1 Big Idea to Think About

  • When our leadership focuses on trusting and inspiring those we lead, we help them become more than they believe they can become.

2 Ways You Can Apply This

  • Communicate your trust to someone you lead. Think of a specific person. Tell them why you trust them and what you believe they can do.
  • Offer sincere affirmation to someone today. Be clear and specific in telling them why they matter and why their goals are important.

3 Questions to Ask

  • Who inspired me in my life?
  • What was it about them that inspired me?
  • How can I do the same for others?

Key Moments from the Show 

  • The danger of living in a low trust world (4:07)
  • Why we need a new style of leadership (6:16)
  • Trust and Inspire vs. Command and Control (8:45)
  • The inspirational revitalization of Microsoft (11:30)
  • The five emerging forces (14:49)
  • The leadership continuum (17:38)
  • Trust and Inspire vs. Avoid and Ignore (22:30)
  • Who trusted and inspired you? (25:15)
  • How to communicate trust to others (29:08)
  • The importance of sincere affirmation (31:58)
  • Rapid-fire essential questions (39:17)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others by Stephen M.R. Covey

Connect with Stephen M. R. Covey

Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Greg McKeown [00:00:00] Come with me on an exploration of self-discovery on this podcast, we decipher what really matters as we unravel the chaos of day-to-day work to learn how to build an essential life at the end of this episode. You’re going to be able to lead and influence others in a way that takes less effort, but produces better results and better relationships. Well, I think that’s a pretty good value proposition, and I’ve invited my friend Stephen M. R.Covey onto the show to talk about that today. Stephen is the uber bestselling author of The Speed of Trust and Smart Trust. He’s like the trust guru, and he’s also the author of a marvelous new book, Trust and Inspire How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in others. In full disclosure, I endorse this book. I love this book, and I love Stephen McCovey even more. Stephen, welcome to the What’s Essential podcast. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:01:06] Thank you, Greg. I appreciate your kind words, and I love you too. 


Greg McKeown [00:01:11] That’s the best way to start. I want to give listeners a little more background, not even just of this book, but I wonder if we could start with a sort of Reader’s Digest version of your life. Like, I mean, starting at your birth all the way up to this moment. But just like, you know, just give us it in sequential order. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:01:35] Yeah. Well, you know, I started my professional work. I did some real estate development, did a short stint in investment banking, and then I decided I was going to join up with my father. This is before he had written the seven habits of highly effective people. But really, before all of that, before all of that. But I knew it was coming because he’d been teaching it and talking about it, but he hadn’t launched the book yet. 


Greg McKeown [00:02:01] What was it called at that time? Was it called just the seven habits as it eventually was? Or was it called something different in that early version? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:02:08] Well, the earliest version was called the seven basic habits of highly effective people, and it was kind of these are fundamental basic things. And we ended up just shortening it to the seven habits of effective people. But it had yet to come out. But I knew I knew it was on the docket, and I really believed it was going to have a great impact on people. So when my father invited me and said I would like to be part of this, I said, You know what? This is going to go somewhere. I do want to be a part of it. So I joined. And the first 15 years, I spent kind of on the business side. Hmm. Building the business, growing the company, taking it around the world kind of focused heavily on the business side. But then I found my voice and I found that I had something to say and it is around what you just mentioned on trust. And once I found that I had something to say, then that’s when I felt compelled to write about this and I came out with the speed of trust and then smart trust. And now this brand new book, Trust and Inspire. So I kind of have had the first three years along the way. 


Greg McKeown [00:03:18] Yes. Which have you preferred of the two? I assume the assumed the latter, but maybe not. Which do you like them? Or are they just the equal but different? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:03:27] I like them both, but I like what I’m doing now. I like the latter. Yeah, because I feel like I found my voice. But I think that the fact that I did the former and learn how to build, grow, run a business, build a brand and turn this into something that was profitable and economic. I think that gave me credibility to do the latter because I’m not talking about trust is just a soft. Nice to have social virtue, but I’m really speaking to stress as a practitioner, how it’s an economic driver, a performance multiplier. I have everything we’re trying to do. So I think that doing the first career has given me more credibility for my second. 


