Think about a person you work with who you trust and consider the positive outcomes of that relationship.

Now think about a person you work with who you don’t trust and the lost opportunities as a result.

Trust=Confidence while Distrust=Suspicion

Confidence requires both character and competence.

Trust is Reciprocal

When you give trust, you receive it in return.

Trust is Not about Coordination

Trust is about collaboration, partnering and teamwork.

Energy and Joy

When trust goes down, energy and joy do too.

Four Cornerstones of Credibility

  • Integrity (character)
  • Intent (motive/agenda)
  • Capability (are you relevant?)
  • Results (your past and current performance)

Talk Straight

Candor is the language of trust. Never use spin.

Leaders Extend Trust

  • The first job of a leader is to INSPIRE TRUST
  • The second job of a leader is to EXTEND TRUST

And finally…. the starting place for trust is self-trust.

Thank you Michelle and Stephen. As I like to say, “It will take a tribe to push the trust boulder up the hill, but together we can.”

Would you like to help Stephen, Michelle and me in pushing that BIG boulder? Join our Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts today.


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

PrintND Trust CEO cvr 140602-ft914Trust front Cover

                                                                                                  Coming Soon!

Should you wish to communicate directly with Barbara, drop her a note at

Copyright © 2014, Next Decade, Inc.




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Late last year Trust Across America-Trust Around the World  published the first in a planned series of award-winning books. The book, TRUST INC. Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset brings together the wisdom of 32 experts and is divided into six chapters:

  1. Why Trust Matters- read our blog of July 18 to find out Why Trust Matters
  2. Trust in Practice- read our blog of July 18 for Trust in Practice from Apple to Africa
  3. Trustworthy Leadership (today’s post)
  4. Building Trustworthy Teams
  5. Restoring Trust
  6. The Future of Trust

Over a six day period, our blog will extract highlights from these chapters. Each one stands alone as an excellent resource in helping leaders understand why trust matters, and provides tools for those who choose to implement trust building programs in their organization. Today we take a closer look at Trustworthy Leadership via the alphabet and other great strategies.

Randy Conley teaches us “The ABCDs of Leading with Trust”

Able—Being Able is about demonstrating competence. One-way leaders demonstrate their competence is by having the expertise needed to do their jobs. 

Believable—A Believable leader acts with integrity. Dealing with people in an honest fashion by keeping promises, not lying or stretching the truth, and not gossiping are ways to demonstrate integrity. Believable leaders also have a clear set of values that have been articulated to their direct reports and they behave consistently with those values—they walk the talk. 

Connected—Connected leaders show care and concern for people, which builds trust and helps to create an engaging work environment. Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies® has identified “connectedness with leader” and “connectedness with colleague” as 2 of the 12 key factors involved in creating employee work passion, and trust is a necessary ingredient in those relationships. 

Dependable—Being Dependable and maintaining reliability is the fourth element of trust. One of the quickest ways to erode trust is by not following through on commitments. 


Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link show us how to “Lead Out in Extending Trust”

When managers don’t extend trust, people often tend to perpetuate vicious, collusive downward cycles of distrust and suspicion. As a result, they become trapped in a world where people don’t trust each other— where management doesn’t trust employees and employees don’t trust management; where suppliers don’t trust partners and partners don’t trust suppliers; where companies don’t trust customers and customers don’t trust companies; where marriage partners don’t trust each other; and where parents don’t trust their children and children don’t trust their parents. 


In Leading with Trust: Learning from Mistakes Amy Lyman looks inside two companies.

The stories of mistakes made, lessons learned and the success that followed, along with the humor of the pink erasers, has deepened the process of learning from mistakes that has helped EILEEN FISHER to be so successful.

The story from Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder illustrates the powerful impact that a brief encounter can have on our lives and of our ability to learn from the mistakes of others long past the time of the incident. It is also a powerful reminder to leaders that any encounter can be an opportunity to build up, or tear down, trust.

Leaders who learn from their mistakes and share their stories will develop committed rather than compliant followers. When they ask for more from people they will have a green light rather than dragging feet. Leading with trust works.


In Ethical Leader as Ethics Coach Chris Macdonald lays out a plan for becoming an ethics coach:

1) Learn the basic vocabulary of ethics; educate yourself on the terminology that experts in the field have found useful in making key distinctions and expressing important values. You can’t coach others on ethics if you don’t know how to talk about the topic.

