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Dec. 15, 2022

220 [BEST OF] How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others with Stephen M. R. Covey | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

220 [BEST OF] How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others with Stephen M. R. Covey | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Stephen M.R. Covey. Stephen M.R. Covey is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of The Speed Of Trust,  former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, and author of Trust And Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. Stephen shares why many leaders are still operating with a command and control mindset and the need to develop the mindset and capabilities of becoming trusting and inspiring leaders. Stephen M.R. Covey shares stories and frameworks on how we can better understand trust in leadership and how trust and inspire leaders can unleash the potential of their teams and organizations.   


Some highlights:

-Stephen M.R. Covey on the crucial role that parents play in teaching responsibility, commitment, and initiative and how his father, Stephen Covey, applied trust and inspire principles in his parenting

-On why traditional leadership models do not work with the changing world and in the new work environment

-Stephen M.R. Covey on the stewardships of leadership

-How leaders can lead behavior change in their organizations 

-Stephen M.R. Covey on the role trust plays in leadership and how leaders can become more trusting 

-The power of inspiring others and its impact on leadership

-What it takes to become a trust inspire leader



- Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

- David Marquet (Listen to David Marquet episode on Partnering Leadership)

- Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, author of Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader's Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You

- Jim Collins,author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't 


Connect with Stephen M.R. Covey:

Trust and Inspire

Trust and Inspire on Amazon

Speed of Trust 

The Speed of Trust on Amazon

Stephen M.R. Covey on Facebook

Stephen M.R. Covey on Twitter

Stephen M.R. Covey on LinkedIn

 Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:




More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 


Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

Mahan Tavakoli Website

Mahan Tavakoli on LinkedIn

Partnering Leadership Website


[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Stephen M. R. Covey. Stephen M. R. Covey is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal number one bestselling author of The Speed Of Trust. He is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, and the author of the new book Trust And Inspire: How truly great leaders unleash greatness in others.

I really enjoyed this conversation first and foremost, because Stephen has shown through his own leadership that trust can play a pivotal role in leading an organization to superior performance most, especially though his humility with which he shares so many stories of incredible leaders, focusing on what they have done to build trust and inspire their teams.

As Stephen says, in the conversation and in the book, while in many instances, some of our language has changed, we are still operating primarily in a command and control structure in most of our organizations. And that's not the way to lead organizations forward. So Stephen shares examples and frameworks on how we can become trust and inspire leaders.

I really enjoyed the conversation and I am sure you will too. And keep your comments coming. I enjoy reading those mahan@mahantavakoli.com, there's a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. Really enjoyed those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast. Tuesday conversations with magnificent change-makers from the Greater Washington, D C DMV region and Thursday conversations with brilliant global thought leaders like Stephen.

Now here's my conversation with Stephen, M. R. Covey. 

[00:02:14] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen, M. R. Covey, welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

[00:02:19] Stephen Covey: Well, thank you Mahan and I'm also delighted to connect with you for partnering leadership. So what a treat. Thank you. 

[00:02:27] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen, it is a treat and I can't wait to talk about Trust And Inspire: How truly great leaders unleash greatness in others. Having read your book Speed of Trust in 2006, Smart Trust in 2012, you own trust and trust is a critical part of leadership. But before we get to that would love to know about your upbringing as the son of a person that became transformative to personal and organizational development.

What was your upbringing like stephen?

[00:03:01] Stephen Covey: It was amazing. I feel very fortunate, very blessed to have had a great father and a great mother and they were a wonderful team together too. And my father is Dr. Stephen R. Covey, who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And my mother, while she was not as prominently known as him was every much his equal, every bit.

And she was extraordinary lady and person. And I will say this, that I like to joke around that as kids, cause there was nine of us Mahan, so we had a big family, the nine of us, we were the first guinea pigs for my father's idea. He'd first test them out on us and then they dry them out in the marketplace.

And not really in that sense , but yes, in the sense that he was teaching these principles in the home, as well as with organizations and because they're principles, they apply everywhere. And so what a great honor that was. And maybe the one little story I'll give a condensed version of it that I'll share was , and I mentioned this in this Trust and Inspire book is, the story my father tells him in seven habits called green and clean, where he's trying to teach his young son how to take care of the lawn, the yard. This is in the days before automatic sprinklers. So it was a big deal to do it. And Mahan I'm that green and clean kid. 

I was only seven years old, so you can't expect too much of a seven-year-old right. But a long story made short is my father was trying to teach the kids responsibility, stewardship, commitment, initiative. So we all took on jobs and my job was to take care of the lawn. We had a huge lawn, a lot of grass and he said, look, I only care about two things. I want the lawn to be green, and I want it want it to be clean. And he taught me what green looked like, and taught me how to get it green, how you had to water it and turn the sprinklers on.

And he goes, but how you do it is up to you. He delegated the result, not the method. He said, if you want, you can turn the sprinklers on. That's what I would do, but you could use hoses or buckets or spit all day long, as long as it's green and clean. And then he taught me what clean looked like. And we cleaned up part of the yard and compared. Again, this sounds so elementary, but I was seven years old. So he needed to kind of train me. 

So he clarified expectations, but then we agreed to a process of accountability of where I would judge myself. I would evaluate myself against the standard of green and clean.

And the agreement was that we'd walk around the yard once a week, and I would judge myself and tell him how I'm doing. So that was kind of it. Two weeks of training, he turns it over to me in the middle of the summer, after all this training and Mahan, I did nothing. Nothing on Saturday, nothing Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, we're into Wednesday, it's been five days.

It's the middle of the summer scorching hot, the lawn is turning yellow by the day. We had a big neighborhood barbecue over the weekend and there's garbage strung throughout the entire yard. It was anything but green and clean. And my dad later said that he was just this closest just about to go back and just take over the job or micromanage me, have her over and just tell me what to do, but he didn't.

And he stayed with it. And he said he went to the agreement that we would walk the yard once a week. And I would tell him how we're doing. I would judge myself against the standard of green and clean. So we began to walk the yard and I could see this is not green and it's not clean. In fact, it's yellow and it's messy.

