The Speed of Trust: Chapter 2

There were two points in the second chapter of The Speed of Trust that had an impact on me.

Stewardship and Accountability

I learned in this chapter that the Stephen Covey who wrote this book is the son of the Stephen Covey who wrote the popular Seven Habits book. In Seven Habits, the father tells the story of teaching his son to take care of his yard. In The Speed of Trust we get to hear that very son tell his side of the story. I enjoyed seeing this story from those different perspectives. The son’s main point was that when his father entrusted the keeping of the yard to him, that trust inspired him to become trustworthy. The main aspects of this story that I found instructive were:

  • Clear stewardship. The father said the grass was to be kept “green and clean.” He showed in detail by example what both of those words meant.
  • Defined accountability. The father explained that once a week they would walk through the yard together to see how well the son was keeping the yard green and clean.
  • Autonomy of the “steward.” The father explained that the son was to use his own plan, his own timeline, his own resources, his own ideas to carry out his stewardship. The father didn’t give him detailed instructions, and wasn’t going to be reminding him and driving him to get the work done.
  • Sufficient equipping. The father said he would be willing to help if the son needed it. It was clear that the son would need to ask for it, but all the resources of the father would be available to the son to be successful in his stewardship.
  • Allowing failure. Things didn’t go perfectly right away; the son neglected his duties for a while. Yet the father honored the son’s autonomy by not nagging on him to get to work. The time of reckoning came, of course, at the agreed upon appointment when the accounting came. There were tears at this accounting, but the agreement continued, and the father dealt with things in a way that lead to the son learning how to keep the yard green and clean.
  • Trust created trustworthiness. In this book, Covey’s primary emphasis was that when you entrust something to someone, just the very act of entrusting someone with the responsibility can inspire them to become more trustworthy. (Of course one can take this to naïve and foolish extremes.)

The story in the book that illustrates these things adds a lot of meaning to these points. I am going to try to put this into practice with my kids and their chores and schoolwork. At this point we are homeschooling our kids, and a few of them wear their mother out because she has to keep riding them to keep on their work. I think a system like this may help – to tell them, “It’s no longer your mother’s job to make sure you get your work done. It’s your job. And every other evening you have an appointment with me, where you will give an account of where your schoolwork and chores are at.”

Trust = Character + Competence

It seems very true to me. When we trust someone in a particular circumstance, we have to trust both their character and their competence. Other ways to describes these are integrity and intelligence; personal trust and expertise trust; heart and head.

Consider that a person can be a wonderfully nice and honest person who never breaks the most minute law, always holds doors for ladies and helps the elderly. But if that person is not a very good carpenter, you’re not going to trust him to build the shed in your back yard. For specific circumstances, character is not enough; competence is necessary.

The reverse is certainly true: you can have the most proficient carpenter in the world, but if he’s a liar and a cheat and has a dangerous temper, you’re not going to want to work with him, either.

I found the examination of the two facets of trust to be very clarifying to my own thinking.

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  • Mark Hathaway

    Great post. I want to underscore the importance of clearly communicating expectations (even ones that seem obvious). Our two daughters are homeschooled and I did the same thing with them a while back. It was unfair for the girls to make their mother responsible for making sure assignments were completed daily. So I told the girls “your mom is not going to harp on you to complete your assignments – you know what they are, get them done.” I then told them that I would ask them daily what they got done, which seemed to be working fine until I realized that one of them seldom mentioned math. I asked about it one day and was surprised to find that my daughter had fallen a couple of months behind in math (not her favorite subject). So I gave better definition to my expectations. “I expect you will complete a reasonable amount of work in each of your subjects every day, if you need help you ask. I also expect you will catch up on your math assignments.” nWithout me telling her to she sat down and figured out how many math assignment she would have to complete each day to get caught up. Now I find that I don’t have to ask them every day. Some days they volunteer the report. They’ll say, “Dad guess how much I got done today.” Sometimes they’ll tell me, “Dad I didn’t get my assignments completed today. I’ll work on it tonight, and do extra work tomorrow.nItu2019s funny, but they are happier, and my wife is happier, which means Iu2019m happier.n

    • Jason Pettys

      That’s great stuff, Mark – it’s great to hear from you. Your comment here came at a great time. We’ve been trying this for about a week and a half here, and it’s not been the easiest transition in the world. So hearing about your success here has been an encouragement to keep after it. Thanks!

  • Katie Banley

    I was thinking about your blog today while trying to complete a task. I have a very small retirement account associated with my old workplace. It is small, because we both know I didn’t work there for very long. I was trying to get that money converted to the account I now have with my current workplace.nn But first, I needed to change my address with the retirement account so they can send me a certain form for transfer. nnIn order to do that, I needed to change my address with my old workplace so they could communicate it to the retirement facility directly (me telling them holds no water).nnIn order to do that, I need to have a form mailed to my new address. nnAll of this means that it will take several days just to have a little blip (my current address) on someone’s computer screen long enough for me to take it off of their list of current account holders. nnChanging my name might’ve been easier. nnI like your blog. I don’t understand most of it, but it’s still kinda fun to read. Every profession (and entity, really, as you think of how experience shapes the meaning of words to individuals) has its own language.

    • Jason Pettys

      Ugh! That’s crazy. The kicker is where you needed to give them your new address so that could mail a form so you could tell them what your new address is. Awesome.

  • Carol Kartsonis

    i am very interested in this concept. Love the Covey for myself and have done for years, but am facing big challenges with the teenager in a highly advanced public high school. Please keep posting – the actual practice of family leadership is not covered well in literature or on the net. nnNagging is not effective at all. And logical arguments aren’t helping either. He understands it all intellectually (I think) but does not seem to understand or buy into the underlying principles.

    • Jason Pettys

      Great comment, Carol. I’ve been trying the stewardship/accountability for three weeks now with my oldest four kids, ages 8 through 12. Two of them are doing great, one is hit & miss, and one is really struggling. There is definitely a tendency to nag or logically convince, but I think you’re right that there’s a difference between head knowledge and real “buy-in” from the heart. Trying to lead them to a point where each will choose for him or herself is really challenging.nnIt’s definitely a journey of trial and error and learning! I’m due for a follow-up post on this topic soon.