Archive

Archive for the ‘Risk’ Category

Mar
04

by Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Founder Trust Across America-Trust Around the World

How many of the following trust substitutes are present in your organization? The larger the organization the more prevalent these work arounds are becoming and the faster they are multiplying, crushing any hopes for long-term sustainable trust.

These days it does not take much to lose stakeholder trust given that most organizations have failed to build that essential trust bank account. Now, facing a low balance, many companies are scrambling to find a quick and easy deposit into their account. That is not how trust is built. There are no quick fixes and work arounds are dangerous, further eroding trust despite what leaders are being told. These trust substitutes fail time after time and then like clockwork a new one takes its place. If history has taught any lessons, they will also fail. And how many times should the same mistake be forgiven? For example, excessive employee turnover currently occurring in some companies tells me that the time has come to stop treating trust like a soft skill that can be taken for granted. The business case for trust has been made. It is time to start paying attention to it.

Are you part of the problem?

In 2010 I approached a colleague, a relatively well known consultant to senior management and boards, who had recently published a new book. In it he highlighted one of his clients as a role model for others in their industry. Our FACTS® Framework data told another story (see chart below.) I approached him in confidence, shared our data, and suggested he present it to his client. His response shocked me. “Why would I bring this “bad” news to my client? It might be the end of my very lucrative consulting contract. I’ve got college bills to pay.” Did I fail to mention that his specialty was/is crisis repair/reputation management? That was over 10 years ago. What has changed?

Expensive Trust “Cures” that Will Kill Any Hope of Trust

The following is a list of some of the most egregious trust violations happening every day under the leadership of those who should know better. If you find this list offensive please think about why you are having that reaction. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

  1. Unwillingness to acknowledge or take ownership of trust. Delegating it to corporate communications or the PR department, or these days maybe compliance or audit.
  2. Excluding freedom of expression and opinions from the “Diversity & Inclusion” program.
  3. Talking about the importance of data privacy while installing the latest surveillance software upgrades on subordinates computers (and referring to them as subordinates.)
  4. Putting customers before employees.
  5. Telling customers how important they are while they wait on hold.
  6. Filling the next Board seat with an ESG “guru” instead of the most competent candidate. And speaking of ESG, checking that box with carbon offsets.
  7. Following massive layoffs with big annual raises and bonuses for those in the C-Suite.
  8. In the interest of profitability, overlooking the long-term supply chain risk of relying on foreign manufacturers while local suppliers are forced out of business. (The current drug supply debacle is an excellent learning opportunity.)
  9. Treating trust like a short-term “soft serve” flavor of the day instead of a long-term business strategy.
  10. Making the compliance budget the largest and hiring more compliance staff.
  11. Taking a “stand” not because of a belief in the cause but because PR thinks it’s a good idea.
  12. Spending big money on a great place award or better yet a motivational speaker, while employees are told there is no budget for salary increases. (And maybe employees completing satisfaction surveys should not be coached on which boxes to check and their responses should remain anonymous.)

Kick Those Trust Busting Recommendations to the Curb

So what should should business leaders do?

  • Start by refusing to make these trust busting business decisions and challenge the advisors who are recommending them. Remember, they are in the business of creating dependency.
  • Assign an internal team to review the trust violations occurring in your organization and fix them.
  • Make each “fix” your next BIG PR announcement. It will be meaningful and your stakeholders will applaud and reward you. Rinse and repeat.
  • Do not allow anyone to tell you that any of these violations can be ignored.
  • Do not shrug this list off because your peer group is choosing to do so. The longer you do, the less trust you will have. You may have lots of “friends at the top” but your trust bank account will remain low and the next crisis may just be your last.
  • Take this list seriously. Do not toss it until every violation is fixed.

Getting back to the story at the beginning of the article. This is the historical FACTS® data on the referenced company.

Somewhere in the middle of the chart the company paid one of the largest fines in the industry’s history. My guess is the same consultant was called in on the reputation repair team.

Our next article will provide some actionable and workable ideas to build trust. We are gathering the best suggestions from our Trust Alliance members and Top Thought Leaders and will be sharing them soon.

Contact us for more information.

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Jun
15

Taking time to understand and accept failure is just as important as celebrating success

To date, 23% of 600+ survey respondents say “Understanding” is lacking in their workplace. Is it lacking in yours?

 

 

 

Understanding is the tenth of *12 behaviors in our Tap Into Trust (TAP) framework having now been accessed over 150,000 times in 16 languages.

 

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World recently created The “Art” of Trust visual “cues” to start a discussion about workplace behaviors that build and weaken stakeholder trust. Together these cues form a “Wall” of Trust to enhance learning and retention.

In building team and stakeholder trust, we describe “Understanding” as follows:

We celebrate our successes – we acknowledge and examine our failures with empathy, and learn from both.

Our Trust Alliance members suggest the following discussion questions to elevate respect and build workplace trust.

    1. Do employees feel safe to fail? If not, why not?
    2. Are we proactively asking the tough questions regarding every major undertaking so as to continuously improve and make life better for all stakeholders we impact?

The “Art” of Trust  is one of many resources designed for our Trust Action Project to help leaders, teams and organizations move from trust talk to ACTION in 2021 and beyond.

Would you like to build a Wall of Trust for your team? Take the first step.

 

 

Join our global Trust Alliance and participate in our programs.

Learn more about the Trust Action Project 2021 at this link.