And I began to break down and cry. And I said, dad, this is just so hard. And he kind of said, well, what's hard and you haven't done one single thing yet. But what was hard was me learning to take responsibility, to take initiative, to own this. And I said, well, will you help me, dad? He said what was our agreement?

I said, well, you told me that you'd help me if you have time. That's right. Did you have time dad? I've got time. So I ran into the house. I came out with two garbage sacks. I took one of them. I gave him one of them and then I started to direct him. I said, dad, will you go over and pick up that garbage over there on the side, because that makes me want to vomit.

He says, look, I'm your helper. I'll do whatever you want me to do. It was at that moment Mahan, I realized, look at this, this is my job. And I'm directing my dad. He's my helper. He's doing what I'm asking him to do to help go pick up this garbage. It was at that moment. I realized, this is my job. I own this.

And I took responsibility from that day forward. And the lawn, it was green and it was clean. The whole rest of the summer and many summers beyond that. Now what's interesting is, my father for years would use this to illustrate the idea of a win, win performance agreement, but I was a seven year old boy and I didn't know what those terms meant, but here's what I did know.

As a seven year old, it was very simple. I felt trusted. 

I felt my father trusted me and I didn't want to let him down. And I rose from the occasion. I performed, I did the job. And so , for my father, he got the result, but he grew the child. And growing the child actually mattered more to him than even the results.

And it was just amazing, I tell you this story because it really was my firsthand experience with a trust and inspire leader. Someone who trusted me, inspired me, brought out the best in me, helped me develop my talent, my my potential, and helped me see it myself. I didn't know I had this in me. He helped me come to see it. And I really was my first experience with trust and inspire. He was a trust inspire parents, as well as a trust inspire thought leader and leader. And that was my experience, my story, and that helped shape how I viewed life and how I viewed this book, that this is the kind of leadership we need today, trust and inspire. Like my father was with me.

We all respond to that kind of leadership and it would have been really easy to kind of go into command and control, but he just stayed with it's in you that stay with the agreement. And it came out of me and he got the result and he raised the child. 

[00:09:33] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen. I love this story and we could spend hours just talking about this story, because even though you were a seven-year-old child, this can be very instructive for leaders with respect to whether it's communicating and outcome. I'm a big fan of objectives and key results, John Doerr popularized them, and a lot of leaders don't communicate the outcomes clearly, and then support their team members to get there, or the willingness to allow people to make mistakes and be there for them. 

So there is so much in terms of leadership that just can come from this story beyond the trust factor. It's the relationship that is established there, and it's not just a seven year old child. If leaders reflect just on this story and see how they can create more of an environment similar to this in their teams, they will be much better off as a result of it.

[00:10:35] Stephen Covey: I love that you said that because I agree completely. That's why I put it in the book. It is not just a parent-child, this is an approach to leadership that's really profound and effective. And it has all the things you've talked about, the importance of delegating outcomes, results, not dictating methods, because the moment we dictate methods, then we become responsible for results, not the person, but when we delegate the outcomes, the results they become responsible.

And then, like you say, you give people the chance to learn, to fail, to try their own thing. And the others are risking doing it, but there's also maybe a greater return. Maybe they do it better than you ever could have. And maybe they grow and develop capabilities along the way. And also the importance of a relationship and how that changes everything.

Also the importance of an agreement with expectations and accountability. And the whole point is. Hey at this kind of approach could work with a seven-year-old, maybe it can work with a 27 year old, or a 47 year old, or a 67 year old, cause there's an approach to leadership that is highly relevant for our times.

So it's not just as simple, a parent-child task. It's really an approach to leadership that is maybe more relevant than ever before today. 

[00:12:00] Mahan Tavakoli: It is a great approach to leadership. And I love the quote you have early on in your book from Eleanor Roosevelt, "a good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader, inspires people to have confidence in themselves." So this was your dad's way of also building confidence in you and the mindset that leaders need to have in guiding their teams.

But before we go on further, I also want to acknowledge the fact that you mentioned you have dedicated the book, both your dad and your mom, and the significant role your mom played, including how the last 12 years of her life. Having been wheelchair bound after a surgery went bad. She continued to serve as an inspiration to you too.

So how did your mom impact your view on leadership and trusting relationships Stephen?

[00:12:57] Stephen Covey: Profoundly equal to my father and she was one who was always fiercely loyal to her children. But more than anything she made you feel like you could do this, she made you feel like a million bucks and gave you a sense of confidence, but also she affirmed so well and helps you believe that you could do anything.

And so she saw your potential. And she communicated your potential, such that you could see it yourself. I mean, she saw it in me and helped me see it in myself. And then she gave me the confidence that I could do this to take some risks and that it was okay if I made some mistakes because I could do this.

 And to have someone in your corner, there was your advocate, your champion. It was extraordinary, but then also, she herself was such a model. She was resilient. And it's one thing to, talk about these principles when everything is going great. Then my mother's greatest moments were after the surgery went awry and now she's in a wheelchair and she thought she would get out of the wheelchair, but she didn't.

And the last 12 years of her life in this wheelchair, and it didn't change her at all. She remained the most enthusiastic, positive, upbeat person. She didn't slow down. She got one of these Jazziz and she just drove it around everywhere. She'd run people over accidentally sometimes. You had to watch your feet. And we actually had a elevator in my home that we put in, cause we were building the home we put in so that my mom could go up and down to where we would have different activities.

And to this day there's all these on the walls of the elevator. There are markings. There's marks, everywhere, scuff marks of how she rammed the wheelchair into the elevator. And I love it today because she passed away two years ago, and I see these marks and I reminded of my mom and how nothing slowed her down, nothing stopped her. She would do things, she would go to movies, she'd go to lunches and dinners, and events and activities. And it was discouraging at first, but then she just adapted to it and just said, I'm going to continue to live my life. So she's a great example of really, of what my dad taught of proactivity of choosing your response, even when it's a difficult circumstance.

