Character + Competence

One of the central ideas of Stephen M. L. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust is that to build trust, we must be persons of high character.

But Covey tells us: that’s not enough.

Character is about being virtuous.  It’s about cultivating a moral code which we use to make decisions and live life.  In Ryan Holliday’s excellent book Stillness is the Way, he writes the Stoics believed that virtue was the highest good and included character traits like being upright, modest, straight-forward, cooperative as well as honest, calm, firm, generous, forgiving, and righteous.  

All of this makes sense.  To be trustworthy we must be virtuous. But that’s just step one.

We also must demonstrate competence – our ability to get stuff  done.  Competence includes our gifts, our skills, our results, and most importantly, our track record.  It’s about our ability to make  things happen. 

The big lesson for today is: character by itself isn’t enough to build trust.  
Consider: do we trust someone who time and again forgets to follow through? 

They may be honest and/ or have the very best of intentions.  But, we quickly learn to distrust them if they don’t make good on their commitments.  

And, of course, the reverse is also true: someone can have a great track record of getting results but we won’t trust them if they are dishonest or selfish.    

Reflection: Which area – character or competence – should we focus on to increase our trustworthiness? 

Action: Is there a specific action we might take today to increase our trustworthiness?

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