Greg McKeown [00:04:06] Back when you first wrote speed of trust, there were there were already issues and trust issues and you outlined that in that book. But when I think about the sort of the last 20 years and the journey, there are such noticeable absences of trust between institutions that maybe used to seem a bit low trust. I mean, thinking between citizens and government or even citizens and businesses or the banking industry, or you could go on and on. It’s like there really is quite a tangible deterioration in trust that appears to be happening right before our eyes. I mean, is this how you see it? Are you see it differently? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:04:46] No, I absolutely agree that that’s that’s what’s happening. We’re operating increasingly in a low trust world where the trust tends to be going down all around us, trust in institutions, you know, trust in government. Media, political parties and business even and NGOs and when and the danger of a low trust world is that it tends to perpetuate itself and people become a little bit more careful, more cautious, more guarded because nobody wants to get burned and then people respond back a little bit more careful, cautious and guarded. And we can find ourselves perpetuating a vicious, low trust of distress and suspicion, creating more distrust and suspicion, and everybody feeling justified in the process. Distrust is contagious. There’s a little bit in the world we find ourselves in, so we’ve got to counteract it. 


Greg McKeown [00:05:39] Intense distrust begets distrust. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:05:43] Distrust begets distrust. Absolutely. 


Greg McKeown [00:05:45] So what? Another thing I think that’s clever in this in this new book, Trust in Inspire, is that you are still speaking about trust, but you still have managed to now speak about it in a different way, not in a derivative way, but in a significantly different way than the way you’ve treated it before. Let me just ask you to give me like the simple value proposition of trust and inspire. And it will get to sort of what it all is. But what’s the value proposition? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:06:14] Yeah, here’s the value proposition. I make the point that the world has changed. We all know all the ways that as the world has changed, but our style of leadership has not. It’s not kept pace with this changing world. We’re still operating too much from an old paradigm, an old style of leadership that would become better at Livermore and sophisticated a little bit more advanced what I call command and control. And what’s happened is we become enlightened in our command and control, so we’re better at it and we’re more advanced, more sophisticated. But we’re still the fundamental paradigm of how we view people and leadership is still kind of coming out of the industrial age, if you will. So we need a new way of leading in this new world. A new world of work requires a new way to lead. We can’t lead the way we have in the past and be and expect to be successful today. And so I’m calling this new way of leading trust and inspire injects the position to command and control even enlightened command and control. So that’s the idea is that trust and inspire represents and signifies and is the name of the kind of leadership that is needed today. Can you actually position the command of control? 


Greg McKeown [00:07:33] And I mean, you and I have talked about this, you know, previously, but this idea that that command and control is a term that is, I mean, deeply ingrained in the management literature and also just in management, you know, conversation and it’s just a linguistic norm. If we were talking about let’s not do command and control, that’s the old way of doing it, but without the language for what we should be doing. Without the precise, contrasting language, it’s harder for people to know what to go towards. You know, if you if you’re trying to, even if you try to work with your own children to simply keep telling them what not to do is insufficient because that doesn’t educate them or guide them into what they should be doing, what they need to be doing instead. This, I mean, you feel and I agree with you that it’s a significant contribution. It might seem just a linguistic, you know, if it’s a short phrase, but it’s an important, vitally important thing to help people to know how to lead instead. Don’t do come control. You do trust and inspire. Talk to us about why you think that’s so important to have that language and what your vision is for that phrase. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:08:44] Yeah, you’re exactly right, Greg, because it’s one thing when we know what we’re moving from. That is a whole nother thing when you know what we’re moving toward, when we know that and so to name it, to phrase it like the expression goes, the beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms. Mm-Hmm. So we’ve got to know what we’re moving toward. That has as is as important as what we’re moving from. And we’re all kind of clear that command and control is not going to work anymore. We’re way past its expiration date. Even the more sophisticated enlightened command and control, you know, that’s not relevant as much today, but we’re not nearly as clear about what it is that we’re in need to do today and what to call it. And I hope that one of my contributions is to name it. And you and I had this discussion of that. You were extremely helpful to me kind of framing this, that it’s not enough to be clear of what we’re moving from. We’ve got to become crystal clear of what we what we’re moving toward. And I call it trust and inspire in juxtaposition to command and control is a name. It’s an approach. It’s a style. You can put your arms around it. You can make sense of it. And it’s also aspirational and inspirational is what we want. You know, who wants to be commanded and controlled? Compare that to who wants to be trusted and inspired. Isn’t that what we all mean? 