2) Learn what you can about the known barriers to effective ethical conversations about ethics. Many people find it hard to talk about ethics. Find out why, and do what you can to start breaking down those barriers.

3) Think about what you do – and what you can do – to make your workplace a place where employees are empowered to make ethical decisions. Is your organization one where ethics is on the table? Do employees feel trusted to make decisions and to take a range of ethical factors into consideration?

4) Reflect frequently not just on the substance of the choices you make, but also on the underlying values and principles and how you would explain them to others. Even when the right thing seems obvious to you, it might not seem obvious to others.

5) Practice talking about ethics. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone. That means doing more than reading up on the topic. 



I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peak into the trust treasures contained in our book. Did I mention that the book has won both a Nautilus Business Book and Eric Hoffer Grand Business Prize Award? Tomorrow I’ll pull some similar gems from Building Trustworthy Teams. Check back with us soon.

If this brief look behind the door has been helpful, follow this link to order the book online.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

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If you would like to communicate directly with Barbara, drop her a note at

Copyright © 2014, Next Decade, Inc.


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News Release

For Immediate Release

For Additional Information contact:

Barbara Kimmel

Executive Director

Trust Across America



Trust in Business Essential for 2013:

Global Experts Join Forces to Combat Trust Crisis


Chester, N.J.  January 3, 2013—After a well-documented 10+ years of declining trust in government, business and the media, Trust Across America (TAA) ( and its ambassadors are launching the Campaign for Trust™, a two-year initiative to reverse this cycle.  “As the leaders in information, standards, data and the Who’s Who of trustworthy business, this is the next step in our initiative that began in 2009,” said Barbara Brooks Kimmel, a Co-founder and the Executive Director.

In the fourth quarter of 2012 TAA created The Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts (ATBE) to collaborate in advancing the cause of trustworthy business through the creation of trust tools and communications outreach. Over 100 global thought leaders from Fortune 500 companies; leading academic institutions; global media and consulting have joined since the mid-October launch.

Much of the work of the alliance will be via strategic partnerships with our Founding Members listed alphabetically: Patricia Aburdene (Co-author of Megatrends 2000); William Benner (WW Consulting); Randy Conley (The Ken Blanchard Companies); Stephen M.R. Covey (Franklin Covey-Speed of Trust); Linda Fisher Thornton (Leading in Context); Bahar Gidwani (CSRHub); Charles Green (Trusted Advisor Associates); Nadine Hack (beCause Global Consulting); Michael Hopkins (MHC International); Gary Judd (Franklin Covey-Speed of Trust); Barbara Kimmel (Trust Across America); Jim Kouzes (The Leadership Challenge); Deb Krizmanich (Powernoodle); Mike Krzus (Co-author of One Report); Greg Link (Franklin Covey-Speed of Trust); Linda Locke (Reputare Consulting); Edward Marshall (Author Building Trust at the Speed of Change); Jon Mertz (Thin Difference); Deb Mills-Scofield (Innovanomics™); Robert Vanourek (Triple Crown Leadership); and Bob Whipple (Leadergrow Inc.).

According to Kimmel, “We will be assembling a Trust Toolbox™ in 2013 to assist businesses in building trust with their stakeholders. Collaborative projects in development include the publication of a book- Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset, a collection of short essays from our global thought leaders; the Trust Directory™ designed for companies who seek advice and counsel; the creation of trust assessments; the development of a Trust Index™; educational Trust Talks™; a monthly publication called the Trust Sheet ™, announcing trust alliance member news from around the world; and the opening of our online Trust Store™, a virtual one-stop shop for trust products.”

Kicking off the campaign will be the January 14 announcement of Trust Across America’s 3rd annual Top Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business. Our 2013 recognition list will honor the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey, whose professional accomplishments in the field of trust were instrumental to the founding of the Trust Across America initiative four years ago.

According to Amy Lyman co-founder of Great Place to Work Institute and author of The Trustworthy Leader, “The evidence is irrefutable. Cultures of trust, created by leaders who are credible, respectful and fair bring with them significant economic, social, community and environmental benefits. It is what every employee wants and what every business leader should strive for.” Trust Across America, through its new trust alliance, hopes to develop the requisite tools to enhance cultures of trust, and encourages those interested in furthering the cause of trustworthy business to join the alliance.



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