Transformational Trust


When I was in Haiti a couple of weeks ago, the local people kept their distance from my team at first but warmed up to us as the week passed.  We originally thought it was shyness, especially on the part of the children, but later we were told that not all groups that come to Haiti come with the best benefit of the Haitians in mind.  Many come with a superior attitude, which comes across even when not expressed in words.

In a word, they didn’t trust us when we first arrived.

Trust – a function of character

Stephen M. R. Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, talks about character and breaks it down into integrity (walking your talk) and intent (having motives of mutual benefit).

It seems to me that Mr. Covey enjoys breaking concepts into small pieces.  He has further divided integrity into courage – when you don’t let fear stop you from taking action, humility – when you put others first, and congruence – when your words and your actions are in alignment.

He also divided intent into motive – our goals, agenda – how we intend to achieve those goals, and behavior – the actions we take to achieve those goals.  I think this is where the mission team excelled; we had one goal – to serve the missionaries and the local churches.

Happily, in watching my team, I saw the members display all of these characteristics:

  • Character.001Courage – for some of our team members, this was their first time leaving the US or being in such a rural, underdeveloped region; it took great courage to step out and join the team.  I was very proud of how the team accepted the rustic conditions.
  • Humility – the team went with the purpose of serving the missionaries and the local pastors, not of imposing our own view of how things should be done.
  • Congruence – we not only purposed but also enacted an attitude of service.
  • Motive – we were there, not to exploit the local Haitians but to do what was asked of us.
  • Agenda – we intentionally did not come with our own agenda but tied our activities to our local contact’s agenda for us.
  • Behavior – we embraced the agenda provided for us and put all our effort into doing an excellent job.

IMG_8119It was only through observing our intentions through how we interacted with them that the Haitians were able to trust us.  By the end of the week, we had formed some wonderful relationships despite the language barrier, in large part due to the team living out a high standard of character.

What about home?

Often, it is easier to put on your best behavior when you know you are on mission for a short period of time.  The real test comes in the mundane, everyday situations we all face.

With every situation, we always have a choice – will we be intentional in choosing the way that benefits all, or will we choose the way that only benefits ourselves?



Nothing changes by accident.  If you would like to make some intentional changes in your relationships at home and work, I would like to invite you to participate in a free 7-day experiment in intentional living, hosted by John Maxwell.  Click here to get started!

The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill


At the Center of Trust


Have you ever felt misunderstood, that you were being treated unfairly based on someone else’s misconception?


Photo by Tasha M. Troy

I have experienced this fairly recently with a friend.  On more than one occasion, I’ve felt that he was treating me based on a faulty understanding of me and my intentions.  What’s worse is he didn’t give me the chance to prove myself; as a result, the friendship has suffered.

This is a very frustrating position to be in!

What can you do to resolve such a situation and move forward?  The root of it all is an issue of trust – it became clear to me that my friend did not trust me or my intentions.

A Crisis of Trust

Stephen M. R. Covey, son of the famed author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says  that today “we are in a crisis of trust.”  Trust is truly a highly precious commodity that is in short supply today.

One could say social media plays a role; social media ensures that secrets don’t stay secret for long, and it is easy to become cynical when exposed to everyone’s dirty laundry.

However, I think the issue goes much deeper than that.

In his book The Speed of Trust, Mr. Covey describes “5 Waves of Trust” as ripples in a pond: self trust, relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and societal trust.  It all starts with the individual – to what extent are you a trustworthy and credible person?

At the Center of Trust

Mr. Covey goes on to say that “trust is a function of two things: character and competence.” It seems to me that most people spend a lot of time and energy on developing their competence – pursuing advanced degrees and certifications, building their skills and expertise on the job – but few pay attention to building their character.


You always have a choice – which path will you choose? Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Character has its source in our daily decisions, which forms our habits.  I recently described it this way: we can choose to make any situation better or worse.  If we consistently choose to make the situation better, we build the habits that lead to strong character.  However, if we consistently choose to make the situation worse (including choosing inaction), we build the habits that lead to weak character.



The first wave of trust, according to Mr. Covey, is self-trust, by which he means personal credibility.  Are you able to trust yourself? If you can not trust yourself, no one else will be able to trust you.

I find this closely related to self-discipline.  So many times, we hold ourselves to commitments made to others but neglect the commitments made to ourselves.  How many times have you made the same New Year’s resolutions and yet failed to keep them?  Every day you can choose to keep your commitment to yourself or you can choose to break it, choices that form your character and either establish or corrode your self-trust.

Looking Forward

At one time, it seemed all my efforts to reconnect with my friend simply made the situation worse, so I opted to give him the space he needs to develop some measure of trust in me.  This has proven to be moderately effective, and there is evidence that we can become closer friends again in the future.  Until then, I can only focus on strengthening my own self-trust and reliability.

If you want to grow in the area of trust, Mr. Covey suggests starting with your commitments to yourself.  For me, this means strengthening my self-discipline – getting up when I intend to get up, exercising when I intend to exercise, and following through with commitments both great and small.

What about you?  What commitments to yourself are you going to follow through on this week?



The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill