REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- There is a management asset beyond competence, skill, ability, business acumen, technical knowledge and talent that makes a leader truly successful at building effective employees and employee teams, and ultimately achieving goals in record time and above expectations.
And that asset is called trust.
Leaders who want to lead a dynamic organization comprised of motivated, creative, energized and productive employees must first learn to trust, said Stephen M.R. Covey, an internationally recognized business leader, keynote speaker and author of "The Speed of Trust" who is the son of the late Dr. Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
Covey advises corporations, institutions and government organizations on trust, leadership, ethics and high performance. He spoke at a leadership team building workshop hosted by the Army Contracting Command-Redstone for its supervisors at The Overlook at Redstone Arsenal on Aug. 9.
The workshop's goal was to "train and enhance the acquisition workforce," said John Mayes, ACC-Redstone's deputy executive director. "So, we invited someone who can really make a difference in how we think as leaders in the acquisition community. He will help us understand how better to transform from managers to leaders."
While the business world views a tangible asset as machinery, buildings and inventory, Covey said trust can also be viewed as a "practical, tangible asset." Trust is more valuable than anything else in achieving a goal, and is timely and relevant in today's changing world.
"I want to show you how to look at trust in a whole new way, and see how powerful it is as a leader," Covey said. "I want you to be able to see trust but, more importantly, to act on it differently … trust is attainable, actionable for everyone as a leader.
"With trust, you can work contracts faster so you can better serve the warfighter. Trust is a force multiplier. I want you to get good at building trust as a leader, as a team, as ACC-Redstone."
As organizations and companies operationalize, restructure and change, trust can be an accelerator for employee buy-in, reducing the stress associated with change and increasing the willingness to accept change. ACC-Redstone leadership is known for developing trust in relationships among employees, Army organizations and defense contractors. But Covey believes the trust factor can be enhanced to even better results.
"In contracting, it is vital to build relationships and to build teams. You are already good at that," Covey said. "But, this is about becoming truly great."
Covey uses three main ideas to define trust:
• Trust should be viewed as an economic driver, not just a social virtue. "Contracting is about schedules, about cost. As trust goes up, cost goes down," Covey said, adding that trust is the hard-edge economic driver that can have a positive influence on contractual relationships.
• Trust is the number one competency of leadership needed today. Trust optimizes and multiplies transparency, accountability and critical thinking, and can be developed by engaging employees in the midst of change, he said.
• Trust is a learnable skill. "It is a competency, a skill that you can learn, do, create, grow and, in some cases, even restore," Covey said. "You have to be intentional and deliberate about this."
In working environments where trust exists, there is easy communication, honesty, positive attitudes, high energy and an acceptance of different opinions. In working environments defined by distrust, there is suspicion, stress, exhaustion, guardedness, frustration, low energy and miscommunication.
"Communication is more a matter of trust than technique," Covey said. "Trust affects every aspect of relationships, teams and culture. There's a night and day difference in environments where there is trust and no trust. Add a bunch a change in there and the outcomes are even more different. In low trust cultures you won't achieve objectives, it takes longer to get to a goal, everything costs more and there is less engagement of people.
"If you want better, faster and more involvement, commitment and energy, then you need to reinforce feelings of trust. Trust changes everything."
A 2016 Gallup poll shows that the military is the nation's most trusted institution, coming in at 73 percent with the public while police are trusted by 56 percent of citizens, public schools by 30 percent, big business by 18 percent and Congress by 9 percent.
"Trust is perhaps the military's greatest asset," Covey said. "We have to be intentional and deliberate about this greatest asset. Trust is the soul of a military organization."
Over the years, there has been shifts in the public's trust of the military, coming in at 50 percent in 1981 and 85 percent in 1991. Public trust was highest after 9/11.
"When warfighters are out there succeeding, trust goes up," Covey said. "This is part of the secret sauce of the Armed Forces."
Covey shared quotes on trust from retired Gen. Martin Dempsey and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, both former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., the commander of the Central Command who led all coalition forces in the Gulf War. They spoke of the value of character and the bond of trust between the military and the American people, and about the ability each service member has to build that trust.
Covey said trust is the essence of what the military does both at home and around the world.
"If you want to be faster, better, ahead of the curve, you have to build trust. Clear expectations and follow through increases trust," Covey said. "Trust is confidence as opposed to suspicion. Trust includes both character and competence. Smart trust is the good judgement that flows from a willingness and tendency to trust balanced with analysis of the situation or opportunity, the risk involved and the credibility of the employee.
"If you are not willing to trust people. Then how are you going to engage them, inspire them and collaborate with them? Trust opens you to possibilities and ignites employees to action."