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And Better Off for Living on the Edge of Life

P. has multiple myeloma, a particularly virulent and incurable form of cancer. Median survival is 50-55 months.

This is from a letter she sent yesterday to family and friends:

Yup. I am on the train, heading west. Not Kansas City, but Winona, MN via Amtrak. From there, a limo ride will take me to Rochester, Minnesota & the famed Mayo Clinic.

Today has been full of ‘deja vu’ experiences; it was almost exactly 15 years ago (October, 1994) that Husband 1 & I drove from [hometown] to Mayo Clinic, still reeling from the news of a dreadful diagnosis. I was suffering from a sinus infection in addition to a deep sense of despair. The multiple myeloma had invaded 90% of my bone marrow and I was severely anemic. Oooooh, what a difficult time it was — so many of you remember, especially daughter 1 and daughter 2.

Fast forward to today! Husband 1 is accompanying me again, since Husband 2 has very limited time off from his job. I am feeling good, my body having had 2 months without the effects of chemotherapy.

Life at home has finally settled into a wonderful rhythm. I breezed through thirteen days of radiation treatments focused on a lime-sized growth on my ribs. These lasted less than 5 minutes & the only side effect was perhaps some fatigue. Most days, I car-pooled with the husband of a dear friend who was also receiving radiation. So the process was quite enjoyable (and was moderately effective, though there is still a growth, the size of a fried egg — sunny side up).

The issue of what to do next was still unresolved. My decision to turn down the clinical trial at State U. was a clear one. However, it brought recognition that I was facing the beginning of the end (Aren’t we all? Every day?)

This decision – to focus on quality rather than quantity, was filled with both sadness & a sense of freedom. Along with making sure that all my affairs were in order (they aren’t – yet), I relished spending time in our woods, either sitting under a favorite tree & listening to the birds heading south, or cutting, hauling, splitting, & stacking wood for our fireplace/stove. We are planning a trip to California over Thanksgiving. I am holding onto the possibility of traveling to both Europe to visit Daughter 2, and a trip to Hawaii with Daughter 1. Have you seen the movie “The Bucket List”? There I was.

Then came a series of events, both big & small, that absolutely FILLED me with energy, enthusiasm, hope, and a sense of direction. To make this story short, I ran across a clinical trial going on at Mayo Clinic that looks very hopeful, requires minimal change in my daily routine, and I believe (fingers crossed) will accept me. This all occurred in about one week, everything falling into place.

Over the past FIFTEEN years, I have come to points such as this, where the end appeared near. And each time, something has shifted. I am here; filled to overflowing with gratitude, surrounded by love, a bit worse for the wear, but thoroughly enjoying the ride.

And better off for living on the edge of life.

A Tendency to Blame and an Inability to Confront

I am on vacation this week, and will be going back to the vault for some ‘oldies but goodies’ posts. I hope you enjoy them: I’ll be back in a week or so with new material.

Over a delightful lunch last week, a client said to me, “I don’t remember where I got this, but I have a saying I keep nearby in my office:

"All management problems boil down to two things: a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront."

“I know where you got it from,” I said; “you got it from me, and I got it from Phil McGee.” Credit where credit’s due, Phil.

And here’s why credit is due.

A tendency to blame. To “blame” someone means to falsely suggest that they are responsible for some negative thing. The problem starts with ‘falsely,’ and gets worse.

To lie about someone makes you a liar. It means we cannot believe what you say. It means your motives are suspect, and therefore all actions that follow from them.

And lying about someone’s responsibility isn’t just lying–it’s lying about someone. It is an indirect form of character assassination. “Blamethrowing” is an apt pun, for blaming is ferociously destructive.

Finally, it’s evasive. “It-was-him” means “it-was-not-me.” Blaming means manipulating the listener—for the blamer’s own hidden purposes.

Inability to confront. Blame goes hand in hand with an inability to confront others directly with the truth. “The truth” is very simple—it’s what happened, what someone felt, what is. It’s reality.

I mean “confront” here not in a negative sense, but in a sense of being able to speak, to another human being, that which is true. Inability to confront means inability to have an honest conversation with another about the truth.

Evasion. Insinuation. Insincerity. Implication. Avoidance. Dodging, fudging, skirting, deception, fabrication, distortion. These are accusations we level against those who cannot confront.

Yet the accused doesn’t hear them—because their inability to confront extends to themselves. “I didn’t mean to hurt,” they say—often sincerely. But partially "good" motives do not excuse wrongful actions—or inactions.

