There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

This past weekend, I attended a leadership retreat that was powerful in its simplicity and complexity. One of the topics that we delved into was Trust. We discussed Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, in which he describes the 13 Behaviors of high-trust leaders. The opening paragraph above is an excerpt from this book. Anytime a book title specifies a specific number of things to do in order to win, to sell, to be effective, happy or a high-trust leader, I wonder how much of it is for marketing purposes. So, it is particularly intriguing that I find myself so – intrigued – by this study of trust.

I’m not going to list the 13 behaviors (although I will reference a few). In all candor, they’re pretty straightforward and you’ve undoubtedly heard some variation of them before from your mother, 6th grade teacher, coach or boss; and like many “simple” things that in theory we know we “should” do to enrich our lives, we find it remarkably difficult to put into practice.

Covey’s analysis addresses the pervasive role that trust plays in essentially every human relationship. I’d like to explore how trust plays into relationships between an interim executive placement firm and client companies on one hand, and with the placement firm’s executive talent on the other. Corporate execs are inundated with calls and emails from recruiters, some of whom take a “do whatever it takes” approach to circumvent gatekeepers, or otherwise win client business. Some recruiter tactics are simply annoying, while others can be unethical. I understand how clients find it difficult to know which recruiters to trust.

There are several Trust behaviors that I think are particularly relevant for this discussion. The first two are character-based:

Talk Straight / Create Transparency – I’ve combined the first and third behaviors, which refer to no withholding of information, no flattery and no spin. It also means to tell the truth in a way that people can verify. The only reason recruiters would not talk straight or create transparency is if they questioned the value of their services or their own abilities. Neither is in the best interest of clients or executive talent.

Demonstrate Respect – This means not faking respect or concern, or worse, showing respect for only those who can do something for you. Of course, recruiters – like anyone else – will eventually reveal themselves as authentic or simply opportunistic. The latter is a sure-fire way to sour clients and executive talent on external recruiting services. However, it can take time to know if someone is legit or not – and time is usually not a luxury that clients and talent have in abundance.

The last of Covey’s Trust behaviors that I’d like to reference comes from a recruiter’s competence, rather than character:

Deliver Results – This is the best way to establish trust in a new relationship. However, results, like authenticity, can be difficult to measure, so defining results up front and delivering progress results are an effective way for a recruiter to establish a track record in the short term.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the corollary between these Trust behaviors in a recruiter’s business life and these same behaviors in everyone’s life – both professional and personal. In other words, who we are at work is who we are with our family and our friends. That can be an uncomfortable truth to acknowledge. The good news is that the person we are with our family and friends, is the person we can be at work. It is all within our control.

Trust is about relationship and relationships take time to develop. In my interactions with clients and talent, I trust that my own authenticity will continue to drive success; and despite my competitive nature, I also wish success for MB Interim Leaders’ competitors, as I think this will create better service for clients and talent and strengthen the industry’s reputation.