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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Sep
18

Brand Trust has become a “big deal” for marketers in 2019.

While some define brand trust as building trust with your customers and consumers, not everyone agrees.

A recent article in Adweek called Consumer’s Trust in Brands Has Fallen to a New Low highlights the confusion that often arises when “talking trust” from a brand standpoint, or any point for that matter. This particular article ran the “building trust gamut” from:

  • Elevating trust with consumers
  • Through data privacy 
  • Relationship building
  • To increasing transparency
  • Meeting the needs of millennials and Get Z
  • And even being good corporate citizens.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a pretty tall and confusing trust order.

So I asked the members of our Trust Council to read the article and share their professional observations about what brand trust is and what it isn’t. Here’s what five members had to say:

Bart Alexander, a seasoned CSR professional opined that most consumers, including young adults, are still choosing products and services based on functional attributes more than responsibility performance of the parent company. Similarly, most investors still seek to maximize total return rather than focus on long-term sustainability performance. But we may well be on the cusp of a tipping point where the approaches referenced in the article become mainstream. At the same time, we must acknowledge that most of the economy is continuing to operate on far more traditional views about value.

Nadine Hack, a leadership consultant and educator, concurs. All of this activity makes me wonder (hopefully, yet cautiously) if we may have finally reached a tipping point where corporate social responsibility is something businesses must act on, not just talk about.

Randy Conley at Ken Blanchard adds that in the digital world, organizations are having to constantly make deposits in the “trust bank” of their customers, because sooner or later, there will be an instance where trust is broken. It’s not a question of if they’ll break trust, but when. The vast majority of consumers are starting to realize that we only live under the illusion of privacy and data security.  At the end of the day, each of us as consumers has to decide our own comfort level of risk in sharing our information with others and trusting those individuals/organizations to keep it safe.

Linda Fisher Thornton, an ethics educator and consultant had this to say… Reputation and brand used to be considered separate things. You built your brand (what you wanted people to believe about your company) and you sought to protect the image of your brand that you had built. That approach is outdated. With social media transparency, reputation and brand have converged to the point that reputation defines and shapes the brand. People believe what they see a company doing rather than any pretty picture it has created to represent itself.The way to build trust is not to pretend to be a trustworthy brand, but to actually live it.

“The Trust Ambassador” Bob Whipple concluded with these thoughts…The thing I was reminded of is that we all need to be cognizant of the reputation of our own brands and the jeopardy we could put people in unwittingly. The real test is how diligent the company is on the front end to design a robust system and how the company reacts if and when something goes wrong. That is the test of their leadership.

Which brings us back to the question in the title of the article. What does Brand Trust mean?

I suppose it depends on one’s personal and professional perspective. If you are a marketer in 2019, apparently it’s a big deal, not unlike “purpose,” another big deal. Sadly, many of these are merely PR “campaigns” designed by those who have no subject matter expertise. The result is not only less trust, but more cynicism and confusion for both customers and consumers. 

Marketers who choose to talk about brand trust, should consider shifting their focus to helping build trustworthy and enduring brands. That’s not accomplished through data security or meeting the needs of a certain generation, and it’s certainly not the sole responsibility of the marketing department. The way trustworthy brands are built is similar to the way people build trust between themselves. It always boils down to principles and values, and either leaders, teams and organizations have them or they don’t. If brands want to be trustworthy and trusted, it’s leadership’s responsibility, along with their Board, to first clean up their own house from the inside out. Building a foundation of trust via principled leadership and trustworthy employees is the only solution to elevating brand trust. And then the marketing team can step in and craft an authentic message, not just a PR campaign.

As Bob Whipple said earlier, the real test is how diligent the company is on the front end.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic brand trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Aug
24

In this week’s Business Roundtable statement on the purpose of a corporation, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty had this to say….“Society gives each of us a license to operate. It’s a question of whether society trusts you or not. We need society to accept what it is that we do.

Yet the announcement has been met with some skepticism.