Is Phil overstating the case when he says “all management problems can be reduced” to these two? Let’s see. What about:

• Giving and receiving feedback
• Interviewing
• Delegation
• Teamwork
• Engagement
• Leadership
• Morale
• Collaboration
• Crisis management
• Persuasion
• Trustworthiness
• Problem definition
• Project management
• Relationship management

Blame and inability to confront affect each item on that list, and that list covers a multitude of management issues.

What is the opposite of a tendency to blame and an inability to confront?

Someone who speaks the truth. Who speaks it in a way that can be heard by all. Someone who accepts his own responsibility—no more, no less. Someone who simply sees things as they are. And who is willing to assign responsibility exactly where it belongs, equally whether it’s his or someone else’s.

When we can see things as they are, and confront them as such, “blame” disappears. There is simply truth, and our various roles in dealing with it. Once seen, it is easily spoken.

The trick is to see things as they are.

Trust in the Online Dating World

The realm of romance is a source of intriguing metaphors for trust. Do people really want reliability in a romantic partner? Or is a little unpredictability a good thing? Other than the obvious, what’s the difference between romantic relationships and business relationships?

And, today’s subject—how about truth-telling in the dating world? Do you want someone who tells it like it is? Or do you want them to pull their punches once in a while?

Truth in dating: is it a good thing?

Cut to the NY Times His 50 First Dates (or in her case, 3).

Looking For a Woman He Could Trust to Tell the Truth

Poor Ron James. He joined JDate the month he was divorced, and spent the next year and a half looking for Ms. Wonderful.  Along the way, he found the relationship of Online Dating and The Truth to be problematic. To begin with, a lot of people on JDate—explicitly aimed at Jewish singles, partly as a counter to intermarriage—weren’t Jewish at all. And of course, that was just the beginning.

Over that year and a half, he said, there were women he met who lied about their age, posted photos that were 10 years old, misrepresented their jobs and pretended to be more successful than they were. “A lot of the photos didn’t look like them,” he said. “I learned to watch out for sunglasses.”

Then he met Sheryl.

At Starbucks, Mr. James was struck by Ms. Daija’s looks. Her JDate photo was taken swimming, with no makeup.
“You look exactly like your picture,” he said.
“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked.
“That’s a very good thing,” Mr. James said. The hour flew.

Cue the violins. They married this past January.

Is Trust in Romance a Good Thing?

I was once told by a Match.com date that I was the only 5’11” man she’d met who actually turned out to be 5’11”.  That was also a good thing.  But I met many women who lied about their age, and justified it because–"otherwise, they’d screen me out."  (Which I had kinda thought was the point of having screens.  And yes, I know, we men are pigs, etc.  And yes, we lie too.)

Is the truth generally a good thing? Do we want trust in romance? Or not?

As usual, the answer is, it depends. And the real question is—on what?

Think about these trust statements:

  • I trust that my partner will be faithful—and if not, I don’t want to know about it
  • I want my partner to tell me the truth–unless it’s hurtful
  • I want to depend on my partner—but not so much as to be boring
  • I want my partner to care about me—but not to be dependent on me.

Romantic relationships are one area where we demand both truth-telling of the most intimate nature—but also the ability to hold our tongue, keep a bit of a secret, to once in a while play the Jack Nicholson role (channeling “you can’t handle the truth!”).  In the trust quotient, it’s the low self-orientation factor.

That’s what Ron James seems to have concluded:

“Every day when I leave for work, she says, ‘Drive safely,’ ” Mr. James said. “It warms my heart.”
“Does it really?” Ms. Daija asked.
“That anyone cares,” Mr. James said.

It’s generally not a good thing to subordinate the truth to other values. But caring? Well, that may be the exception that proves the rule.
 

A Tendency to Blame and an Inability to Confront

I am on vacation this week, and will be going back to the vault for some ‘oldies but goodies’ posts.  I hope you enjoy them: I’ll be back in a week or so with new material.

Over a delightful lunch last week, a client said to me, “I don’t remember where I got this, but I have a saying I keep nearby in my office:

"All management problems boil down to two things: a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront."

“I know where you got it from,” I said; “you got it from me, and I got it from Phil McGee.” Credit where credit’s due, Phil.

And here’s why credit is due.

A tendency to blame. To “blame” someone means to falsely suggest that they are responsible for some negative thing. The problem starts with ‘falsely,’ and gets worse.