Greg McKeown [00:10:20] It’s a great way of just framing that for a second is that nobody wants to be, or at least nobody I’ve ever talked to. I mean, not in, not in the cultures of the West. At least, maybe it is no one, but just the idea of being commanded to do things controlled and doing things. There’s something inherent in that when you think about it as it as the person receiving it, that’s violating you. I am. I have agency. I am a human being. I have choices. And so to be commanded itself creates resistance to be controlled, feels awful. Whether it’s explicit control or whether it’s, you know, underhanded invisible control, someone’s trying to. They’re speaking enlightened leadership, but they’re but they’re acting in ways that try to manipulate all of this we don’t want. So we want to reject it. And when you say, do you want to be trusted in spite of it, yes, of course it names it. It says it. I love this and I know you’ve done work. I don’t know if I should say, but we could edit it. But you’ve done work at Microsoft and I know that there’s that they feel this is important. Tell me a little bit about that because I think that’s relevant to this. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:11:30] Yeah. You think about it, how Microsoft has really been revitalized under the leadership of Satya Nadella. And, you know, even apart from, you know, other changes in the marketplace and everything else, they had been somewhat fading and not as quite relevant as they were before. They weren’t quite as cool a place to work as they were before. This was, you know, a few years ago. 


Greg McKeown [00:11:57] And we all remember, we all remember Zune. Right? I mean, this was after the iPod is years after the iPod, and it’s still significantly below the innovation equivalent. So this company that had sort of helped to design had invented the modern technology era had at one time. I don’t know how cool it had been, but it certainly was always on the cutting edge and bringing, you know, I remember back in the day Windows 95 and all of this back in the Civil War is, you know that that. And so yes. So you have the Obama years for 10 years, Satcher comes along. You know, there’s been a shift. We can feel a shift. Tell me more about it. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:12:36] Yeah. And the shift really came about first and foremost through such as leadership style coming in. And he modeled the behavior that was needed to see humility, courage, authenticity, vulnerability, empathy, performance in model he trusted. He trusted his people, he trusted in the capabilities. He adopted the growth mindset idea from Carol Dweck and others that there’s great potential inside of people and we need to bring it out and trust people out. And then he inspired by both connecting with people, but also connecting people to purpose to meaning and contribution. He modeled, he trusted and he inspired. And the net effect was, he literally read vitalize galvanized the organization. The capabilities, the talents, the creativity, the ingenuity, the innovation of Microsoft. And today they’re both winning in the workplace have built a terrific culture that’s that’s attracting and retaining, engaging and inspiring the best people and the best in people. But also, they’re winning in the marketplace. They’re far more innovative than ever before. And you see it in their stock price, you know, which has gone from a I think it was thirty-seven or something when the Dow took over. Today it’s over 300. And you know, one of I think two companies today that’s valued at over two trillion dollars. And so they’re winning Syrian refugees. 


Greg McKeown [00:14:14] I mean, yeah. Do you see that as the core value proposition that you that you win in culture and in the marketplace that’s trusted inspire? Or do you see it in some different way? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:14:24] No, I do believe that that’s the same when I when I say that the world is changing and our star leadership is not, the whole point is that, look, here’s how the world is changing. The nature of the world itself has changed your technology. The pace of change, the amount of change, the type of change, disruptive technology changes everything. The nature 


