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Early to rise

Success – in all areas of life – loves speed.

Time is your ally when you take action. But time is a two-sided coin. If you hesitate or procrastinate, time becomes your worst enemy. As a general rule, I assume that if I take action perceived problems will tend to disappear – and that the more I hesitate, the more time I give new obstacles to come on the scene.

I don’t recall ever succeeding at something because I got there last.

In the Preface to Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, his father, Stephen R. Covey (of Seven Habits fame), states: “My interactions with business leaders around the world have made it increasingly evident that ’speed to market’ is now the ultimate competitive weapon.”

Just think about that for a minute. The ultimate competitive weapon. What a remarkable idea.

In The Speed of Trust, Covey takes a giant step beyond his father’s statement. He not only tells the reader what the greatest catalyst for speed is (trust), he explains how and why it produces speed.

Covey says that where there is a lack of trust, everything takes longer and costs more. And he’s absolutely right. Isn’t it a lot faster and less expensive if you trust someone enough to make a deal on a handshake rather than having to bring in a brigade of problem-finding, fee-building attorneys to cross the t’s and dot the i’s?

On a macro level, the greatest threat to America is not Islamic terrorists. Our greatest threat is loss of virtues – and at the top of the list of decaying virtues is trust. Americans don’t trust religious leaders, they don’t trust schools, they don’t trust corporate chieftains, and, above all, they don’t trust politicians. (I should add that all this distrust has been well earned.)

Covey points out that trust is based on a demonstration of both character (most commonly manifested as honesty) and competence (most commonly manifested in results). It’s possible to trust someone’s honesty but not trust him to deliver results – just as it’s possible to trust someone to deliver results but not trust his honesty. Either way, dealing with such people will slow you down.

I never cease to be amazed by people who repeatedly make adamant promises yet consistently fail to follow through on them. I’ve grown weary of listening to those who always speak in the future tense, saying that they’re going to take care of this or that tomorrow. As one tomorrow rolls into another, my trust in these folks declines at an accelerating pace.

At a minimum, I prefer to hear the present tense – a person telling me that he’s in the process of doing something. Even better is the past tense: “Yes, I’ve done it.” The past tense promotes trust. Words like “Not yet, but…” arouse doubt.

As for demonstrating character, Covey emphasizes that it’s not so much how people act in the presence of others, it’s what they do behind the scenes. (Anyone who doesn’t understand why this is so probably isn’t curable.) But if they have a hidden agenda, a shrewd person will see it right through the facade they’re hiding behind. You don’t even have to know them to detect the truth.

Do you have a hidden agenda? If so, either trash it or bring it out in the open. If you want to be trusted, you have to play every card face up. Strive for consistency between what you say and do behind closed doors and how you present yourself in public. You simply can’t afford the cost of not doing that.

Finally, there’s that tired cliche about “a level playing field.” I am convinced that nothing does more to level the twenty-first century playing field than trust. Because in today’s world, it’s speed, not size, that carries the day. Trust pays off in high speed and low costs, which gives David the best chance he’s had against Goliath since he aimed a slingshot at him.

[Ed. Note: One of the best ways to build trust with your potential customers is to communicate with them regularly. Learn how to set up an e-mail newsletter and get your Internet business up and running with help from ETR’s Internet marketing mentors. Get the details here.

Be sure to sign up for the Voice of Sanity e-letter.]

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