The Bookshelf — Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy and Joy in a Low-Trust World

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

There are some ideals that never go out of style; they simply stand the test and challenges of time, enduring through disruptions caused by innovation, changes in public policy, globalization and a shifting workforce. One of these ideals is trust. It can be a double-edged sword, however. If restraints are placed on trust we cannot grow as a society. On the other hand, if we engage in blind trust, then we end up with the governments we disdain and bad corporate behavior we experienced in the early 2000s (e.g, Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing).

There has to be a smart balance struck; something referred to as smart trust. This concept is found in the Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link book, Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World. In his earlier book, The Speed of Trust, Covey explained the relevance of trust on a global level. Building on this concept Smart Trust looks at trust on a more micro basis: specifically, how business leaders and organizations—whether for-profit or not-for-profit entities—are employing high-trust relationships, even during this time of low or no trust.

The book offers exemplars (though rarities) of companies and people who have succeeded because they effectively managed trust: by giving it and to earning it in all types of business cultures. As a byproduct of this practice they have been able to gain energy and joy. A remarkable situation of gaining the best when practicing the best.

The prevailing view is we are at a low point of trust with our government and financial institutions — not to mention the private sector. Smart Trust explains how individuals, teams and organizations covering various industries have built cultures of trust, while being able to attain greater financial results. A win-win situation, in other words.


The key takeaways are the 5 Actions of Smart Trust, interestingly enough, were successfully implemented by a diverse group of organizations all across the globe:

Smart Trust Action 1: Choose to believe in trust. High-trust people and organizations use this as a foundation upon which to cultivate trust-building behaviors.

Smart Trust Action 2: Start with self. High-trust people and organizations place the focus on themselves first and develop character and competence that enables them become a person, team or organization that others can trust.

Smart Trust Action 3: Declare your intent…and assume positive intent in others.  High-trust people and organizations signal goals and intended actions and explain both the what- and-why aspects.

Smart Trust Action 4: Do what you say you are going to do. High-trust people and organizations say what they will do and they do it. A simple, yet often violated concept.

Smart Trust Action 5: Lead out in extending trust to others. High-trust people and organizations are the first to extend trust and build the upward virtuous cycle of trust that results in prosperity, energy and joy.

There is keen competition for top talent in industry, particularly in the technology space. Couple this with expectations millennials have as they enter the workforce. Money is no longer the number one driver that attracts them to companies. It is culture, and part of the equation is trust. It should be encouraged, emphasized and practiced, no matter your level or position in the company or firm.

Earned trust enhances an organization’s image, makes it a magnet for good employees and creates a commitment to its vision and values.

The essence of what the book succeeds in explaining can be encapsulated in a quote by Mr. Covey: “The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key professional and personal competency of our time.”

About Steve

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at