Greg McKeown [00:14:44] of those the five emerging forces in the top five 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:14:47] in the first year, the world is changing through technology. The second is the work. The work itself is changing far more collaborative, interdependent, service oriented versus just traditional manual industrial age only. And the third is that the nature of the work place is changing. The whole idea of work from home, work from anywhere. Hybrid work. Intentionally flexible work. Asynchronous work. All kinds of different, you know, nomenclature as we can put on it. The nature of the workplace is changing the workplace economy. Me, the nature of the workforce is changing. It’s far more diverse than ever before. As many as five generations at work, and the nature of choice is changing. We’ve gone from multiple choice to infant choice. So now people have choices in options, as Peter Drucker said. We’re not prepared for this as a society. What’s happening? And so all these choices and options and all of those forces of change has really put a premium on two key imperatives. I call these the epic imperatives of our time. And the first is the need to create and inspire a great culture so you can attract and retain, engage, inspire the best people. Win the war for talent and my way of saying it is win in the workplace. And the second is so that we can collaborate and innovate and stay relevant in a changing world that’s changing rapidly and where you become irrelevant if you’re not innovating. And I behind that win in the marketplace. So those are the two. Have I compared its win in the workplace, win in the marketplace and. You can’t command and control your way to a great culture. You can’t command and control your way to collaboration. And innovation is not relevant anymore. If, as if ever were, we’ve got to do it through trust and inspire, a new way to lead in this is 


Greg McKeown [00:16:45] a lesson is so valid you cannot achieve the culture and innovation through this old command and control, right like that that you, you can command in your control your way to certain kinds of results. But you can’t create those things if you try to to command and control your way to results, you will inherently get a culture that tilts towards the toxic. And so your innovation that requires this, this safety to people can really be creative and ask questions and challenge the way we did it in the past. And all of that just won’t happen. So I think that’s such a valid, you know, you know, point of view to take on this. Let me ask you, I think. Well, I don’t know if it’s a tricky question or not, but it is. I think it’s an important question if I guess it’s a statement of the question. Do you see command and control and trust in inspire on a continuum? I mean, do you see sort of command controls at one end of the continuum? Trusted Inspire is this sweet spot and that there could also be at the other end of the continuum. You know that there’s somebody could in the name of trust and inspire could go too far somehow. Or they could create a, I don’t know, like a like a priest. I don’t know a fake version of what you’re talking about. Could you go too far? Yeah. First of all, that’s the first question. Do you see it as a continuum? Yes. No. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:18:14] Yes, I do. And I but I want to highlight on this continuum and uniqueness, too. I do think there’s clearly a continuum of command and control. And you know, there’s the old industrial age, what we might call a authoritarian command and control. And there are still some industries and some or some organizations, some leaders that operate, you know, with authoritarian command control, in some cases, almost Neanderthal command and control. But that’s less and less today because that’s less and less sophisticated. Advanced, enlightened, more people have moved up that continuum to where they become more enlightened. They’ve they brought things to such as being trustworthy. They brought things such as strengths and emotional intelligence and and mission and other things. And they’ve become more enlightened in their command and control is just though how they view people, how they view leadership is still limited, is still based upon an inaccurate map, the old way of viewing people and leadership. So I so I think the move from enlightened command and control to try and inspire. While there is some element of a continuum, I think it’s more like crossing the chasm and it’s different. Not in degree, it’s different in kind, it’s different in kind. And it starts with our fundamental beliefs are paradigm of how we view people and how we view leadership. And until you shift the paradigm, you have a hard time truly with integrity shifting the style of leadership. So it’s got to go to the fundamental beliefs, the paradigm of how we view people, how we view leadership. 


Greg McKeown [00:19:57] You contact with integrity outside of the way you see a situation. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:20:03] That’s right. 


Greg McKeown [00:20:03] So you’re saying in order to change your. Behavior as a leader, you’re really going to have to change the assumption. I want to come back to that in a second. Yes. The continuum point is that I was leading towards is really about what’s the phrase? Have you given thought to this what the phrase is command and control, trust and inspire for the kind of leader who isn’t commanding control, but the opposite that under managers? They’re, you know, they’re not commanding and controlling anyone. They’re just absentee managers, those people are also a tremendous problem. And yet the literature doesn’t tend to deal with it as much anyway. I wondered whether you had made any attempt to come up with a phrase for that type of leadership. Yeah. Your thoughts? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:20:54] Yeah. I haven’t posé tried to label and brand it, but it it could be an abdication. It could be a misunderstanding of this idea, too, where people are just moved into a counterfeit version. Maybe it’s a counterfeit version, OK, fashion inspire where they’re not providing real leadership, they’re really advocating. And kind of it’s a laissez-faire push to the nth degree because the danger is the kind of thing that command and control is soft and, you know, just a consensus only. And you know, you talk around about feelings. 


