In the foreword to his son’s practical guide to trust-building, Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) says, “Low trust slows everything—every decision, every communication and every relationship.”

Relationship-building is key to networking success. When we do everything right and yet fail to make the sale or interest others in our opportunity, could it be that we don’t have the level of trust needed for others to say “yes”?

Stephen M.R. Covey says, “When you trust people, you have confidence in them—in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them—of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities or their track record. It’s that simple…the difference is not small; it is dramatic.”

In the networking profession, we are taught that “you can make the best presentation and she won’t be interested if the timing isn’t right for her” and “you can make the worst presentation and he’ll be interested anyway, if the timing is right.” So when I read what Covey wrote, it made me wonder how often “timing” might really mean trust. “In a high-trust relationship,” writes Covey, “you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.”

While The Speed of Trust is written primarily for managers and secondarily for family members, its principles are certainly applicable to professional networkers. Covey explains trust as a function of two things: character (integrity, motive and intent) and competence (capabilities, skills, results and track record). He shows how trust is the “one thing that changes everything” in our relationships with self, customers and society.

The Speed of Trust
is offered in easy-to-read, digestible chunks. Nearly every chapter starts with an engaging personal story and then establishes the importance of the topic, sometimes using research data. He asks plenty of provocative questions, and gives specific ways to create, extend and restore trust using “Four Cores of Credibility” and “13 Behaviors of High Trust People,” such as “Demonstrate Respect,” “Clarify Expectations,” “Listen First” and “Practice Accountability.”

While we might think that trust is “soft,” Covey makes a strong case for it being measurable and quantifiable: where there is trust, speed goes up and costs go down. He reminds us, “Research clearly shows that customers buy more, refer more and stay longer with companies and people they trust.”

Covey’s book is replete with practical advice to strengthen self-trust, extend trust to others and be regarded as trustworthy. By practicing new behaviors that he lays out methodically, not only can we increase the results of our business efforts, but we can enjoy higher quality relationships in all aspects of our lives.

Hardcover, 384 pages; $26.00; Free Press, 2006