From the Desk of Stephen R. Covey: The High Cost of Low Trust

Most organizations have no clue of the enormous cost of low trust, and because most executives have no means of measuring its bottom-line impact, they have little motivation to seriously address it. To compound the problem, many employees feel like helpless victims of the problems in their organizations and see no clear way to influence their leaders. Learn specific, powerful things you can do that will profoundly impact the level of trust in your relationships, your team, your family, and your organization.

Q: Is trust really necessary in business today? Can you do business without it?

A: You absolutely cannot do business without trust. It is not only important, it is absolutely vital. For instance, even transacting with somebody when you are buying gasoline, you trust that you are getting quality fuel; you trust that the prices are within the market; and you trust that your money will be accepted by that person. There are just so many elements to the simplest transaction that require trust. But we are like fish that discover water last and are sometimes unaware of those implicit elements. Trust is the lifeblood of all relationships, of all transactions, and is so foundational and fundamental to everything in life.

Q: What are evidences of a low-trust environment?

A: Low-trust environments are filled with hidden agendas, a lot of political games, interpersonal conflict, interdepartmental rivalries, and people bad-mouthing each other behind their backs while sweet-talking them to their faces. With low trust, you get a lot of rules and regulations that take the place of human judgment and creativity; you also see profound disempowerment. People will not be on the same page about what’s important. Ultimately, the culture will become driven by urgency rather than importance because everyone is in it for themselves and for their own agenda.

Q: What is low trust costing us?

A: Low trust has a huge tax associated with it. It creates a culture of toxicity, just like you have toxins in your body. Imagine what it costs a body to be full of poison. And that is what a low-trust culture is-it is full of poison. You see people embracing and promulgating what I call the six metastasizing emotional cancers. Metastasize means they send their cancer cells through the body, mind, heart, and spirit of a person. They can also spread through relationships.

The six metastasizing cancers are criticizing, complaining, comparing, competing, contending, and cynicism. By competing, I don’t mean the healthy competition you find in the marketplace or in the basketball arena, but the kind of competition where you are competing for your own internal sense of worth.These emotional cancers are the forces that literally undermine and eventually destroy relationships. However, trust makes all things possible.

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