And I'm a product equally of my mother and father not just biologically, but in terms of the lessons, the leadership, the insights I've gained from them, both.

[00:15:42] Mahan Tavakoli: You had all of these leadership lessons growing up, ended up going to Harvard Business School. Why did you decide to join your dad? And just as a reference point, this is before or right around the time Seven Habits was going to come out. So it's not as if your dad was running this big company that you decided out of Harvard Business School, I want to go work with my dad.

[00:16:08] Stephen Covey: Yeah. Now the Seven Habits had not come out yet. It was going to come out in about six months. But Mahan, I knew that it was going to come out and I knew the seven habits was going to resonate with people. The reason I say that is because we'd actually, my dad.

had been working on it and teaching it for about 10 years before the book came out. The book was kind of the last thing and as long as backwards today, people usually lead with their book and then everything else follows, but it was almost the other way around and I'd seen how people responded to it. And so I really was very confident that this book is going to connect. It's going to resonate with people, is going to work. And I thought that was going to be an exciting ride. 

But I had other opportunities, I had an opportunity on wall street. That's pretty exciting. It's heady staff and I had a real estate development company, Trammell Crow company, great organization that I done work with them.

I was employed by them before business school. They wanted me back and that was exciting. But I'll never forget, there's three opportunities and it kind of came down between the Trammell Crow, real estate development, and my father's company Cavaliers hip center, which was really a small company I think maybe there was two dozen people.

I remember my father asking me because he knew me really well and he knew what excited me and what a sense of purpose I had in my life. He said, well, as you consider this choice, because I just want you to ask you this question, do you want to build buildings or do you want to build people? And for me it was building people. Cause he kinda knew that. Now look, I'm not against building buildings. That could be someone else's purpose and you can do that really well. And in the process also build people. So that was a good thing too. But for me, my why, my purpose was more tied to building people as my first and primary focus.

And he kind of knew that and kind of framing it that way, it became clear, but I'm going to take this leap because it was more of a leap. The Trammell Crow is very established and strong, and this was more of a leap who knows what happens here. And, but I thought it would also be fun and exciting. And it clearly tapped into my sense of mission and purpose and contribution. So I jumped at that and sure enough, the Seven Habits have the impact that I thought it would. And I really impacted people. And I was involved in kind of building that business, growing the business became the CEO help figure out a business model so that we could do things and succeed. And we are so mission-driven Mahan, as you might imagine, how this is and with some of your prior work, we were so mission driven around this idea of principle-centered leadership and the impact of the Seven Habits could have that we try to do everything all at once. We tried to do this in communities, in schools and in every personally, organizationally.

And there's nothing wrong with that idea except for you can't do everything at once when you're just trying to establish yourself as a business. And so we're running out of cash or our margins were low. And so we had to kind of adapt the mantra. If there's no margin, there's no mission, no margin, no mission.

And that helped us kind of take a business approach to this. But the idea that if we can run this like a business, then we can really have a powerful and expansive mission, but if we don't run this like a business, then we won't have the means to fulfill our mission, but we have to kind of discipline ourselves back to Jim Collins idea.

This was before Jim wrote good to great, but the idea of discipline thinking, we had to have a margin to have a mission. And that was my contribution. I feel they help build a business model and figure out how to do that so that we could then impact people all around the world, which we ultimately did. 

[00:20:13] Mahan Tavakoli: That is really important, Stephen, whether it is into people development business that as you mentioned, I have a lot of experience in, a lot of times, people are so passionate about people development, that they forget that if they don't have a margin and they don't maintain the business, they're not going to be around to develop the people. Or many of the nonprofits I've been involved with while they are not in a business of making a profit, they are so purpose-driven that they forget that they need to make the finances work to achieve that purpose. 

So the business side is really important. And you were able to take over, grow the Covey Leadership Center, at a certain point though, you decided to merge with Franklin Quest and that caused some difficulties. 

Mergers are really difficult anyway, taking two cultures, bringing them together, but you were an organization promoting good leadership principles. Now you had brought the Franklin Quest people together, with the Covey folks. How did that work out for you, Stephen?

[00:21:21] Stephen Covey: Well, it worked out great. But initially it was really difficult, to be open about it. Not because they weren't two great companies, they were both, maybe it's because both companies were so strong and good and they had their own methodologies, own approaches, and merging content companies, leadership companies, cause Franklin Quest was doing the time management, but they had a leadership approach to time management, we were doing leadership development. 

So we came at it from different angles, different approaches but people built pretty dogmatic about their approach. And so that was the challenge. We had great people from both organizations, great values and great approaches just night and day different starting points of almost every aspect of it, of how to build the business, how to run it, the compensation, the whole of philosophies, and yet the same direction of where we tried to go. And so it was just difficult initially, and we struggled and it kind of was divided into camps, the Covey camp, the Franklin camp, kind of a, we-they, and that often happens in mergers, like you said.

And I like to say that, trust is usually the first casualty of most mergers and that happened here and it was just kind of divided down party lines if you will, by company lines. And then we had to what happened is we just had to consciously say, let's apply our own principles to ourselves, it's human nature that we have two different groups and we kind of tend to trust those who were like but we need to extend trust to each other. We need to build this trust intentionally. We've really done nothing to lose the trust but because we had been archs competitors, we had to overcome the inherent kind of distress that had been built in.

So once we became aware of this, that the need to build trust on purpose, then that is when everything began to change and we really behaved our way into greater trust and we built it with each other. And then it went from a Covey side to a Franklin side, to a Franklin Covey side where we were winning the same and that changed everything.

And so we've had , a great ride, but the first couple of years it was difficult. But I'll tell you what, for me personally, this was a crucible because I was at the epicenter of this. I literally had half the people that trusted me and half that didn't. And yet I always felt like this is my strength trust, but now half the people don't trust me.

