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Why do some organizations need layers of approvals with tons of rules and regulations, while others give their people free reign to do their work? The difference often lies in 1 key ingredient: Trust. In The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey explains how trust can speed up processes, reduce costs, and amplify your impact both personally and professionally.  In this free summary of The Speed of Trust, you’ll learn the importance of trust in leadership, how to build and maintain trust in the workplace, and improve trust in your family and other relationships.

What is The Speed of Trust about?

Trust is an essential component of any personal or professional relationship. It’s not just a feel-good concept, but a real asset that accelerates performance and enhances quality in all aspects of life. This book is an essential guide to build and restore trust at multiple levels.

What is trust? Why is it so important?

Trust is the confidence in someone’s integrity, intentions, and abilities. It affects both your professional and personal life.

In business, a lack of trust can derail the best plans, while high trust amplifies strategy, communication, execution, innovation, and partnerships. In personal life, a lack of trust breaks relationships, whereas high trust brings joy, energy, creativity, and satisfaction, enhancing happiness and quality of life.

Trust is a valuable asset in business as it increases speed and reduces costs.

With trust, everything moves faster. Employees are productive and motivated, sharing ideas, collaborating and innovating more easily. Customers make repeat purchases and recommend you, and suppliers become strategic partners. Decisions and actions happen quickly due to stronger relationships, both internally and externally.

Without trust, everything slows down due to suspicion and the need for extra checks and controls. Employees avoid risks and innovation, feel undervalued and disengaged, leading to lower productivity and higher turnover. Customers and suppliers hesitate to engage or deepen their relationships with you. These translate to real costs for organizations. It’s like paying a “trust tax” or penalty for the lack of trust.

Trust can be built and increased, and the positive changes can occur very quickly with the right ingredients.  In this book, Stephen M.R. Covey makes trust more tangible, by breaking it down into 4 core elements, 13 key behaviors, and 5 waves of trust. The insights are designed to help you to:

  • Shift your mindset to see trust-building opportunities, and
  • Equip you with the language and behaviors to express yourself, discuss issues, and cultivate trust.

The Foundations of Trust: 4 Cores + 13 Behaviors

The 4 Core Elements of Trust

To trust someone, you need 2 things: character and competence. Even if you trust someone’s character, you might not trust them with a task they are inexperienced in.

Character and competence can be broken down into 4 core elements: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. Integrity and intent relate to character, while capabilities and results relate to competence.

These 4 core elements can be demonstrated consistently through 13 behaviors that build trust with others.  Of these 13 behaviors, 5 reflect character, 5 reflect competence, and 3 are a blend of both.

Here’s a quick visual summary of these core components that lay the foundation for trust:

The Speed of Trust Summary - What are the 4 core elements and 13 key behaviors?

All four core elements—integrity, intent, capabilities, and results—are essential. Missing any one component will hurt your ability to build trust and credibility. Covey’s book includes self-assessment questionnaires to help you evaluate your current level of credibility and self-trust.

So, how do we apply that in practice?  That’s where the 5 waves of trust come in.

The Five Waves of Trust: Building Trust in 5 Layers

Trust moves inside-out in 5 waves, each guided by an underlying principle. It begins with self-trust, and expands outward to your relationships, organizations, marketplace, and society at large.

In our complete 16-page summary bundle for The Speed of Trust, we break down each of these waves in detail–with explanations, examples, and application tips. In this article, we’ll give a brief overview of what each wave of trust entails.

Wave 1: SELF TRUST (The Principle of Credibility)

Before others can trust you, you must first trust yourself.  Self-trust stems from your credibility which, as we’ve touched on earlier, comes from your character and capability.  It’s derived from your ability to set and achieve goals, and to keep promises to yourself and others. It can be distilled down to 2 questions:
(i) Do you trust yourself?
(ii) Are you someone others can trust?

Build Credibility by developing the 4 Cores

Integrity means being whole and consistent, always acting in line with your values and beliefs. You walk the talk, and you’re congruent internally and externally. Integrity is like the roots of a tree–unseen yet vital for stability and sustenance.

Intent refers to your agenda, plan, or purpose. It’s like the trunk of a tree–partially hidden, yet evident through your words and actions.

Capabilities are your unique personal blend of talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style (“T-A-S-K-S”), that enable you to excel. They’re like the branches required to bear flowers and fruits.

Results ultimately decide if you’re the real deal, or just a good talker. They’re like the fruits of a tree–more visible and quantifiable than the roots, trunk, or branches.

In our complete version of The Speed of Trust summary, we deep-dive into the sub-components of each of the 4 cores, with specific tips on how to build self trust and credibility by improving your integrity, intent, capabilities and results.

