The Speed of Trusting Your Audience

October 11, 2006

We’ve been going to a lot of speeches lately and it’s been a real pain. Oh, the speakers are compelling, their messages riveting and their delivery as smooth as a baby’s skin. But they are hitting us where it hurts – and they’re doing it on purpose. Speakers these days are being taught by sales and marketing experts to “find the pain” and hit their audience where it hurts the most. So, yesterday, when we attended Stephen MR Covey’s workshop on The Speed of Trust we felt a welcome and refreshing gust of fresh air. This guy trusts his audience.

The Speed of Trust is Stephen MR Covey’s new book about the power of increasing trust in your team, your organization and your own personal development. Yesterday, he taught us some of the basics of his approach in a 3-hour workshop at the Littleton Marriot. And, you know what? He didn’t try to scare the pants off of us.

It’s important to know that he and his organization were indeed “selling” to this audience of business decision makers. Selling, after all, is not a dirty word. Mr. Covey is traveling around the U.S. to promote his new book, which will be released in just a few days. So, he is certainly promoting the sale of his new book.

He was also selling his consulting services. The CoveyLink training and consulting services probably cost big bucks. I didn’t see a rate sheet, but trust me. The mailing list that put the fannies in the seats for this event has to be quite sophisticated. His next stop on the tour was the Vail Leadership Institute. So, I’m not saying this was not a sales event. It clearly was.

But, for three hours yesterday, Stephen Covey did not “sell” or scare us. He just taught us. No, I’m not kidding, he spent three hours teaching. And, the most refreshing thing is that his positive approach seemed to be working – and the audience seemed ready to buy.

I won’t even try to summarize his bravura and thought provoking performance. You certainly know that trust is missing in the world today because you read the papers. It is likely missing in your place of work. It may even be missing in your family and personal relationships. We’ve got a worldwide trust deficit that makes our National Debt look like small change – and that’s saying something.

The audience yesterday often spoke (in breakouts and in the general session) of the lack of trust they see in their own employees, their peers and their supervisors. If Mr. Covey had wanted to, he could have just turned on the “pain machine.” He could have “customized his message based on the audience’s pain points,” as one marketing guru suggests. But, he didn’t.

CoveyLink is a high level company with sophisticated resources. Yesterday, Stephen showed us an inventive (and probably expensive) CoveyLink advertisement for his new book and consulting services. And, admittedly that ad did hit the pain points almost exclusively. But, his own speech did not.

I have no idea if what I’m going to write next is true or not. But, here’s my hunch. I’ll bet that he got advice from his own pain merchants to turn up the heat on his audience, and I’ll bet he resisted. I think Stephen MR Covey has made a conscious decision to take a positive approach to selling. Again, this is just my hunch.

There is something about the heft and stature of this man’s personal demeanor that makes me think at some point he may have told his advisors, “I’m going to teach people how to do a better job of creating trust. I’m going to teach them how important it can be to their company culture and to their bottom line. Then, I’m going to tell them that there is much more we can teach them. And, I’m going to do it that way because I trust my audience. I trust them to see the value of our services without callously manipulating their pain points.

The teacher I saw yesterday was confident and assured that his message is needed by his audience. I think he likes teaching and I think he likes making a difference in people’s lives. I think he may just have told his marketing advisors and handlers to go jump in the lake. And, I think he’s doing it his way.

As Dennis Miller says, “That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”



  1. I completely agree with your comments. I spent two hours with Mr. Covey on Monday the 10th in Loveland and felt energized and refreshed when I left. I had a pocket full of ideas and did not feel “sold”. It was your teaser about the way you were treated when you asked for press credentials to attend the Denver event that got me off the fence and sent me to the Loveland speach. Your opinion was and is “right on”.

  2. Covey’s approach to trust-based selling is supported by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford, who say “never sell”. According to Maister as soon as you start to sell you begin to focus on your own self-interests before those of your customer.

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