To lie about someone makes you a liar. It means we cannot believe what you say. It means your motives are suspect, and therefore all actions that follow from them.

And lying about someone’s responsibility isn’t just lying–it’s lying about someone. It is an indirect form of character assassination. “Blamethrowing” is an apt pun, for blaming is ferociously destructive.

Finally, it’s evasive. “It-was-him” means “it-was-not-me.” Blaming means manipulating the listener—for the blamer’s own hidden purposes.

Inability to confront. Blame goes hand in hand with an inability to confront others directly with the truth. “The truth” is very simple—it’s what happened, what someone felt, what is. It’s reality.

I mean “confront” here not in a negative sense, but in a sense of being able to speak, to another human being, that which is true. Inability to confront means inability to have an honest conversation with another about the truth.

Evasion. Insinuation. Insincerity. Implication. Avoidance. Dodging, fudging, skirting, deception, fabrication, distortion. These are accusations we level against those who cannot confront.

Yet the accused doesn’t hear them—because their inability to confront extends to themselves. “I didn’t mean to hurt,” they say—often sincerely. But partially "good" motives do not excuse wrongful actions—or inactions.

Is Phil overstating the case when he says “all management problems can be reduced” to these two? Let’s see. What about:

• Giving and receiving feedback
• Interviewing
• Delegation
• Teamwork
• Engagement
• Leadership
• Morale
• Collaboration
• Crisis management
• Persuasion
• Trustworthiness
• Problem definition
• Project management
• Relationship management

Blame and inability to confront affect each item on that list, and that list covers a multitude of management issues.

What is the opposite of a tendency to blame and an inability to confront?

Someone who speaks the truth. Who speaks it in a way that can be heard by all. Someone who accepts his own responsibility—no more, no less. Someone who simply sees things as they are. And who is willing to assign responsibility exactly where it belongs, equally whether it’s his or someone else’s.

When we can see things as they are, and confront them as such, “blame” disappears. There is simply truth, and our various roles in dealing with it. Once seen, it is easily spoken.

The trick is to see things as they are.

 

 

 

Transparency and Selling

President Obama directly links transparency to economic performance.

In his inauguration address, he asserted “…those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

Lately transparency has been in short supply.

Offices for sale. Ponzi schemes. The former mayor of Baltimore has just been indicted on charges that she accepted illegal gifts, including gift cards intended for the poor that she allegedly used instead for a holiday shopping spree.

Whether with respect to government, or to building client relationships, transparency is at the very root of trust.

That may seem obvious. Motherhood and apple pie. But for those of us with a career background in sales, transparency requires deprogramming. We were taught:

• Never share a weakness
• Never admit a competitor strength
• Never share cost information
• Always get as much margin as you can
• Don’t share information that could decrease your ability to close a sale

Oh yeah, and be customer focused.

What goes around comes around. In the long run, the truth inevitably bubbles to the top. You can get credit for saying it—or blame for resisting it.

As Charlie Green said in a HuffingtonPost piece, “If we see someone as being transparent, then nagging questions about motive disappear. We no longer speculate about, ‘What’s in it for him? What’s the hidden meaning? Why’d he say that? Is he lying?’ and so on. We accept the person at face value for what they say, even if—sometimes, particularly if—what they say reflects imperfection. That works in sales and in politics.” 

Yet, we’re trained to go in come back with information that will close the sale. Hunt it, kill it and bring it back to eat.

• What if, instead of dancing around an answer we don’t know, we just admit we don’t know?
• What if, instead of promising something we probably can’t deliver, we admit that and then tell them what we can do?
• What if, instead of offering “teaser” pricing and then covertly getting it on the back end, we share our cost structure?

These examples are counter-intuitive—downright treasonous in some circles.

Without the pretension, void of false promises and out on a limb – we are, admittedly exposed, naked and vulnerable.

But wouldn’t you rather buy from a seller who is willing to show you his cards, even if—perhaps because—you both know it might cost him the sale? That visceral reaction works in reverse when transparency dominates relationships (think Madoff, Blagojevich).

Transparency creates a powerful pull toward you. It also, by the way, lets you sleep easier.

Is it Personal? Or Is it Business?

In The Godfather, Michael Corleone famously says to Sonny, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”

What about trust? Is it possible to separate them? Can you be trustworthy in your personal life, but not in business? Does one imply the other? And what do we think of someone we trust personally who is turns out to be untrustworthy in business?