Greg McKeown [00:21:32] All they trust and inspire is soft. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:21:34] You mean they say yes. It doesn’t inspire the danger that people starting to trust and inspire is softer, weak and not it doesn’t have. It doesn’t have standards. The point is you can be authoritative without being authoritarian. So this is not going to abdication. Yeah. And I love that soft, weak leadership, but I structure without vision. Now that’s that’s a counterfeit version of it. That’s not going to be successful. And Inspire is strong. Just like humility is strong. Yes, and courage and trust prior authenticity is strong and as his vulnerability. So it’s not weak. And that and so I would call that a counterfeit version of trust and inspire and not the real deal. 


Greg McKeown [00:22:23] And now let’s just take a moment for an ad break. And now back to our conversation. OK, so I have a phrase for you. I thought about this in preparation for our conversation. Avoid and ignore that you have leaders who avoid conflict and ignore the problems. And that’s like you avoid and ignore leaders. Then you’ve got the command and control on the other end. And now this is this this this third alternative to that. It’s like better, as you said, in kind trust and inspire. What’s your reaction? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:22:53] My reaction is an honest I love it. I love it because it makes the point that the especially the command and control. So that’s I hey, I’m in charge and commanding and controlling and. And so another kind of opposite extreme is avoid and ignore. I’m avoiding the issues, ignoring issues. Bury my head in the sand, hoping they go away, you know, being just abdication approach, avoiding, ignoring. And so in that sense, that positions trust and inspire as the third alternative, as as as a better idea, that’s logically taking this on. And it’s not trying to command and control people, but it’s also not trying to avoid and ignore the realities in the situations. Well, I like I 


Greg McKeown [00:23:43] think it’s it’s a it’s a legitimate problem after I don’t know, let’s say, 30 years of the leadership literature, you know, arguing command and control is outdated, not having, as we said, named its proper replacement. That’s what you’re doing so well with this. But it means that in the end that people sometimes I think they’ve done enlightened, enlightened command and control, as you say. But sometimes I think they really have sort of said, Oh, well, I don’t do command and control. Yeah, they’re not. They’re not leading. We’re not leading. You know, they’re avoiding having the conversation. And as I think myself about my own experiences with leadership, which is a litany of mistakes, you know, all you know, we make mistakes all the time as you try to learn, lead in a business leader, home lead, you know, in conversations with people. One of the primary errors I have noticed is not having raised an issue. You know, it’s just avoiding the conflict. Oh, let’s just not deal with this over here. It’s just too, you know, and so you just you let you know it’s like something pinches, but you don’t want to deal with it. I don’t have to do it and you go on and on and then that can lead to its own kind of toxicity. So we’re we’re you’re being generous in allowing this exploration here, but I think it helps to have that additional language to make the case that you’re making. Let me ask you this. This is a tough one, really, but actually, this is easy. You pose a question from the book to the readers. And I’m going to pose it to you. The question is who trusted and inspired you? And I’m wanting for listeners right now to think for themselves about that question. Who trusted, inspired you? I want everyone listening to come up with a name. You probably already have the name. It probably came quite quickly to its own, its own sort of important message in how quickly it can come. Was it a teacher? Was it? Was it a leader? Was it a family member? Was it friend? Someone who trusted and inspired you? Now over to you, Stephen, who trusted, inspired you 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:25:54] started with my father when our young boy, seven years old. What? I remember that my first remembrance and in the end is the story he wrote about his seven habits green and clean. The story of teaching his son in this case, me how to take care of our lawn, our yard. And it’s really a great illustration of a father believing in a young boy, and he had capabilities even more than he knew that he had. And I didn’t know what I had when I was seven. But my father taught me through this green and clean process to take responsibility and to own things, and I developed my capabilities and my talents and the net effect as he would. He would sometimes tell this story as a way of illustrating what he called a win win performance agreement. But the Greg I was seven years old. I didn’t know what those words meant, but what I knew as a seven-year-old, what I knew as a seven-year-old is simply this. I felt trusted. I felt inspired by that trust, and I was, you know, too young to worry about status and everything else, but I didn’t want to let my dad down. And then it started with that simple idea. I felt it in my home. In my life. I’d had it many, many other people who trusted inspired me, including my first real boss, where, you know, nobody. Nobody wanted me. On a team, I’d been hired, but nobody know that teams wanted me. None of the partners wanted me. Then suddenly one partner comes forward. His name was John Walsh, and he says, I want Steve. I believe in him. At this point, I’d lost confidence in myself. He believed in me, had more confidence in me than I had to myself. And what that did to me, how that inspired me. You know, I didn’t want to prove. I didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to rise to the occasion, perform better. And I did. And I love how you pose the question. I do the same in the book. You know who trust it and inspire you to our readers, because most of us, if not all, have had at least one person, sometimes more than one. If I’m any and all walks of life, someone who believe in you who saw the best in you, who could see something that maybe you didn’t even see in yourself and what that did to you, that was a better way to lead to help you see what they saw and how you became a better version of yourself because of it. And that’s a basic foundational premise. Behind this is the whole idea that people have greatness inside of them. And so my job as a leader is to unleash their potential for greatness, not to try to contain or control them. And that’s a fundamental paradigm of how I see people. 