Don’t believe the Business Roundtable has changed until its CEOs’ actions match their words Fast Company

Business Roundtable Statement is Just Propaganda LA Times

Stakeholder Capitalism Will Fail if it’s Just Talk Bloomberg

Why the skepticism? Perhaps because the statement provides no specifics regarding the actions that this group of CEOs will undertake to change the way society views them and their companies, or simply that talk is cheap.

I humbly suggest, as I have been doing for over 10 years, that while “Purpose” may be easy and convenient, it does not address the “real” problem facing CEOs nor should it be the Business Roundtable’s starting point. Instead, this group of almost 200 business leaders should first take a close look at their Principles, meaning their individual and collective ethical standards, and how they apply these principles to building trustworthy organizations. Acting with the right principles leads to the right decisions, and only then can societal trust be earned. “Purpose” through check the box practices and “one off” delegated programs will simply lead to increasing skepticism.

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, offers these principles to the Business Roundtable CEOs as a guide for further discussion. A similar version designed for teams and leaders interested in starting a trust discussion has been read over 65,000 times.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, CEO Trust Across America-Trust Around the World

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Aug
13

Some leaders pretend that trust is high even with mounting crises, excessive turnover and low engagement.

Some rely on external metrics that provide a false perception of trust while internal trust continues to languish.

If leaders could poll their employees (in one minute) to identify trust weaknesses and strengths would they?

Yes, using our survey tool called AIM Towards Trust many already have.

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The chart below shows one of many survey results administered by Trust Across America-Trust Around the World.

What would your team or organization’s results look like?

 

Are the results surprising?

Test drive the survey at this link. See how your organization compares to over 300 others.

Many global leaders claim that “trust is the new currency.” If you agree, what is holding you back for evaluating the level of trust within your team or organization and starting a trust discussion?

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust using a proprietary diagnostic called AIM Towards Trust. A former consultant to many Fortune 500 CEOs and their firms, Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, and is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and TRUST! Magazine. Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. For more information contact barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc. No part of this document may be reproduced without permission.

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May
29

Trust weaknesses perhaps represent the greatest risk in today’s competitive business environment. Recent news confirms this.

A costly trust “fix” can wreak havoc on a company for years to come. Consider the long-term impact on all stakeholders as a result of Wells Fargo’s trust breach. The fact is, almost every trust “event” can be avoided or “softened” when Boards acknowledge that trust is tangible, and choose to proactively build their trust bank account.  Placing trust in the center of the business strategy, and practicing and reinforcing it daily is no longer a nicety, it’s an imperative.

Trust is internal and ALWAYS built from the top down and the inside out.

Trust cannot be delegated to PR, communications or any “silo” per se. Purpose, reputation, sustainability and data privacy are also not substitutes for trust. They are simply placeholders or misguided “perception” of trust. A Board that chooses to ignore trust as a stand alone tangible asset, does so at its own risk, and cannot  manage it by taking it for granted. Higher organizational trust produces the following outcomes:

  • Higher employee engagement and retention and lower fear
  • Expeditious decision making
  • Innovative mindsets
  • Elevated accountability, transparency and communication
  • More profitable

Speaking in 2016 at an annual conference of the Arthur W. Page Society, Paul Polman, CEO at Unilever noted that without trust in companies, there can be no genuine prosperity. Seventy-five percent of U.S. graduates, he said, do not want to work for big companies anymore. 

Given that trust is always a top down imperative, could the Board of Directors gain valuable insights into the importance of elevating trust if they surveyed their own members based upon universal principles of trust? What would the results reveal? Would the Board find respect to be high or low? How about integrity or understanding?

And what if upon completion of the survey and creation of a plan to address the weaknesses, the Board expanded their trust-building efforts by administering the same anonymous survey to Legal, Ethics & Compliance, HR, Finance and Marketing? Would this provide the Board with any actionable insights? Could reputation risk be reduced? And what would each team’s results look like? How quickly could trust, and the resulting long-term benefits, be elevated by correcting the deficiencies?

In fact, what if a Board member assumed the role of Chief Trust Officer for the entire organization? Sounds like a fairytale? It’s not. This exact exercise is already being implemented in several progressive Boardrooms in both domestic and international organizations.