Cue Bernie Madoff again. (No, we’re not done with him yet; Madoff is a rich vein of material).

Eric Wiener in the LA Times:

the reason so many Wall Street players couldn’t believe their ears was they couldn’t accept that Bernie Madoff, of all people, would have pulled something like this. "Not Bernie!" was a typical refrain.

And, from the New York Times:

Indeed, in the world of Jewish New York, where Mr. Madoff, 70, was raised and found success, he is largely still considered as a macher: a big-hearted big shot for whom philanthropy and family always intertwined with — and were equally as important as — finance.

It seems increasingly clear that Madoff was greatly aided in this by dozens of willing accomplices—aka banks, funds of funds, hedge funds, “feeder” funds. People who took their own percentage for assuring “due diligence” so that the fraud that took place could never take place. People who claim to be anguished "customers," but who willingly sold the snake oil downstream.

And always, they too are characterized by those who knew them as people of integrity, people you could trust. And, I suspect, they believe it of themselves.

Now, there is a code by which you lie to one group and are trusted by another. It is the code you can hear recited in Huckleberry Finn by the Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords. The Hatfields and McCoys. The Montagues and the Jets, the Capulets and the Sharks. Or as it’s taught in competitive strategy and too many sales programs: the Sellers and the Customers.

I continue to be astonished that the largest Madoff “victim,” Fairfield Greenwich Group, who made hundreds of millions from Madoff, is considering suing PricewaterhouseCoopers—its own auditor. Reportedly because, channeling Willie Sutton, that’s where the money is.

How does Fairfield’s Walter Noel explain that to the partner at PwC’s Stamford office in charge of Fairfield’s audit?

Hint, Mr. Noel: you can buy The Godfather here and start rehearsing the line. "It’s not personal, it’s business. It’s not personal, it’s business." Click your heels three times while you say it. And tell him ‘trust me.’ That way it’ll sound personal, even when of course it’s not.

 

The Cost of Broken Trust

by Mark Slatin

What happens when an insatiable drive for profits permeates the culture of an organization?

Eventually you forget whose business you should be taking care of.

Consider Office Depot’s current woes. The number two office products "mega dealer" ascended to their position in large part due to their strategic focus on the education and government markets. Now they have lost favor with those same markets amid questions surrounding "pricing and other irregularities."

Consider the following as reported in the Independent Dealer Magazine’s Depot State Contract Watch:

•    After the state of Georgia raised some red flags, an internal audit revealed rampant overcharges. An industry trade publication estimated the overcharges as much as $1.2 million. As reported last February by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the state canceled their $40 million per year contract. Georgia is not alone.
•    California: The San Jose Mercury News reported that Office Depot has agreed to repay the state of California $2.5 million for over-payments, state officials said, as they released a state audit concluding that state workers routinely failed to get the best value when buying office supplies the past two years.
•    Southeast Florida: Lee County tallied nearly $60,000 in overcharges, according to a report by that county’s internal audit department as reported by the Palm Beach Post.
•    Southwest Florida: Fox 4 News reported that in Collier County, Florida a "whistle blower" from within the company has been terminated after voicing his concern for overcharging that county’s government (WFTX video).
•    North Carolina: The office of the state auditor in Raleigh, NC announced he found overcharges under an Office Depot contract with the state purchasing agency. That audit examined six months of purchases and identified $294,413 in net overcharges through direct testing of purchase orders.
•    Nebraska: State Auditor Mike Foley has concluded an investigation showing the State of Nebraska is paying too much for office supplies because of serious pricing errors and overcharges. Overcharges ranged from less than 1% to over 400% on various items according to the report.
Office Depot’s stock has plummeted from $46.52 in May of 2006 to $1.82 earlier this week, nearly 97% drop as compared with only a 30% – 40% drop in the major stock indexes over the same time frame.

Is there a connection between their B2B pricing strategy and their poor performance?  Sales and operating margin dropped by nearly half in Q3 08′ for their B2B segment.

Time will tell the depth of Depot’s damage as investigations continue throughout the country.  Despite persistent denials by Office Depot officials, the tide doesn’t seem to be going in their favor.  Are they wrongly accused?  Simply out of alignment with their core values?  Or is this part of a strategic pricing strategy that’s become part of their culture?

Office Depot’s website defines integrity and accountability as follows:

Integrity – "We earn the trust and confidence of associates, customers, suppliers and shareholders by being open, honest and truthful in all that we do".
Accountability – "We are responsible for achieving and sustaining unprecedented results that create extraordinary value to our shareholders…"

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like their failure to adhere to the former is impacting their realizing the latter.