Greg McKeown [00:28:48] It is profound when you think about someone who trusted and inspired you, that that you that it was noticeable and somehow tangible. But now it leads to a sort of perfect next question, which is how do you communicate that? I don’t just mean generally general principles of how you might do it. What words can you use to express this to someone that you really do trust them and inspire them? How do you communicate that? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:29:27] You say it. You communicate directly. It may look like this saying, Hey, I’m giving you this responsibility. Let me tell you why. Because you can do this and I believe you can do it. And I believe in you, and I believe you had the right gifts and potential. And I’m here to help you develop some skills and talents along the way and bring other people in to help and develop that. But I’m confident you can get there. And I want to help you get there. I see it in you and I believe in you and I’m here to help you succeed. And so it’s words like that. In fact, I’m so oftentimes people feel like, Hey, I extended trust to them. But the person often didn’t feel it, didn’t hear it, you know, believe it. So I think any time you extend trust to someone, it’s vital that tell them, I’m trusting you and I do trust you and I’m extending trust to you. And here’s why I’m doing it. I love Blaise Pascal’s words, he said. I bring you the gift of these four words. I believe in you. That’s just saying, I believe in you. I have confidence in you. You can do this. You can. You can bring the team together. You can lead this project. You’ve got the gifts, you got the talent. You got the skills. I trust you. And now, look, we’re not being pollyannaish about this. We’re trying to really make sure we’re setting people up to win. We wouldn’t just do this generically in every situation. It’s always tied to the job to be done to that, to what you’re addressing them on so that it’s authentic. It’s real. And yeah, but you’ll find the ways to extend trust to people and to tell them that you trust them and why you trust them and why they can succeed in what you’ve just given them. That’s the idea. 


Greg McKeown [00:31:22] I think that idea of I trust you and this is why and being precise in why, you know, that’s what helps keep it from being unhelpful in general or stating what you don’t actually trust them about. You know, you can be precise in what you’re doing, I think is just such a helpful communication tool for being able to communicate what we’re talking about right now. And I just want to make this observation. It seems to me that, well, this is my story. You can correct me. It seems to me that you grew up in a home where there was a lot of affirmation. And I remember that your father said that to me once about his mother. He said it this way. He said something like I could call my mother up right now from anywhere in the world any time, and she would just affirm me and just say, You know, I love you, I believe in you. I think what you’re doing is extraordinary. It matters so much. And I seemed to observe that he did that with you, although I didn’t really observe that. But I have observed you doing it. I’ve seen you doing it with me. I’ve seen you doing it with other people. This seems like a very distinct cultural experience. Am I wrong? Tell me if I’m wrong. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:32:43] No, you’re exactly right. I grew up in a home where my father and mother were very firming, deliberately affirming explicitly, but not refer to it as me. It was if it were just gratuitous and wasn’t tied to something specific or something very, very personal and real. It may not have had the same impact. Instead, it was always though very specific, very intentional around their belief in me and why they believed in that and how they affirm me. And that made it, that made it real, and it made me believe I could see this in myself. They always treated me according to my potential, and that always my behavior. And they saw me what? I often didn’t see him myself, but they helped me come to see it. That’s what real leadership is. 