And I had to kind of learn how to build and in some cases rebuild the trust. It is not that I done things to lose it, but it wasn't there. But because of that, I became clear, I found my purpose. I found my voice emerging out of this crucible. I've seen how we had low trust, but we went from low trust to high trust and how everything changed every dimension and aspect of the business, the economics of the business changed, but also the energy, the joy, the culture, the wellness, the wellbeing changed.

And I came out of that saying, well, trust changes everything both financially, but also from a leadership perspective. And also that trust is moveable is learnable. You can build it on purpose. And I said, look, a lot of stuff has been out there on trust, but it's usually too simplistic on one end, kinda like trust everyone, kind of a Pollyannaish, or too academic, not practical enough. And I felt like there's an opportunity to make a compelling case for why trust matters and how to build it. And from that came the speed of trust. And the speed of trust was far better because I'd been on both sides of the equation. Yes, I'd built high trust at Covey leadership center, but I'd also had distrust, and I'd been where people didn't trust me and I had to learn how to take that and convert it into a high trust and build high trust when people didn't trust me. And had I not had that experience, I wouldn't have been as relatable, I wouldn't have been as empathic, and I wouldn't have been as, hopefully as had the connections that we ended up having.

And so it turned into a huge blessing in disguise for me personally, but also for our company. We went to a different level because we appreciated it more, having had to fight for it And earn it together.

[00:26:08] Mahan Tavakoli: To me Stephen, that adds a lot of credibility to your content and writing, but trust in that on one end, there need to be frameworks of how people can have greater trust in their teams, organizations, some thought leadership, however, that in your case is married with a painful experience of trying to bring two groups together because the reality of leading is oftentimes very different than the hypothetical principles that's on those people write about.

So from my perspective, that adds a lot more credibility to the fact that you've been through the crucible and you've had to do this yourself, having Covey in your last name, having to bring along the Franklin Quest people to no longer say, Hey, we are a different party. You are not one of us.

[00:27:05] Stephen Covey: You're right. , this is an approach that's forged from practice, not just from theory, because sometimes the theory doesn't hold up in the real life application and having to kind of pay the price and earn it and re-earn, it was very significant. And also I'll say this here's one last piece I'll add, I chose and I've chosen to be open and vulnerable on this. And in my book, the speed of trust, I lead off with this story and I had some people push back and say, whoa, wait a minute, Stephen, if you're going to be seen as an expert on trust to start off your book, talking about how half the people didn't trust you, that's not a good way to start off.

And I said, but it's real. It's authentic and I'm going to look, I do come out in a good place. I just didn't start in a good place. And I had to learn this. I had to go through these lessons and the reality is half the people didn't trust me. And I had to learn to gain their trust. And I'd rather tell the story openly and honestly, and be vulnerable about it because I think people will relate to that.

And also I think in the long run, it will actually make me more credible because I'm a human being. I'm a, I'm authentic and I'm not trying to act like I've never had any trust issues. And so I chose to put it in, against some advice of people that said don't do that. And most people have told me that I had them at the story that my inclusion of that story showing authenticity and vulnerability, even me not looking so good.

Help build my own trust with them with them as a reader, because I wasn't trying to put on errors or put on a friend and be something that there was not. So I learned a lot from that, including around authenticity, around vulnerability, and also that this is always a journey. Trust is always a journey and that brings me to where I'm at now with this trust and inspire, it's kind of now trying to apply this, at the leadership level and that into it, the inspiration that is so needed in our world today. 

[00:29:17] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen, I'm glad you included and shared that story. And to your point, it's that level of vulnerability and what you say into me see intimacy that is essential for leaders to be able to create that trust and inspire people. 

Now, in your trust and inspire book, you mention that the world has changed and some major ways where our world has changed, our world of work has changed. Our workplaces have changed, but our leadership styles, haven't why hasn't leadership changed along with it?

[00:29:56] Stephen Covey: It's changed a little, but just not enough, and we've given a lot of lip service to where we need to go, but we're still not there in practice. And I think it's because we're so immersed in this old model and I called the old model command and control, but it's kind of the traditional, leadership model management model and what's happened is we've become better at it.

More advanced, more sophisticated. So I call it, we moved from an authoritarian, command and control, to an enlightened command and control, and it is better. And we brought things into it, including trustworthiness, which is a good thing, but different than trusting. And we brought into it, things like emotional intelligence and strengths and even mission, a lot of good things.

But our paradigm of how we view people and how we view leadership is still somewhat limited in the old model, constrained by more of a traditional model that is a relic of the industrial age. So we just haven't quite kept pace with this changing world, with our leadership style. And I think it's because we're so immersed in the old model, I think today our leadership style is like modern day bloodletting. And the premise is, you study the history of bloodletting. It started with the Egyptian some 3000 years ago, but it persisted for almost 3000 years and was, , effectively disproven in the 16 hundreds with other, with germ theory and other things that says, no, this is a bad way of healing.

And yet the practice persisted for another 250 plus years, even though it was kind of proven not to work, we knew better, but we kept doing it. I think as some of the things happen today, we kind of know command and control doesn't work. And yet it still remains a prevailing practice in most organizations and most industries with some exceptions.

And so I see it as kind of the ideas that old paradigms can live on indefinitely and even beyond their usefulness. And I think that we still have the old model of, command and control leadership still living on. I think another reality is that. Is the idea that fish discover water last and we're so immersed in, in a command and control world, it's in our language. I mean, we think about it span of control, chain of command subordinates recruitment rank and file. These are all military terms from the old model of industrial age. And it's just, it's in our systems and our stretchers, we have performance rankings and you got to rate people high-potentials and therefore those that aren't and it's in systems and structures and language and processes.

And we're like fish that discover water last, we're just immersed in it. We're not even fully aware of how much has dominating our thinking. And then also finally, just this idea that to know, and not to do is not to know. So we kind of, it's one thing to say, yes, we need to shift our leadership style.

And most everyone would agree, but it's another thing to actually do it. And because if we're not doing it, then we don't really know it because I make the argument kind of that you're bringing up, that "don't, we already know this?" And the answer is, yes, we do, but we're not doing it. We're not practicing. 