Wave 2: RELATIONSHIP TRUST (The Principle of Behavior)

Relationship trust is about building interpersonal trust with others, and this is achieved through consistent behaviors. What you do matters more than what you say.

Demonstrate 13 Behaviors Consistently

In our full version of The Speed of Trust summary, we elaborate more on the concept of making deposits and withdrawals into your “trust account” with each person, and the “dos” and “don’ts” for exhibiting these 13 behaviors effectively. Items 1-5 relate to character, items 6-10 relate to capability, and items 11-13 reflect both.

  1. Talk straight. Be clear and truthful about your thoughts, agenda, and stance on issues.
  2. Show respect. Treat everyone with respect and care, the way you’d like to be treated.
  3. Be transparent. Be open and real about the facts.
  4. Right the wrongs. Acknowledge your mistakes quickly, and go the extra mile to make amends.
  5. Show loyalty. Give credit freely where it’s due, and speak about others as if they were present.
  6. Produce results. Deliver the right results consistently, on time, and within budget.
  7. Keep improving. Continually upgrade your skills and capabilities via formal + informal feedback.
  8. Confront reality. Share the facts—be it good or bad—and address tough issues head-on.
  9. Establish clear, realistic expectations from the start.
  10. Be accountable. Hold both yourself and others accountable for agreed behaviors and results.
  11. Listen first. Before you speak, first seek to understand others by listening fully with your ears, eyes, heart, and mind.
  12. Meet commitments. Keep promises and follow through on all commitments.
  13. Extend trust. Apply “smart trust” by extending trust conditionally to those who’re still earning it, and extending trust generously to those who’ve proven themselves trustworthy. If in doubt, err on the side of over-trusting.

Wave 3: ORGANIZATIONAL TRUST (The Principle of Alignment)

Organizational trust is about building trust with internal stakeholders. Such trust is created through alignment–when the organization’s structures, systems, and rewards aligned with its core objectives.

Wave 4: MARKET TRUST (The Principle of Reputation)

Market trust is about building trust with external stakeholders outside your organization. It reflects your brand or reputation, which is relevant not just for businesses, but also charities, cities, governments, school, and all types of organizations.  In our full summary, we explain how to use the 4 cores and 13 behaviors to assess gaps to address.

Wave 5: SOCIETAL TRUST (The Principle of Contribution)

Societal trust is about creating value for the society at large, and the key is to make meaningful contributions. By giving back to society, we reduce cynicism and suspicion, and inspire others to contribute positively. This fosters a healthier society built on trust and generosity, rather than distrust and exploitation.

Here’s a visual recap of the five waves of trust:

The Speed of Trust Summary - The Five Waves of Trust from inside out

Inspiring Trust in Others

No matter your role or title, you always have control over the first 2 waves of trust. Leaders have an additional influence over the other 3 waves, so their ability to inspire trust in others can strongly affect both individual and organizational success.  In our full summary, we touch on how to inspire trust by extending “smart trust”, restoring broken trust, and improving your propensity to trust.

Getting More from The Speed of Trust

Ready to start building trust from within and without? Zoom in on the ideas above and get more detailed insights, examples and actionable tips from our full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, 16-page text summary, and a 31-minute audio summary.
The Speed of Trust summary - Book Summary Bundle

This book is packed with personal anecdotes and examples of trust being built, broken, and restored at individual and organizational levels. Covey also offers many actionable strategies and insights on how to cultivate trust in various aspects of life, including practical tools and assessments to measure and improve your own trustworthiness. You can purchase the book here or visit for more details.

Stephen M.R. Covey ideas are strongly influenced by his father’s teachings in the famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  You might also enjoy the ideas from another classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

About the Author of The Speed of Trust

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything was written by Stephen M.R. Covey—an author and speaker, best known for his expertise in trust, leadership, ethics, and high-performance. He is the co-founder and CEO of CoveyLink Worldwide and the Global Speed of Trust Practice Leader at FranklinCovey. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. Stephen is the son of Stephen R. Covey, the author of the best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The Speed of Trust Quotes

“By learning how to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust, you can positively and significantly alter the trajectory of this and every future moment of your life.”

“To build trust with others, we must first start with ourselves.”

“It’s hard to hold someone accountable if they’re not clear on what the expectations are.”

“The first job of a leader is to inspire trust. The ability to do so, in fact, is a prime differentiator between a manager and a leader.”

“Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.”

“Doing good is no longer seen as something in addition to business; it is a part of business itself.”

“Whatever trust we are able to create in our organizations and in the marketplace is a result of the credibility we first create in ourselves.”

“Whatever your role at work or at home, you are an influencer. You are a leader, even if only of yourself.”

Click here to download The Speed of Trust infographic & summary


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