What are Boards finding?

After completing the survey, one Board determined that the Principles of accountability, transparency and tracking were sorely lacking among their members. These weaknesses are now being addressed, while successes such as “truth” and “respect” are being celebrated. This Board plans to roll the diagnostic out firm wide.

A Simple Solution

In 2017, Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s global Trust Alliance set out to create universal trust-building Principles that could be applied in any team or organization of any size. The plan was to develop a non-threatening mechanism to start the “trust discussion.” The Alliance itself (now in its 6th year) is comprised of cross functional professionals including Board and C-Suite members, compliance & ethics, risk, HR, marketing, finance, accounting, CSR professionals, etc.

Beginning with almost ninety ideas, and over the course of a full year, members weighed in through a powerful decision-making software tool, and honed the ideas to twelve Principles that form the acronym, “TAP INTO TRUST.”

TAP (Trust Alliance Principles) was first published in April 2018 and is currently available as a free PDF download in 16 languages. In just one year, over 50,000 global professionals have “tapped in” and the trust “movement” shows no sign of slowing.

In March 2019, Phase II was introduced. AIM Towards Trust is an anonymous one question, one minute survey that allows teams and organizations to obtain their trust baseline metrics and address weaknesses. AIM is an acronym for Acknowledge, Identify, Mend.

Building trust-based principles into the DNA of an organization lowers fear and elevates security among all stakeholder groups. For example:

  • Employees stop looking over their shoulders and instead start engaging, innovating, collaborating and working for the “greater good.”
  • Customers no longer question whether the “brand” can be trusted.
  • Shareholders trust that their investment is less risky.

The most enlightened Boards (we have written extensively about this subject in TRUST! Magazine) have an enormous business advantage when they choose to become the catalyst that turns around low trust in their respective companies, and in the broader business landscape. The tools are available for those who want to do more than “talk” and to actually make “Trust the New Currency” instead of just the latest buzz.  And remember, trust always starts at the top.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World , now in its 11th year, and whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. She holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. 

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May
14

Taken from this week’s “Rebuilding Trust” headlines…

Facebook promises to rebuild trust via a “feel good” marketing campaign.

Boeing hints that perhaps a name change is (not) in order. There’s been “no discussion” of a name change, Johndroe said, including dropping “Max” and referring to the jet family by product numbers such as 737-8.

Danske Bank picks a new CEO and states, without details “We have a big task ahead of us in continuing to rebuild trust,” Danske Bank Chairman Karsten Dybvad said in a statement.

 

Who is doling out all this misdirected advice? And what does rebuilding trust even mean?

Ad campaigns, name changes and new CEOs are not the solution. Trust is internal and interpersonal, and is built from the inside out. It is an intentional and holistic business strategy that is practiced and reinforced daily starting at the very top and impacting every stakeholder group. As we have seen with almost every corporate crisis in the past, putting a Band-Aid on the elephant in the room doesn’t heal the wound. It just covers it up.

And why do these business leaders, and their respective “advisors” believe that trust was present in the past and now needs to be rebuilt? When was the last time trust building was a proactive agenda item at the Board level or in the C-Suite in any of these organizations? Until a deliberate acknowledgement is made that “perception of trust” is no replacement for trust itself, the “headlines” will repeat themselves, and the proposed solutions will not only be very costly, but ultimately lead nowhere. The crisis will blow over and it will be “business as usual.” No need to utter the “T” word again.

For authentic leaders who want to build trust from the inside out, please visit our website and read more about our new diagnostic, AIM Towards Trust.

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Apr
28

When leaders bust trust, employees play all sorts of games, and I don’t mean the video or tennis variety.

In my first post-college job, the “leaders” were intolerable jerks.

They defaulted into leadership by being company founders. One couldn’t keep his eyes (or his hands) to himself, while the other was insecure, abusive and lazy. Both thought nothing of lying to employees or clients. They also believed that if they threw enough money at their employees, they would earn their loyalty and respect. These two were a good match until one outsmarted the other and the partnership dissolved.