90% of organizations today are still in operating in some level of command and control. It's usually a more enlightened version of it, but it's still their prevailing norm. So we've got to catch our leadership up to this new world of work, and I'm calling it trust and inspire and contrast to command and control and so we're clear what we needed to move from.

We've got to become more clear what we need to move toward trust and inspire. My father was a trusted, inspired leader. My mother we've all had trusted inspire leaders. I bet our listeners have had people in your life as a listener, someone who believed in you, who had confidence in you, maybe they believe in you more than you believe in yourself, and they extended trust you, they inspired you. I just would ask our listeners when you had something like that, maybe as a parent or a family member or a friend or a coach or someone at work. So I'm going to believe in you, had confidence in you help you come to believe in yourself. Now, what did that do to you? And how did you respond to that?

Did you need to be managed and supervised or did it literally unleash you and bring out the best in you and you rose, the occasion, you tried to live up to it and return the trust that you were given, and it became your best self, I guess, as the latter, not the former. And so we all kind of know it, we've all had it.

And so isn't that what we want? And that certainly is what others want. What if we could become that kind of person for others? That's the idea of trust and inspire? We all know this. It's just a matter of helping us get there. 

[00:35:06] Mahan Tavakoli: Yeah, I get inspired thinking about the leader I had Stephen that made me feel that way. And I'm sure to same as the case with all the listeners. The challenge is for all of us both to acknowledge that and then to do the kinds of things it takes for us to be trust and inspire leaders. One of the things you mentioned is the fundamental beliefs we have make a big difference.

And the first one, is I believe people have greatness in them. How best can we assess and approach our fundamental beliefs? Because without changing those beliefs, we are not effectively going to change our approach. 

[00:35:53] Stephen Covey: Absolutely. It starts with those beliefs because those beliefs collectively comprise a mindset, a paradigm, right. And the fastest way to change behavior is to change your paradigm. Change how you see the world, your mental map, your model. And so for operating with that limited paradigm about how we see people or leadership, that it's hard to then have integrity and act outside of that paradigm.

And so it's hard to change the behavior if we see people as, yeah, some people have greatness, but most don't, some do our high-potentials do, but most people don't, and it's hard to truly focus on unleashing people when you don't see that the greatness in people. But when you start with the paradigm of the fundamental belief, I believe that people have greatness inside of them, not just the high-potentials, but everyone.

Everyone is potentially a high-potential. I see that greatness. I see that the power is in the people and it's like a gardener. I love that metaphor of a garden that you're a gardener as a leader, you're creating the conditions for the seed to flourish and the power's in the seed, not in the gardener, the power's in the people, not in the leader, you're creating the conditions for that seed, that people to flourish.

So it starts with that paradigm. And so I would just say, we have to kind of become self-aware and really ask, do I have this belief, not just about some but about everyone. And now people might be at different stages of that greatness of where they're at, but I believe there's greatness inside of people. And then I always have a second half to the belief, which is, does my practice aligned with that belief, because if I believe that people have greatness inside of them, then my job as a leader is to unleash their potential, not to try to contain or control them. And so I want to make sure that my style is matched with my intent, that my actions are matched with my beliefs.

And sometimes, maybe the issue is the belief that I don't believe people have greatness more often. The issue is that our style is getting in the way of our intent, our actions get in the way or belief where, where, yeah, I think people have greatness, but I'm still operating on their premise that only some do.

I've fallen into the systems and structures, trap of ranking high-potentials and everybody else as not having that in falling prey to that. And another belief that people are whole people, body, heart, mind, spirit, not just economic beans, where they're just working for paycheck.

So if I buy that, they're whole people, my job as leader is to inspire, not merely motivate. If people were just economic, then motivations enough carrot and stick. Command control is really good at carrot and stick rewards, right? cause it works short, motivates people to get more rewards. I think Daniel Pink said that, but if people are whole people, they want to be inspired.

That's internal intrinsic motivation is external extrinsic inside of people like light the fire within and why? Because they're a whole person, they bring their whole selves to work now. So again you're looking at both the belief of how you see people and then your practice your action of how you operate as a leader, are you aligned, is your style line with your intent, is your practice aligned with your belief. And so that's a good way to assess this and you do it about people and about leadership. You believe there's enough for everyone an abundance mentality so that you elevate, caring above competing.

But if you have a scarcity mentality that there's only enough for some, if someone's getting credit and others aren't, if they're at a scarcity mentality, then it's hard to really elevate, caring above competing because, Hey, I gotta, compete and get mine. So it starts with the paradigm, the way you shift the behaviors to shift the paradigm.

And that's what we try to do is try to go through the fundamental beliefs that a trust inspire leaders. So we get a more complete, more accurate, more relevant. Paradigm or map of how to view people ahead of you leadership.

[00:40:21] Mahan Tavakoli: Part of, would you say Stephen is that becoming inspiring is something we can develop. It's not something that leaders have. You separate and differentiate between being inspiring and being charismatic.

[00:40:36] Stephen Covey: Absolutely. This is one of the big ideas in the book, is that inspiring others is a learnable skill. It's not just for the charismatic. Cause too often we've conflated charisma and inspiration and say, what? Gosh, to inspire it gotta be charismatic. And that's just not me, but no, you separate them. I'll bet that's you're like me Mahan, I know people who might be quite charismatic, but who aren't necessarily inspiring. I know other people who no one would describe as charismatic, but who are remarkably inspiring because of who they are and how they lead in the caring and the connection they establish. I'm thinking of a teacher right now that, again, just the love that cares so strong inspire people, but no one would describe this person as a charismatic person, per se so separate them. 

Inspiring others is to learn about everyone can inspire because we inspire when we connect with people through caring and belonging, and we inspire when we connect to purpose, to meaning, to contribution what you're all about, that inspires to make those connections connection and so inspiring others is learnable.

I also think inspiration is a whole another frontier of leadership. I think it's where leadership is going today Mahan, if you think about it, the holy grail for years has been engagement and it still is vital, and it is still part of the holy grail. I'm just saying there's another frontier beyond engagement and that's inspiration.

