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The importance of workplace trust, with Stephen Covey

The former CEO of Covey Leadership Center has outlined why facilitating trust amongst staff is integral to the health and wellbeing of individuals within the workplace.

Speaking to Wellness Daily on the back of his appearance at the recent 2019 World Business Forum, Stephen M.R. Covey said that when there’s trust, it energises people.

“When there’s distrust, when theres low trust in a team, in a culture, it exhausts people. Its debilitating, its demoralising, and its exhausting. [But] when trust goes up, the energy goes up, the joy goes up, its more fun, people are happier, the satisfaction levels will go up, and people are more energised, and more creative, and more innovative, theyre more engaged, theyre more committed, theyre more inspired, and they perform better,” Mr Covey explained.

Low trust is just the opposite in every one of those points, he said.

“So theres increasing awareness that people are having to do more with less so often and theyre exhausted, and more than ever before, what we need is a culture that will help reinforce the kind of engagement and energy versus be part of the problem, which while weve been asking people to do more with less, were also exhausting them by not trusting them.”

When it comes to building workplace trust, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, Mr Covey said, but rather, it needs to be intentional.

“So, you have clear expectations and you agree upon a process for accountability to those expectations. But absolutely, it includes an extension of trust to people. You dont just want to set people up to lose, or set people up to fail, and so youre intentional about it,” he said.

“You use good judgement, and it could be in some situations where youre doing precisely that, where youre saying, ‘Look, heres our objective. Heres what were trying to do. Heres what we have to work with, and were going to empower you and extend trust to you to figure out the best way to approach this. But here are some watch outs, here are some guidelines, here are some resources’.”

If you then extend trust to people, Mr Covey said, they will be more creative, more innovative “than you might ever imagine”.

“You cant really hold people accountable for results if you supervise their methods. But if you give people the freedom and the ability to be innovative and to create, they can come up with all kinds of things.”

When asked about the extent to which leaders in professional services environments were breeding workplace trust, he said they are starting to become more aware of its necessity, but there is still a long way to go.

“But theyre becoming more and more aware, and the reason is that our world is changing around us. Its shifting so fast. Theres disruption everywhere, change everywhere, and you cant just command and control your way, if I can use that as a phrase. You know, a leadership style thats just based upon command and control is not very adaptive and responsive to a change and shift in environment where people need to be agile, and to be fast, and to move, and to create, and innovate.”

“So theyre becoming aware that to stay relevant, weve got to innovate, but we cant innovate if we dont collaborate, and we cant collaborate if we dont trust each other,” he concluded.

Stephen M. R. Covey is a world-leading authority on trust, leadership, culture and empowerment. He is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which, under his stewardship, became the largest leadership development company in the world. Stephen personally led the strategy that propelled his father’s book, Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

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