An FBI agent’s rules on winning trust

An FBI agent’s rules on winning trust

Code of Trust: An American Counterintelligence Expert’s Five Rules to Lead and Succeed by Robert Dreeke and Cameron Strauth. St. Martin’s Press. Pages 384. Rs499

Book Title: Code of Trust: An American Counterintelligence Expert’s Five Rules to Lead and Succeed

Author: Robert Dreeke and Cameron Strauth.

Gp Capt Murli Menon (retd)

In a lucid foreword to the book, FBI stalwart and the author’s mentor Joe Navarro explains how unsafe life would be sans reliable food, transportation and health support systems such as paramedics or firefighters. Trust, he says, is the underpinning of everything we value. In an ever-changing, fast-paced, interconnected work environment — as seen in business and life in general — how to create and nourish trust with those you need to interact with is what this book is about.

Robin Dreeke is a 28-year veteran FBI special agent, a Naval Aviator and a Marine to boot — a “triple barrel” as the military intelligence community would call him. He was head counter intelligence at the elite National Security Branch Behavioural Analysis Program of the FBI.

People who work in high-stakes spy vs spy situations find trust to be a critical parameter in daily work life challenges. Across a three-part, ten-chapter document, Dreeke espouses the art of building trust, using some very apt and gripping episodes from his enviable career to drive home the point about the value of building trust. He looks at human behaviour simplistically, using it to determine peoples’ needs, wants, intentions and fears, to establish trust. Once that is accomplished, he says, “all else follows”.

The author puts down five rules to gain trust as a leader, namely, suspending one’s ego, being non-judgmental, validating others, honouring reason and being generous. The four steps to achieve this, he says, are firstly to align your goals, applying the power of context and crafting your encounters before actually connecting with your “target”.

Dreeke adapts smartly from various lessons of field craft as taught by intelligence agencies the world over to arrive at his postulations, which could be classified as management mantras for a vital ingredient of field craft — that of building trust. He had apparently devised this system from his experience gained from missions to thwart foreign spies.

His main approach while in the FBI was to inspire trust among his sources to elicit valuable intelligence. He had tested and implemented his hypothesis during his years as a field FBI agent and later taught the same to his customers who were mainly corporate sector clients and military and law enforcement staff throughout USA. The principles herein are said to have changed the culture in several American companies, boosting productivity and morale. Dreeke argues that earning trust is not a trick, nor an arcane art. It is an important character-building endeavour which calls for the practitioner to be helpful and sensitive.

Robin Dreeke’s lifetime of work in trust building could be imbibed in just eight to 10 hours of learning. He advocates the four steps to inspire trust and highlights how trust could be wielded in the digital age as well as in a” toxic environment”. His four steps for inspiring trust are aligning one’s goals, applying the context, crafting the encounter and finally connecting with your subject.

On the whole, Dreeke has put together a highly readable account of interpersonal communications, highlighting the effective means to building trust, and how genuine partnerships based on truth could be built. This book is definitely not a quick fix to build superficial trust.