The office manager (also the head of HR and everything else) took care of all the “soft stuff.”

The problem was she also lacked leadership skills. She played favorites, made dumb rules and ultimately had no say in the owner’s decisions.

“Game playing” became the office norm. Among the games:

  1. Four day weekends
  2. The hour-long lunch break was always taken, plus a few more
  3. The water cooler was the most popular gathering spot
  4. Friday couldn’t come fast enough
  5. 9AM turned into 9:30 and 4:30 became the new 5PM
  6. Minimal effort was exerted. Through observation, I once calculated that the average employee spent less than 3 hours each day productively working.
  7. Many employees treated their clients the same way they were treated
  8. Turnover was very high and people quit without notice
  9. Employees spent hours on personal phone calls
  10. Loyalty was nonexistent, and employees often left their jobs to work for clients (including me.)

Any of the above sound familiar? What, other than more regulation, has changed in workplaces over the past 20 years?

Employees take their cues from their leader. Leaders who want to avoid game playing in their organization must not only be trustworthy but also make elevating internal trust their first priority.

For more information on elevating trust in your team or organization please visit our website and read more about our diagnostic AIM Towards Trust, now being used in companies worldwide.

For inquiries contact:

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, CEO and Cofounder

barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Apr
14

Leaders should never take trust seriously.

After all, trust is just one of those “soft skills” that needs no particular attention, especially from leadership. For your next corporate event, instruct your communications department to hire a stand up comic to cover that “stuff” and provide the script in advance. Make sure it’s “compliance approved” and that your Board members attend.

  1. Never trust a tree. They are always shady.
  2. My trust issues started when my Mom said “come here, I’m not gonna hit you!”
  3. Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.
  4. Never trust an atom. They make up everything.
  5. I got trust issues because people got lying issues.
  6. It’s funny how trust disappears when you are looking for the TV remote. Me: “Do you have the remote?” Him: “No.” Me: “Stand up.”
  7. People say I have trust issues. I don’t believe them.
  8. Watch who you trust. Even your teeth bite your tongue now and then.
  9. I don’t trust these stairs. They are always up to something.
  10. I am pretty sure the definition of trust is giving your friend your phone without clearing the history.

I take no credit for any of these one-liners. I’m way too serious about trust! Our new diagnostic AIM Towards Trust doesn’t deliver any jokes. Instead, it provides a baseline measurement from which to improve trust in any team or organization. It’s designed for trustworthy leaders who embrace trust as an intentional business strategy, not a joke.

Contact us for more information: barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Apr
09

 

What gets measured gets managed – Peter Drucker

In preparation for the first anniversary of Tap Into Trust, we have been running an anonymous one question/one minute survey to identify the primary causes of low trust in organizations. The results may surprise you and provide insight into what needs fixing.

 

 

 

Which of these 12 trust principles do you consider the weakest in your organization?

Transparency? Integrity? Respect? None of those would be correct.

  • Truth
  • Accountability
  • Purpose
  • Integrity
  • Notice
  • Talent
  • Openness
  • Transparency
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Safety
  • Tracking

Take the survey and find out.

Remember, You can’t manage what you haven’t measured.

Trust is always internal and must be built from the inside out. Everything else is simply “perception of trust.”

Learn how you can bring this trust diagnostic into your team or organization.

For more information contact:

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, CEO and Cofounder Trust Across America-Trust Around the World barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Apr
01

Trust Across America has been writing about Wells Fargo and making public suggestions to leadership on how to fix the Bank’s low trust since 2016, apparently to no avail.

The recent “trust building” communications “horse and pony” show was predictably a huge and expensive fail.  Anyone with even a basic understanding of organizational trust knows that trust is internal and must be built from the inside out, not through a PR campaign. So now the sudden resignation of the current CEO comes as no surprise to us, nor does the appointment of the “interim” CEO who “by chance” happens to be a lawyer.

Over the weekend we asked members of our cross functional Trust Council to weigh in on the actions required to right what appears to be a sinking ship. We appreciate the thoughts of our Council members who took the time to weigh in.

