Monday, August 19, 2013


Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World
Stephen M.R. Covey
Copyright 2012 by Coveylink, LLC

Stephen Covey is no doubt the king of self-help books.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold 25 million copies around the world.  The book’s easy reading and well-organized materials have offered practical advice in reconciling marriage, work, and family.

But Smart Trust tackles corporate management and it boldly steps into global politics.  Its message is simple.  With Covey’s evangelistic tone, he asserts that to trust is the key for nations, corporations, and grassroots movement to move into a better future.  He calls it “the new currency” because “it is the basis on which many people do business – or don’t.” (page 13)  He is fully aware of the risk in blind trust.  But this book exposes that suspicion delivers as much – sometimes greater damage – as being gullible and how we must replace this mindset with Smart Trust.  In a nutshell is to extend trust and to exercise vigilance against those who abuse it.  How much trust should we give?  To answer this question, Covey shares the words of Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, “the foundation of our business runs with a belief that most people are good.”  This idea is not new.  In the classic Management book The One Minute Manager, one of the action points is to catch people (your employees) doing something right.  By giving trust, you give them self-worth and it motivates them to work harder.  But Smart Trust urges you to trust 95% of the people you work with.  It’s bad statistics, as terrible as Jesus telling us to forgive seventy times seven times.  Nonetheless, it’s a paradigm shift.  We can be very trustful but also careful at the same time. 

Yet many of us will find Smart Trust difficult to accept.  Most people are good?  When you read this, especially if you’re a Filipino, you’d find this unpalatable.  Corrupt officials, unruly drivers, scam artists, snatchers, holduppers, take advantage of us even in broad daylight.  You would say yes, this is true in highly developed countries, but not possible in highly corrupt and poverty-stricken countries—especially ours! 

But some of Covey’s examples are set in Third World Nations such as Bangladesh and Colombia to show Smart Trust at work.  At the first chapter, he shared an amazing story of Muhamad Yunus and how his bank managed to save millions of people from poverty by offering loans without any conditions of collateral and interest.  And he gets paid back 98% of the time, which dispels the myth that poor people are not credit worthy.  Oh yes, Covey also mentioned the famous Honesty Coffee Shop in Batanes (page 224), where buyers can take the goods they need and leave their payment without anyone collecting it!

Just like his previous books, Covey uses charts and diagrams to illustrate his points.  But one letdown though is he does not offer tricks to detect whether a person is trustworthy or not.  In 7 Habits for example, Covey teaches you how to speak and react when your child insists on following a bad decision.  Yes, he offers guidelines on areas such as managing risk but to apply them requires a bit more creativity and less spoon feeding.  He admits that it is more of an art than science.  Although top managers have lauded this book such as Indra Nooyi the CEO of PepsiCo (and she wrote the book’s foreword), Smart Trust serves more as an inspirational book rather than a How-to which 7 Habits readers are more accustomed to.  

How much do we need Smart Trust?  Pinoys may have a bigger problem with being gullible.  They fall victim to illegal recruiters and pyramid scams that even doctors and lawyers fall into.   They keep voting on politicians who enrich themselves and steal taxpayers’ money.  But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Pinoys online who contest the current positive outlook of our economy from ADB, Bloomberg, and other international institutions rather than take advantage of the situation by investing in stocks or run a business.  They say that the 60/40 Filipino ownership law only serves the interests of the oligarchs.  Perhaps that’s true, yet had they caught an entrepreneurial zeal, they could have used the rule to make their lives better.  They insist on 100% foreign ownership.  Fine, there may be some benefits.  But they blame the Chinese and to some extent, the Koreans too, as among the oligarchs who are depriving them of wealth and happiness. 

When people are negative and fearful, they blame everyone but themselves.  Perhaps it’s time now that we should look into a more refreshing positive lifestyle.  As of this writing, a huge torrential rain has just stopped.  Perhaps it is time for us to go out and enjoy the sunshine.

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