And there's data from Bain and company that shows that inspired employees are even more productive than engaged employees. And also you'll have greater wellbeing. And so there's another frontier. Now we won't get to inspiration without going through engagement so we can keep all our engagement efforts.

I'm not saying discard them no that's still on the way to inspiration and it's vital. So I'm not denigrating in engagement. I'm just adding another frontier of inspiration. And the idea that everyone can inspire is one of our stewardships as a leader to inspire the people we lead. 

[00:43:09] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen as I was reading this and reflecting on it I reflected back on the fact that the most inspiring leader I had would arguably be one of the least charismatic people. When you would meet him, you wouldn't come out of the meeting and say, wow, what a charismatic person. And as I was reflecting on it, charisma is reflective of the individual that you meet. Inspiring, he inspired me to have greater belief in myself, so he was inspiring through his inspiration. He gave more energy and power to the people he was leading. So one is self-directed that charisma, the person is the center of the room. The other one is other directed that inspiration.

[00:44:02] Stephen Covey: That's beautiful Mahan. That's exactly it. And that's why everyone can inspire. Cause everyone can focus on serving others, helping others, caring for others, creating a sense of belonging for other people it's outward oriented. This is what Francis Frei and Anne Morriss in their book Unleashed. Now they're they make the point.

Leadership is not about you. It's about them and aspiring others is not about you, it's about them. That others you're precisely right. That's why it's learnable. Because we can all look outward and all focus on service above self-interest. And I loved the Martin Luther King Jr. quote where he said, "everyone has the potential for greatness not for fame, but for greatness, because greatness is based upon service." It's looking out, looking at others and inspiring others is when we look at them and so my mantra for this is seek to bless not to impress. When I'm trying to impress people, then it's about me. How am I coming across? Are they impressed with me? I'm thinking about me. I, me, mine. I'm trying to impress, but instead my mindset is I'm trying to bless and trying to help and trying to add value, trying to serve. It's always about them. And so service above self-interest is what stewardship leadership is really about. And we can all achieve that. We can achieve greatness because of that. 

[00:45:42] Mahan Tavakoli: And that greatness. You already mentioned a couple of the elements that you categorize under stewardship and the three stewardships. You start out with modeling, which I think is critical. Stephen. Now, what I found interesting is you combining humility and courage, how do humility and courage interplay in modeling?

[00:46:09] Stephen Covey: Yes. So the broader point of modeling is the whole idea that you model the values, you model the behavior, and leaders go first. So that's the broader idea. But then I highlighted key virtues that have disproportionate value being modeled today in our world. And I put them in pairs.

And you named one of the pairs, there's three pairs. One of them is humility and courage and they seem almost like opposites and yet they're interconnected. It takes enormous courage to be humble because too often humility could be perceived in our world today as weak, soft. That's why I'm saying, ah, it actually takes courage to be humble.

It almost be easier to just move ahead with bravado and your breasts, and self-serving courage instead of service oriented courage, and then choosing to be humbled and to recognize that there's principles out there. And that we're just trying to navigate and align with principles that bigger than us, and that takes humility. And when people also operate on the premise of, they start with humility, that there are principles, they know this, that when they align with principles, that's where the greatest impact is had. So they can be courageous about saying, I know as we align around principles of personal and human effectiveness and organizational effectiveness, that this is going to work, that gives me courage because I'm aligning around principles, but it took humility to start.

So they're beautifully integrated. And, Jim Collins had his own way of doing this in good to great. He said the level five leader, what his description of the ultimate in leader had that paradoxical combination of deep, personal humility. And intense professional will. My description of intense professional will is courage.

And so this is a powerful combination that really works well together. And some leaders are maybe stronger on the one. I've seen plenty of leaders high on courage, but needed more humility. And occasionally you might see someone that's very humble that could, use more courage and could, confront reality talk straight but they're so humble that maybe they focus, on demonstrating respect, but not enough. I'm talking straight. You needed to do both in our world today. 

That's a powerful combination. So that's the kind of thing we need to model the kind of attributes, the kind of virtues that are going to really inspire people today. And I also go into authenticity and vulnerability, empathy and performance. And that's another paradoxical combination. That last one, they work beautifully together as well as independently. 

[00:49:18] Mahan Tavakoli: They work beautifully together and that modeling again, had me reflecting and I especially love you can't talk your way out of a problem. You behaved your way into. It's really important for all of us as leaders to reflect on that when we are thinking about modeling. So you go through that, you have self-assessments people can fill out. 

Wanna touch on becoming more trusting also, Stephen, you mentioned , clarifying expectations and practicing accountability as playing a role in trust. There's a lot of leaders when I have conversations with them, they keep referring to trust, but verify. And they come up with reasons why, in their industry, their organization, their environments, they can't really trust people.

We are in financial services. We are in government. We are fill in the blank and then the excuse, why this all sounds great, but we can't let go of this command and control style. So when it comes to trust, how can leaders become more trusting?

[00:50:28] Stephen Covey: Yes. See, I think this is critical and the stewardship I'd describing the stewardship as trusting. Cause I make this point that you could have two trustworthy people working together and no trust between them, even though they're both trustworthy, if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other.

That'd be trusting, as well as trustworthy. See trustworthy, we earn that. Trusting, we give that. And as leaders we got to become more trusting. I worked with organizations all around the world. I find the bigger challenge in creating trust is in most organizations, not without exception, there are plenty of exceptions, but in most organizations, the bigger challenge is not a lack of trustworthiness, it's more a lack of trusting. And leaders aren't trusting enough. The reason I highlighted clarify expectations, practice accountability is I'm trying to say you can extend trust to other people in a way that makes sense, where it's not a one size fits all, where you use good judgment. You meet people where they're at.

You create the agreement together. Like my father did with me in green and clean, he was trusting me, but not just blindly to say, take care of the yard. He trained me, we built an agreement. We had expectations, green and clean. We had accountability once the week we'd walk around and I judged myself against that standard and tell him how we're doing.