Acknowledge trust as a hard asset: Do not assume that trust is a “soft skill” and do not attempt a fix via exclusive input from legal and compliance. Form a cross-silo team to attack low trust with the support of the “right” Board members, possibly necessitating some “reshuffling” at the highest level. In other words, clean house.

Make trust building the first priority: A foundation of trust must be built before culture can be fixed. 

Be accountable: Embrace responsibility and accountability and avoid the deadly Watergate sin of tip-toeing up to the line but not crossing it, perpetuating the sense of cover-up. You’ve got to own it—and then some.

Measure what matters: Assess the current level of stakeholder trust and use this baseline to begin attacking the weaknesses. What can be measured can be managed.

Practice and reinforce values: Saying or printing them is mere cant. You’ve got to propagandize them, talk about them in application to specific instances, hold leaders accountable for a quota of such applications.

Model humility: Place truth-telling ahead of personal or professional gain.

Be transparent: Reject hidden agendas and be transparent wherever and whenever possible.

Hire and fire: Nothing builds trust faster than firing and hiring people. Hire/fire/promote on visible demonstrations of the bank’s values. Cull out the middle managers who still think they can get away with hiding unethical behaviors. 

Erase fear: Drive out fear and ensure every voice is heard and every trust breach is fully investigated. “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.” Reward moral character and reinforce candor.

Track performance:  Define and scorecard performance against both values and value.

Perhaps the most difficult question came yesterday when someone asked me “Who would want the job of CEO?” That’s a tough one. Hiring another banker may not even be the best solution as finance is not generally considered an industry to exhibit high trust behavior. Regardless, the hope is that whoever the brave soul is who steps in to take the position begins their tenure by first acknowledging that trust is internal and must be elevated from the inside out. Only then can the required culture work begin.

PS- CNN just (attempted to) weigh in on how the bank can end the crisis. They may want to go back to the drawing board and craft a followup article.

For more information and tools to elevate trust, head over to our website at www.trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

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Mar
26

 

In a recent GreenBiz article the author asks  Is This the End of Corporate Social Responsibility? Apparently CSR doesn’t “cut it anymore” and companies are now turning to the creation of social purposes or missions as “the reason for the company’s existence.” Sounds promising except for that one “big elephant in the room.”  Can you name it?

 

 

Study after study show that low stakeholder trust continues to drag down most companies, even ten years “post financial crisis.”

  • Only 7 percent of Americans believe that major company CEOs have high ethical standards. Public Affairs Council
  • Only a minority of millennials believe businesses behave ethically. Deloitte
  • 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Gallup
  • Just 46% of employees placed “a great deal of trust” in their employer, and only 49% placed “a great deal of trust” in their manager or colleagues. Ernst & Young
  • For the first time in the six years the gauge has been reported, the US has dropped out of the “Top 10” countries for innovation. Bloomberg

Developing social purpose and mission is NOT going to fix what is wrong inside organizations.  We call these “perception of trust” fixes as opposed to authentic trustworthiness. The first is built from the outside in, while the latter is a more difficult inside out endeavor.  Focusing on social purpose before trust is like putting a clean shirt on a dirty body. And other than an “easy fix” that gives marketing and PR something to talk about, it makes little sense.

When business leaders treat trust as a tangible asset and a business imperative, the following results are achieved:

  • Employees are more engaged and retention increases
  • Innovation is higher and occurs more quickly
  • Teams are more cohesive and decisions are made faster
  • Transparency and communication improve
  • Costs decrease and profitability increases

And the opposite occurs when they don’t, which is where most organizations find themselves today. A social purpose and mission will not fix low trust. It’s up to leadership to decide when (and if) they are ready to address the “elephant in the room.” Delaying it doesn’t fix it.

PS- Elevating trust is the best kept secret of many enlightened business leaders and it is giving them not only a head start, but a clear competitive advantage. For more information on how to build trust in your organization, please send a note to me at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com. We are running our trust diagnostic (AIM Towards Trust) for many teams and organizations and, depending on the results, providing further insights on how to fix the weaknesses.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. She holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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