With ever increasing pressure on corporate earnings, the temptation to slide down the slippery slope of profit margin improvement at the cost of integrity will rise.  If your conscience is telling you "this doesn’t feel right," listen to it.  The pennies saved won’t be worth the risk.

How many years and advertising dollars does it take to create a corporate brand built on trust?  Not only does bad publicity cause buyers to question your pricing, it causes them to re-think inviting you to bid in the first place.

What can you do to avoid the high cost of broken trust?

1. Don’t do anything in the short-term that could potentially come back to bite you in the long-term. Ask yourself, "would the buyer think this is equitable?"

2. If you work in an industry in which customers already question the trustworthiness of sellers (guilt by association), address issues like pricing head on. Don’t let pricing integrity become the "elephant in the room" that takes over the room.  Bring it up first and get it on the table.  Transparency is a precursor to trust.

3. Leadership not only has a responsibility to set the tone, it has a charge to sniff out unethical pricing behavior at all levels. Make sure your team knows that you’re not willing to cross the integrity line, not once. 

Restoring broken trust takes a lot longer than building trust; a reputation can take years to build but only seconds to destroy.
 

Great Selling by Truth Telling: A Best Buy Tale

I was in Best Buy the other day.

The sales guy was excellent. He was open about what he knew and what he didn’t. He advised us to spend more, or to spend less, depending on what we wanted and needed in the several product lines we were exploring. He was candid. He spoke quickly and directly, in short, to-the-point sentences.

When we finished, I asked him, “You’re not on commission here, right?”

“No, not here. I’ve sold on commission before, though.”

“Which do you like better?” I asked.

“Oh, I prefer this. You can tell the truth.”

“You can tell the truth?”

“Yup. The other way, sometimes you’ve got to make the month, or bend it around for some other reason. It’s hard. Here you just tell the truth. It’s a lot easier.”

Just tell the truth–it’s a lot easier.

Let’s parse that: then evaluate it.

Why is it a lot easier?

1. There’s only one version of the truth—an infinity less to remember.
2. It’s easier to answer questions—it requires only short-term memory, not creative license.
3. It’s easier for people to tell you’re not lying.
4. People buy more from you if they feel you’re telling the truth.
5. People tell their friends; truth-telling is good marketing.

Of course, some people feel this is a sucker’s game. It’s sales right? The point isn’t to tell the truth, it’s to not get caught not telling the truth? To look like you’re telling the truth, not to actually tell it.

After all, we’re in business—right?

So let’s have a look at the numbers.

BBY Stock Chart

Here is a 5-year stock chart for Best Buy, tracked against the S&P500, and against Best Buy’s most obvious US competitor, Circuit City. (BBY is the one that ends at the top, by the way).

And sure, you can make charts look any way you want. I’m not trying to be an analyst here. I’m just saying the case is not only intuitive, but very plausibly empirical as well.

(By the way, Bear Stearns rated it underperform back in January. Goldman Sachs rates it a Buy.  Cheap shot? Maybe, but I’m just sayin’…)

Telling the truth is not stupid, wussy, or bad business. Far from it. It’s very good business. And for pretty obvious reasons.

And that’s the truth.

Lessons in Sales from John McCain

As far as I know, John McCain has never sold for a living. Though you could argue that insofar as he’s a politician, he’s never done anything else.

Whether or not you believe all politicians are salespeople, some do it differently than others. McCain “sells” in a particular way.

It’s an approach to selling that most salespeople instinctively avoid, but that many of the best salespeople have learned to seek. It’s an approach Hillary Clinton is belatedly coming to recognize.

It’s simple: be transparent.

As Howard Kurtz writes in Accessibility Opens Doors to McCain in the Washington Post,

Reporters rarely quote his aides because the man himself is available to react to just about everything. And that "infinite" access, says Boston Globe correspondent Sasha Issenberg, helps the Arizona senator.

"He’s pretty good road-trip company," Issenberg says. "The guy stays up on sports, movies and what’s in the news. I’ve had the ability to have extensive conversations with him — often Socratic dialogues — about the issues. He’s a richer candidate in stories written about him than other candidates are in stories written about them."

How candidates treat reporters shouldn’t matter in the coverage, but it does.