Greg McKeown [00:33:33] Can you help? Can you help to give us an insight into like, how often was that done? Was that is this, you know, sometimes people can live years and not get any affirmation in their own family culture, so they’re coming into their own. They want to try and create whether in their business team or their family, you know, a more affirming culture. How often did you feel like you got it? Was it was it? Was it every conversation? Is it every day? Is it every week? Give me a sense of the habits or norms around that? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:34:07] Yeah, I would just say this. It was frequent and frequent at sometimes might have been because of the circumstance. Maybe every day in a circumstance where maybe I was really taken on a tough challenge and I was every time I would connect with my parents, I might hear some element of affirmation because they knew what I was trying to do. In other cases, frequent might be once a month that when we connect and got together, they might end our conversation with You can do what you’re what you’re charged to do. You can write this book. You can work on this project. You can learn to present. You can learn to lead this business. And so frequent would vary depending upon the context and the circumstances. But the point was that it wasn’t just haphazard or, you know, just maybe once a lifetime, I felt I felt the affirmation. But again, what made it work was that it was it was real and it was not just gratuitous, and it also was not a design to be just a pump up motivational thing, but rather it was. It was truly around trained. It was trying to help me see what they saw in me. And maybe I didn’t see quite yet. That’s why I say it starts with the paradigm, the fundamental belief of how leaders see people, they see people as having truly a growth mindset that their words are capable of growing, of improving a changing, of getting better. Because if you don’t, if you think people are limited, then it might be enough Ventec to tell people, you can do this, you can become this when I don’t really believe that and that kind of affirmation will come across as disingenuous and really will be seen as manipulation, not affirmation. 


Greg McKeown [00:35:56] And it’s set you up for a problem because you’re saying things that are actually more positive than the way you see them. So it seems to me that lots and lots of us are absolutely starving for the kind of affirmation we’re talking about the specific, you know, direct clear feedback around this area. I was just reading something that that described the difference between receiving feedback, and I think they described it as feedback versus being feed smacked. You know, like sometimes you get feedback that’s so harsh and the you remember it for years, you know, it leaves a scar with you and it’s easy to do that to others when we finally inelegantly get to feedback. But we’re just talking about is its editor, whether the word would be the phrase feedback on one side or the other. I try to name this, but this kind of this kind of affirmation where we’re clear and specific and affirming of that potential within people. I I think there are plenty of people I’m going to advocate that it’s the vast majority of people are starving for that affirmation that they just many, many people never got it growing up. Don’t get it in their daily interactions with people. And it’s like, uh, it’s a need that isn’t being met. Your thoughts? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:37:24] I completely agree, Greg. I think most people desire it. Seek it. I like how you said are starving for it, and it’s truly like giving somebody emotional and psychological air. Two, to share with them that you believe in them and that you see their potential and that you affirm them. And they often don’t get it, they usually don’t get it. They don’t get it from other sources and sort of be that kind of person can be extraordinary. 


Greg McKeown [00:37:59] I love everything you’re saying. I’m reminded of a talk I listened to recently where the speaker was working with development of youth, often in challenging circumstances and somebody from I think I think I may be making this up slightly. But somebody from Harvard was doing a little, you know, research as to their successes and why I was successful in what was happening. And and and they knew what they were being asked about were specific tactics, tools and so on. But what they felt to say was, look, I mean, this was in a sort of a religious context. And they said, they said, look, think of the power of teaching these teens that they are children of God, that they have that kind of limitless potential. What that would do for someone who’s perhaps lived in an inner city area or they just have never been affirmed by such a thought and one can take from that the explicit point they’re making or a metaphorical point of the power of having somebody affirm to you. That you are more than you yet believe you are. I mean, that’s a game-changer. That’s what we’re talking about here. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:39:13] That’s what we’re talking about. It is a game-changer. 


Greg McKeown [00:39:17] I want to do one final thing with you. And actually, I have never done this before this. A lot of people have done them before, but this is rapid-fire round. OK, and what I think is outrageous about this is that none of these questions lend themselves to rapid-fire questions. So I’m going to ask you and I just want you to give it like instant answers, though overthink it. But they’re still supposed to be quite hard questions, so we’ll see how this goes. OK? One. What’s most essential to you? In one word faith. Why is that so important to you in one sentence? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:39:56] Because it is my faith that sustains me and helps me see everything else more clearly. 