So that enables us to get the job done in a way that grows the people. And so too often, people are afraid if they trust others that they won't get the job done or they try to dictate the methods and therefore they don't really empower people. They don't feel trusted and they're afraid to lose control. And they might come back with, like you say, trust, but verify, but usually trust, but verify is usually all verify and no trust that trust, but verify the “but” negates everything in front of it. So it really means , verify, and then forgot the trust. Now look the idea of smart trust, extending smart trust, but the expectations and accountability, I think could be an appropriate form of trust and verify where you're trying to make sure you're setting people up to win, they're ready for what you're giving them. You're not asking them to take on something they're not capable of. My wife had to have some medical surgery recently. My wife trusts me. I trust her, but when it came time to do the surgery, she didn't ask me to perform the surgery. Cause I'm not a doctor. She didn't trust me. I don't have the competence. That would it be foolish to trust me. So you gotta be smart about it. You're setting people up to win, but you're just trying to find the opportunities to extend trust to people as a way of unleashing their potential, their talent, their greatness, and to get better results and outcomes.

And so again, it always comes back to getting results in a way that grows people. And so we still want to get the result that is an end, but people also are in hand and trusting others helps bring both ends about getting results in a way that grows people and it's a better way to lead. And the data shows this Mahan as leaders, we overestimate how trusting we are by three times. We think we're pretty trusting, but our people rate us about 300% less than what we think that we are. So I, my experience says this is the big opportunity to build more trust. A high-trust culture is to become more trusting as leaders as senior management. One reason that employees don't trust management, because management doesn't trust employees.

And the employees reciprocated the distress right back at them. Right now with this pandemic and everything, people have had a great opportunity to extend trust deliberately to their people and to build more trust as people work from home work, remotely work in hybrid or from anywhere. Here's a great opportunity to show your people that you trust them.

And with expectations and accountability, was the smart trust that when you give it, people receive it and they return it. There's a reciprocity of trust. 

[00:54:57] Mahan Tavakoli: Stephen couldn't agree with you. More vast majority of the organizations that they could use granting more trust and being more trusting and stop with some of the excuses for reasons why it doesn't work in their organization. And you made the point and it made me reflect on the fact that I had, in my career at one point, a very trusting boss, and I know this wasn't unique to me.

It was the same case with others that reported to him and all of our listeners. If they reflect on, as you said, bosses that have totally trusted them, I would bend over backwards to do whatever it took, never to betray his trust and to over-perform the expectations. And if going back to the fundamental beliefs that you talk about, if you believe people have greatness in them, if you believe they have that goodness in them and want to step up, this just provides them the opportunity to do that.

So I would urge people not to reflect on why we can't do it in our organization, but to reflect on how to, and as you mentioned in your book , how to clarify the expectations, practice accountability, and do the kinds of things in organization that enable a more trusting environment.

[00:56:27] Stephen Covey: That's beautiful. I love it Mahan because rather than focusing on all the reasons why we can't trust our people or others as focused on the other reasons why we can and how we could, become better at this. If you start with that mindset, you'll see possibilities. You would never see otherwise.

So I'm not pollyannaish on this. I recognize not everyone can be trusted and it wouldn't be smart to continue to extend trust to people who abuse and violate your trust time and time again. So that wouldn't be smart trust. But don't let the fact that you can't trust some, affects how you see everyone. And too many organizations today have built their organization around the 5% they can't trust, not the 95% who they can. And they penalize the many because of the few with their policies and procedures and processes. And they do it all in the name of gotta keep control. But what? There's actually far more control in a high trust culture than there is in a rules based culture. Because you can't come up with enough rules for people who you can't trust, but in a high-trust culture, the culture itself will crowd out, weed out, starve out, the offenders, the violators, because no one wants to lose that kind of trust.

It's just a better approach to leadership to find the ways that we can extend more trust and get good at this. And that's why there's more control with extending trust through, with an agreement in place of expectations and accountability. Like my father with me at age seven, than there is with micromanaging the person hovering over, you might think you're in control, but you're really not because you haven't unleashed anyone.

And your ability to really leverage yourself from, to get different results, outcomes, all the things that trusting does, like you just said Mahan, of how you want to perform for that person. And , it brings out your very best work. I bet that's true for all of our listeners.

I also bet that in many cases that the trust inspire leader that maybe you thought of Mahan or that our listeners thought of someone in your life in many cases, they might've been a trust and inspire leader operating in a command and control culture or world where they defied. They became a model of a possibility.

And I've seen this happen, even like you say, in financial services, highly regulated, a lot of compliance. I worked with the home mortgage company, Veterans United Home Loans. So they're highly regulated everything in that industry. Screams distress. I mean, try to get a loan today. The paperwork is voluminous, right?

Because of some abuses of trust, with the housing crisis a few years ago, Dodd-Frank to try to reestablish trust. So everything in the industry, screams distrust to clients, trying to get a loan and like, and so they're in that industry. They have to do that. They have to follow the same rules and yet they are consistently on the a hundred best companies to work for which trust is two-thirds of the criteria they extend, trust their people in smart ways.

In spite of being in a command and control industry, they are a trust and inspire company. And they've learned how to navigate that and how to do it in a way that still has the compliance issues. But they're intentional, they're deliberate. Yes, they're swimming upstream, but they're doing it and excelling at it.

And they're a magnet for people and for talent that want to be part of that kind of culture in that industry. So we need models that can become mentors. So you can do it even in your environment. If you have a command and control boss, Show him what a trust and inspire leader looks like, and you become a model of getting results in a way that grows the people and show them there's a better way to do this. So that's the idea. 

[01:00:19] Mahan Tavakoli: That is, a beautiful way of putting it Stephen. And I know you also mentioned it in the book, whether it is as a coach, as a teacher, with your family, with the people around you, you have the choice to make a difference. I also had a great conversation with David Marquet, who was a captain of a nuclear submarine, and the Navy structure was command and control, but he turned his submarine around by trusting and changing his leadership approach. So we all can impact those around us. We don't necessarily need to be Satya Nadella, who I refer to often, and I know gave your book glowing reviews. We don't need to be CEO of a major company to change the culture. We can change the culture of this small unit or group just around us.

