Whom do you trust?

“Almost everywhere we turn, trust is on the decline. Trust in our culture at large, in our institutions, and in our companies is significantly lower than a generation ago. Research shows that only 49% of employees trust senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information. Consider the loss of trust and confidence in the financial markets today. Indeed, ‘trust makes the world go round,’ and right now we’re experiencing a crisis of trust.”

It was Stephen MR Covey, author of the bestseller book, The Speed of Trust, who said that, as he worried about the deteriorating credibility of leaders and institutions in the fierce world of global competition (https://www.leadershipnow.com/CoveyOnTrust.html 2019). The foundational principle for trust — whether one is giving trust or receiving trust — is credibility or “believability,” Covey stressed.

Covey, son of Stephen R. Covey, Sr. (author of the iconic business handbook The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989), was guest speaker on Sept. 13 at the 25th anniversary of the Center for Leadership and Change, Inc. (CLCI), the Philippine partner of Franklin Covey Co. The younger Covey’s focus on trust proceeds from his father’s emphasis on effectiveness above mere efficiency: trust speeds up results and cuts transaction costs, Stephen Jr. says.

Credibility earns Trust in the convergence of Character and Competence. The four cores of Credibility are: Integrity (that you are honest and congruent) and Good Intent (have no hidden personal agenda) — both indicative of Character; Capability (credentials, skills, talents) and Results (what you have delivered/produced) — both proving Competence. Loss of trust because of Character (dishonesty, lies, betrayal) is more difficult to forgive than breaches of trust because of Competence (mistakes, non-delivery of results), Covey points out.

This discussion of Trust resonates eerily but urgingly in this anxious time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Distrust is a deep reverberating foreboding of heightened risks in a cloudy future. The Reliability and Confidence which we intuitively know as sentient human beings to be the bases for trusting anyone and anything are doused in the fear for survival. Only Trust in God in Christian Faith and Hope remains unchallenged for Dependability.

Trust grows in centripetal waves or ripples from a Self-Trust that is the pebble dropped in the pond of relationships. The Covey metaphor shows “5 Waves” growing from Self-Trust to Relationship Trust, to Organizational Trust, to Market Trust, and then, finally, to Societal Trust. Details of the What-Why-How to get from “A” to “E” are neatly laid out in Covey’s book, Speed of Trust. But that might be too much to think about and analyze in this siege by COVID that has limited the concentric ripples of relationships by social distancing and the shrinking of markets, the decimation of organizations, and even the closure of institutions.

Whom do you trust in the greater society, in the claustrophobic limited interaction, and dearth of truthful information or even the fake news that undermine confidence to evaluate personal risks and hopes? A tragic case in point for Philippine society today is the critical decision of whom to trust to be the leaders of the country, in the palpable pernicious culture of graft and corruption, lies, and dishonesty, misrepresentation and manipulation by some in power and those wanting to be in power. We have national elections on May 9, 2022. Whom do we trust? Whom do we vote for?

A good friend, Lirio Ongpin-Mapa, CLCI vice-president and the first accredited facilitator (since 1989) of Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in the Philippines offered some test questions (based on Covey’s Cores of Credibility) that one might ask of those who have declared their intentions to run for public office in 2022, to vet their trustworthiness for the sacred role and responsibilities.

On Integrity: “Do you ‘walk the talk’ on fighting for your declared principles, especially in the face of opposition and difficulty? Are you honest in mind and hands, not stealing what is not yours? Are you willing to sacrifice self thereby to lose power and wealth, maybe even well-being and life, to stand for what is right and good? For transparency ab initio, please declare your Vision/Mission Statement.”

On Intent: “What is your agenda? (Purpose, Plans and Programs). How can we be assured that you will think and act for the common good, and not for your interests (Does he/she have business or other organizational/familial connections to help and nurture)? Are you inclined to be autocratic and dictatorial before allowing participative management and inclusive outcomes?”

On Capabilities: “What are your unique, native strengths and past experiences that you can bring into your efficient and effective performance in your aspired role as leader of the country? Do you have training and experience as a leader in high office, to give confidence to the people that you know, understand and believe what the rules and laws of the land are, that you will abide and comply with these, thereby to protect the rights and freedoms of the people?”

On Results: “What is your track record? How have you proven that you deserve the trust of the people as seen in past results (actual performance, fulfillment of promises, delivery of objectives and commitments)?”

We can pose these questions to the six possible candidates for President in the May 9, 2022 national elections. There are no allusions to any of those “wannabe’s” as to their Character or Capabilities, nor judgment on their Integrity based on reputation or track record. We borrow the disclaimer of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose in his novel, My Brother, My Executioner, 1988: “All the events and characters … are real only in the reader’s imagination.”

Best to learn from Stephen MR Covey that the first level of trusting is trusting oneself. “A man who does not trust himself cannot trust anyone else.” Am I credible to myself?

Covey suggests some questions one might ask oneself: “Am I fully clear on my values? Is there sometimes a mismatch between what I think and what I say, or between my actions and my values?”

Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.


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