Greg McKeown [00:40:07] What have you said yes to that you most regret? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:40:14] Taking on. A lot of different projects at different times that impacted what truly mattered the most to me. My family. My main mission, my purpose. I forget the expression, I know I’m going longer. But you know, the crime that bankrupts people and nations is to deviate from one’s purpose, to serve a job here and there. I have too many times served a job here and there and moved away from my purpose. That’s what I regret. 


Greg McKeown [00:40:53] You know, amen to that. What is something essential that used to be hard for you, that you’ve made effortless? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:41:03] Taking on difficult things, having the difficult conversations. It used to be I’d shy away from them because I didn’t I don’t want to be offensive and I just was worried people might take it wrong or I might lose the relationship that I’ve learned how if I will come in and declare my intent and start with my motive of carrying. And then frame what I’m doing directly, but with love, with caring, with compassion, they’re able to take on tough things and do it in a way that is helpful rather than being hurtful because my intent is to help, not to hurt. So when that’s my motive, that helps me move forward with that type of activity. 


Greg McKeown [00:41:47] What’s something essential to you that you’re underinvesting in? 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:41:51] I right now I am underinvesting in some of the very things we’ve been talking about and that is building relationships one by one and really affirming those I care about and love. I do it, but not enough. I do it, maybe by a factor of five or 10. I do it, but not enough. This maybe goes back to your frequency question, right? And I think I could do a lot more and still be specific. Not gratuitous. Very helpful. Very valuable. And and and so being reminded of the very thing I’m talking about in teaching is something that I want to do more of to really invest in the relationships because with people that is slower and slow as fast. And when I do that, when I invest in that relationship, all kinds of great things follow. It takes longer, but the payoff is enormous. 


Greg McKeown [00:42:50] Final question What could you do in ten minutes like a single microburst to do what you just said? Like what could you do in literally in a ten-minute cycle, you set a timer 10 minutes to make progress on what you just identified. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:43:07] I can identify the four or five most significant important relationships in my life. And write down a plan of what I can do and when I can do it with them, where I might find an opportunity to say, I’m going to invest in this relationship, declare my intent and let them know how I feel about them, our relationship and my belief, my confidence, my trust, my my, my, my, my true belief in them. As a person, as a human being, I want to affirm them. I choose to affirm them. And rather than think about it, why not schedule the time of when I’m going to do this in this next week? 


Greg McKeown [00:43:51] I love it. You’ve inspired me, beautiful 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:43:53] to want to do that. 


Greg McKeown [00:43:54] This is such a good conversation. It has its own sort of beautiful narrative sense to it beyond what we’ve designed to planned. I feel very, very similar as I come away from this with a very specific, you know, person in mind that I want to go and have this conversation with and also do on a more routine basis what a difference it can make. I want to be a trust inspire leader, and I’m sure everybody listening does as well. OK, Stephen, thank you for being on the What’s Essential podcast. 


Stephen M. R. Covey [00:44:29] Thank you, Greg. And I just wanted to say thank you for your help. You help me think through this idea. You help me frame this idea. You help me express this idea. And as a better idea, because you were involved with me. And I thank you for that. You help me catch the vision of we’ve got to name what we’re going toward and not just what we’re moving from. And I’ve become more clear about it because of you. You’ve helped me. You helped me identify what was truly essential about this idea, and I thank you for it and our friendship. It means so much to me. 

Greg McKeown [00:45:03] That means the world to me. I love that for my tiniest contribution, we have come to that time again, the end of the show. If you have found value in this episode, please rate review on Apple Podcasts. The first five people to write a review of this episode will receive a copy of Trust and inspired by the great and venerable Stephen McCovey. Just send a photo of your review to info at Greg McEwan dot com. That’s info at GREGMCKEOWN.com. Remember if you do only one thing from today’s episode? Ask yourself of someone you wish to trust and inspire. And go to them and tell them why you trust them, what potential you see in them, affirm them specifically and just see them later. And if they don’t, just do it a few times, perhaps it needs a little more encouragement. Enjoy today, everyone. Enjoy this week and tune in next week to hear another great guest and episode on the What’s Essential podcast.