William Kristol, writing an ope-ed for the NY Times called Thoroughly Unmodern McCain, makes a similar point:

John McCain is a not-so-modern type. One might call him a neo-Victorian — rigid, self-righteous and moralizing, but (or rather and) manly, courageous and principled.
Maybe a dose of this type of neo-Victorianism is what the 21st century needs. A fair number of Republican and independent voters seem to think so, if one can infer as much from their support of McCain at the polls. But, amazingly, a neo-Victorian straightforwardness might also turn out to be strategically smart.

McCain has been the only Republican candidate who hasn’t tried to out-think the process. Perhaps out of sheer necessity, after his campaign imploded last summer, he simply picked himself up and made his case to the voters in the various states.

Meanwhile, the other G.O.P. candidates are creatures of our modern age of analysis and meta-analysis, and their campaigns have sometimes been too clever by half.

There’s a reason transparency works: and a lesson for those would would fake it.

The reason transparency works is it reveals motives. Unlike appeals to qualifications, credentials, experience, testimonials, track records and competence—transparency speaks to intent.

If we see someone as being transparent, then nagging questions about motive disappear. We no longer speculate about what’s in it for him, what’s the hidden meaning, why’d he say that, is he lying, and so on. We accept the person at face value for what they say, even if—sometimes, particularly if—what they say reflects imperfection. That works in sales, and in politics.

And here’s the lesson for those would would fake transparency: you had better be really, really good at it, because, if you are caught faking transparency—all bets are off. There’s virtually no recovery from being found out intentionally lying about being truthful.

The best way to be transparent about your motives? To be sure your motives are clean in the first place. We don’t like someone who’s being transparent in order to gain something (like the Presidency). We want transparency as an end in itself—a principle, a value, not a means to end.

Here’s how it’s done, from Kristol again:

There was a serious moment when BBC correspondent Justin Webb asked why McCain kept bringing up global warming — not a popular cause with many Republicans, particularly in Michigan, where resistance to fuel-efficiency standards is strong.

"You’ve got to do what you know is right," McCain replied.

"You could lose as a result," Webb said.

"There’s a lot worse things than losing in life," the former POW said.

Transparency sells. The “trick” to using it is to live your life in a way you don’t mind being exposed.

Then just be who you are.

Covey on Trust

I am remiss in reviewing Steven MR Covey’s The Speed of Trust: the One Thing that Changes Everything
Remiss because it came out over a year ago, because the book (and associated events) has been quite a success—and because it deserves that success.

The book itself is organized according to “waves”—from self-trust, to relationship trust, then on to organizational, market and societal trust (at this last level, it echoes  Francis Fukuyama’s seminal work, Trust, from a decade earlier, subtitled "the social virtues and the creation of prosperity.")

Covey’s section on self-trust—what I would call the realm of “personal trust”—centers around credibility, which he suggests consists of integrity, intent, capabilities and results.  This covers territory similar to my own (with Maister and Galford) in The Trusted Advisor:  (credibility + reliability + intimacy, all divided by self-orientation), except for his inclusion of integrity.

His linking of integrity and credibility remind me of another interesting piece of work—Integrity: a Positive Model…, by Michael Jensen and Werner Erhard.  Both take an end-run around “ethics” toward a more practical approach which still yields similar results without the whiff of theology.

But while Covey is theoretically sound, his real focus is on the practical, as befits someone who ran his father’s highly successful business (as in  Seven Habits of Highly Successful People).

Most of the book, and I suspect most of his lectures and seminars, are aimed at corporate audiences—in particular, what people can do to become more trusted. He lists 13 behaviors, all of which make perfect commonsense (which is not to say they are common): listen first, talk straight, meet commitments, etc.

It goes without saying—though I’ll say it—I couldn’t agree more with him.

I think Covey’s greatest contribution, however, may lie in his forcefully advancing the simple proposition that Trust Matters.  In one of his emails promoting a webinar, he rhetorically asks, “Is Trust more important than Vision? Strategy? Systems? Structure? Skills?” and proceeds to answer in the affirmative.

Linked with some effective framing (don’t pay a trust tax, earn a trust dividend), he makes a case that business hasn’t heard often enough: trust pays off, not just in some mufty-flufty New Age calculus (though that’s true too), but as well in the conventional, traditional business language of ROI, efficiency and effectiveness.

I have some minor quibbles—his emphasis on measurement, for example—but they are not critical to his contribution.  It’s a fine piece of work that moves forward our understanding and appreciation of the critical role of trust, particularly in business.