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A Description of the Advantages of Forming Trust, the Psychology of Trust, and How to Build Trust
on 22 November 2007
Trust can make things easier, and distrust can definitely make things much harder. You already know that. But do you know how to check out where you need to change in order to create more beneficial trust? The Speed of Trust can help those who need a template for such self-examination.
Mr. Stephen M. R. Covey is the son of Dr. Stephen R. Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame. If you've read that famous book, you may remember young Stephen referred to by his father as the seven-year-old son who was asked to keep the yard "clean and green" and did neither at first. Dr. Covey writes the foreword for this book and refers to that example. Ms. Rebecca Merrill helped with the writing of Dr. Stephen R. Covey's book First Things First which was coauthored by Roger Merrill.
Trust is expressed by a paradigm that includes five waves of trust (self trust based on the principle of credibility, relationship trust based on the principle of proper behavior, organizational trust based on the principle of alignment, market trust based on the principle of reputation, and societal trust based on the principle of contribution). Most of the book is taken up with examining those five waves and their underlying principles. The core of the book comes, however, in the 13 behaviors that establish trust (talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs, show loyalty, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations, practice accountability, listen first, keep commitments, and extend trust). Each section of the book comes with ways to check on your performance and to create plans for improvement.
This book is by far the best development of the subject of creating and restoring trust that I have read. That makes the book an essential reference. I congratulate and appreciate the authors for tackling this important subject.
I would be remiss, however, in being a trustworthy reviewer if I didn't point out some weaknesses in the approach:
1. Some of the examples of trust and mistrust drawn from Mr. Covey's experiences aren't terribly satisfying to read. Perhaps the most jarring example is one of the early ones in the book that describes the distrust that the Franklin Quest people felt toward him after the company merged with Covey Leadership Center. Mr. Covey comes across as unbelievably naive for not having taken into account how the two cultures should mesh (if at all) in engineering the merger. That's a more fundamental lesson than the lack of trust point. In addition, he doesn't seem to realize that merely being the son of the company's founder would make many people who didn't know him skeptical of his qualifications and his talent. Having read about how naive Mr. Covey was in this situation undercut my confidence in his ability to address the subject of trust. But I did appreciate his willingness to share such a painful experience in his book.
2. Most of the examples that are cited that do not involve Mr. Covey's direct experience are very overused. They same examples have been used to prove excellence in many other dimensions. As a result, the book doesn't come alive as much as it might. The examples conjure up memories of other books and arguments rather than cleanly bringing across the authors' trust-related points.
3. The book's structure and style are pretty pedantic, but without the precision that an academic would bring to the subject. In most areas, the authors rely on your sense of what's right rather than giving you clear lines of what to do and what not to do. That's fine if you already have a well-defined sense of how trust is formed and re-established. But if you don't know the answers already because you haven't lived in that kind of an environment, the book will leave you with too little direction.
4. Ultimately, long sections of the book are very general and boring. The major exceptions are the examples drawn from Mr. Covey's own family. I found those examples to be fresh and interesting.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you think about those who have gained your trust and distrust. What did they do? Examining those personal examples will add a lot of depth to the general ideas presented here.