[01:01:16] Stephen Covey: Absolutely. And that's why this is so empowering to everyone. The key to becoming a trust inspire leader is a first become a trust inspire person. So you can do it in your home. You can do it as a parent or an aunt or an uncle or a grandparent or a godparent. You could do it as a neighbor. As a friend, you could do it as a coach, either actual athletic coach, or as an executive coach or a partnering coach, a lot of work that you do, you could do it in all kinds of different situations, because leadership is a choice out of position. We can all lead then if you're in an organization, if you're a member of a team, you could do it on your team and let it ripple out from there.

And so yes, we're all inspired by a Satya Nadella cause he did all three of these stewardships. He modeled. He trusted and he inspired and he revitalized Microsoft. He unleashed the greatness inside of that organization. And today they're very relevant. They're winning in the workplace, winning in the marketplace and, through leadership style.

Or through Webster Sheryl Batchelder did a Popeye's completely turn them around. She modeled, she trusted, she inspired. So it's nice when it's down at the CEO level, we like that. And we're in favor of that, but more often or not, it's done at the unit level at the team level, at the department level, wherever people are at, or even at the home level, becoming a trust, inspire parent and letting this ripple out from there.

What this does as the power of principles, they apply everywhere. And anywhere, and the salsa, the power of inside out you always are looking in the mirror and rippling out from wherever you're standing and, is great. If you're the CEO, it is great. If you're a member of the team, I can start there.

I'm a parent in a home. I could start there and be a trusted, inspire parent of my way or the highway parents and in model trust and inspire. So wherever you're at, and that's the idea is learnable starts with the mindset, the fundamental beliefs, the paradigm then moves to the stewardships, that's the actions modeling, trusting, inspiring. That's simple, but it's learnable, it's doable and we can get good at all three of those.

Stewardships, and this is a better way to lead in our world today and we need this and I'm speaking to the trust and inspire leaders that can help bring about a Renaissance of both trust and inspiration that we need so desperately in our world today. 

[01:03:56] Mahan Tavakoli: We needed in our organizations, in our communities, in our families, which is why I love trust and inspire how truly great leaders are unleash greatness in others. In addition to your own books, Stephen, are there any leadership resources you typically find yourself recommending to others?

[01:04:17] Stephen Covey: Well, yes, of course my own. And, but my father's, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains just so foundational. I find myself recommending a lot of other good work out there from Jim Collins and in his work to the vital learning organization and their great work on crucial conversations and, Kim Scott and her work on, fierce conversations and other things, a lot of great work to Liz Wiseman her work on, multipliers and impact players to , Whitney Johnson, her work on disrupting yourself and on smart growth, I don't want to leave people out.

There's many good thinkers practitioners that are moving the work along, that are helping create trust and inspire leaders and organizations through the work that they're doing. And I think it's meaningful. I love what you're doing Mahan. In fact, your tagline is unleashing your team's potential.

That's that's trust inspire. Because the subtitle of trust inspire is how truly great leaders unleash greatness in others. That greatness has their potential. And so you're saying that's what you're about, unleashing your team's potential. So you're in this work too. You're moving people along as this whole partnering leadership is partnering.

That's a trust and inspire approach and leadership. This is the kind of leadership that we need. So I want to, there's a lot of people that are co catalysts with me and many others to help bring about really a Renaissance of trust. A Renaissance of inspiration. We're dangerously low in both of those in our world, in our communities, in our organizations, we need it.

And rather than waiting for the CEO's everywhere to provide it, we'd like that. And there are some out there like Satya and Eric Yuan of zoom and Sheryl Batchelder and Lieutenant Colonel, Dorothy Hog, and others. You mentioned David Marquet. He's amazing, and we can become that in our circle of influence, wherever it might be and ripple out from there.

And if all our listeners did was apply this in their personal life. In their homes in their communities, that would be extraordinary. And I think you could also apply to your life. So here's my challenge to all our listeners and all of us, just like someone has been a trust and inspired leader in our life.

And maybe it's more than one. It could be multiple people. I asked you to all kind of think about someone who's done that for you. And you thought about someone for you Mahan. I would ask each of us for whom could we become that kind of person, that kind of leader? And while we could do it generically, if I said I'm going to become a trust inspire leader, I invite each person, each of our listeners, think of one person, one relationship that you would like to improve have a profound impact on that person, that relationship by becoming a trust and inspire person for that individual, you just identified. Again, it could be personal, could be for professional and try it if you can do it with one, you can do it with another. And so try that test , as an invitation to all of us, to become that person for another,

[01:07:45] Mahan Tavakoli: I love that. I love the modeling of trust and inspire that you've done Stephen for the audience to find out more about trust that inspired the book, or find out more about you and your content, where would you recommend for them to go?

[01:08:00] Stephen Covey: trustandinspire.com, and there's some tools, resources available. Also the books anywhere, in the bookstores and amazon.com, barnes and noble.com. Of course. , and then you can follow me on Twitter, on Instagram is @ Stephen Mr. Covey on LinkedIn, on Facebook as well, and love you to follow and, be part of this conversation and part of being a co-catalyst with me, with you Mahan and with many, many others in helping to bring about this Renaissance of trust and inspiration, and that we need in our world. So love to have you part of this journey.

[01:08:38] Mahan Tavakoli: We are going to do that together. And I love a quote you have from Gandhi in your book, the difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world's problems. So I appreciate you, Stephen, M.R. Covey, for modeling trust and inspire, and for guiding all of us to have an impact on a person on a small team or on our organization.

So we can truly unleash greatness in others. Thank you so much for joining this conversation. Stephen, M.R. Covey. 

[01:09:18] Stephen Covey: Thank you Mahan and thank you for being a trust and inspire leader and host of this podcast.