*TAP INTO TRUST is an acronym. The 12 behaviors are equally weighted. The weakest behaviors break the trust chain.

Copyright 2021, Next Decade, Inc.

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Feb
23

A few years ago John Baldoni, one of our long-time Trust Alliance members gave me the following advice. He said “Barbara stop trying to change the world. Focus on one person and one organization at a time.”

With that advice in mind, today we celebrate a milestone. In less than three years, over 150,000 global citizens have Tapped Into Trust to access our Trust Alliance Principles (TAP), available at no cost in 16 languages. This would never have been possible without the support of our global Trust Alliance members who continue to work collaboratively to develop and promote these universal principles that can be applied to any organization or team of any size.

From these principles grew a simple one question/one minute ongoing master Workplace Trust survey that has now been taken almost 600 times, followed by our AIM diagnostics and the online and in person workshops designed to start a trust discussion, and directly address the weaknesses that are keeping trust from flourishing.

 

 

Trust is always the outcome of principled leadership. If you are an ethical leader who is unwilling to commit to learning more about the impact trust has on your organization’s culture and ultimate success, you are contributing to long-term enterprise risk. (And hiring a motivational speaker to “talk trust” with your employees is not the solution.)

Thank you to all who made this milestone possible. Your ongoing commitment to building trust is getting it done, one person and one organization at a time. Thanks John!

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

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Nov
10

“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.”Warren Bennis

Having counseled leaders across many industries on how to elevate stakeholder trust, I can almost assure you that you won’t come close to passing our 10-question test. Fortunately, the failing grade is usually not due to character or competence flaws, but a lack of understanding of the role of trust as a core value of leadership. Are you willing to take the following test AND the actions required to elevate your results?

*** Warning your degree of honesty and vulnerability may affect your score***

 Give yourself ten points for every “yes” answer.

  1. Do I understand that trust is not a soft skill and that it has tangible value?
  2. Have I thought about what it means to be trustworthy in both my personal and professional life?
  3. Is trust mentioned in my company’s core values and do I practice and reinforce those values daily?
  4. Do I understand that trust is the outcome of principled behavior and have I identified the behavioral weaknesses?
  5. Do I understand that trust cannot be delegated and that low trust is a real risk?
  6. Have I asked my employees and other stakeholders if they think I am trustworthy?
  7. Do I understand that trust is a learned competence, and have I budgeted for trust training for both my leadership team and my staff?
  8. Do I directly engage my employees and my customers in conversations about trust?
  9. Do I catch employees doing something right and reward ethical behavior?
  10. Does trust play a role in my hiring practices?

What was your final  score?

 

Business leaders are constrained by the number of hours in a day, and how they choose to prioritize their time. Many spend it reacting to crises and extinguishing fires caused by low trust. If more leaders not only understood the benefits of high trust, but actually took the steps required to elevate it, their time would be freed up to build a more profitable business much more quickly. Low trust plays a large role in elevating enterprise risk, yet is is widely ignored. Take the questions above and tackle them one at a time. Each 10% improvement will get you closer to high trust.

PS- Don’t fall for expensive trust workarounds that may be offered to you. While they may get you a communications “talking point,” they won’t get you across the enterprise trust finish line. In fact, they won’t even get you close.

 

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its 12th year, the program has developed two proprietary trust-evaluation tools, the latest is AIM Towards Trust. She also runs the world largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series. Kimmel is a former consultant to McKinsey who has worked across multiple industries and with senior leadership. She holds a bachelor’s in international affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch.

For more information visit our website at www.trustacrossamerica.com or contact us.

 

 

Purchase our books at this link

 

Copyright © 2020 Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Nov
02


Why should business leaders care about trust? This is why:

 

Performance of Trust Across America’s

Most Trustworthy Public Companies vs. the S&P 500 (2014-2019)

 

The chart above is the cumulative “Return on Trust” of America’s annual “Top 10” Most Trustworthy Public Companies over the past six years. Through its FACTS® Framework, Trust Across America has been analyzing, assembling and publicly reporting on this data for ten years.

If you are the CEO of a public company, or any company for that matter, who claims there is no Business Case for Trust, now may be the time to reconsider. Why DO business leaders require proof or ignore trust as their most valuable strategic advantage?

Leaders take trust for granted

Trust doesn’t just “happen.” It is not bestowed upon leaders by virtue of their title.  Trust is a learned competence and an intentional business strategy that must be crafted, practiced, modeled, and reinforced daily.

Leaders focus on the wrong metrics

Growing quarterly earnings, over reliance on sales quotas, focus on “old school” risk and/or “new school” ESG metrics will not satisfy the trust imperative that stakeholders are increasingly demanding. Neither will talking rather than acting on trust.

Leaders treat trust as a “soft skill”

Organizational trustworthiness is a hard currency. The proof is in the chart above.

Leaders are “trust reactive” 

Rarely do we hear proactive leadership discussions about building stakeholder trust. Instead, trust becomes a communications talking point only after a breach. This is both a missed and lost opportunity for leadership.

Leaders delegate trust

Trust is not a function of legal, compliance, HR, communications, or any other department. Boards of Directors and executive leadership teams must spearhead trust, making it central to the organization’s core values, so that all stakeholders can benefit.

 

Note: In 2010 Trust Across America introduced the FACTS® Framework, an EXTERNAL quantitative measurement of the corporate trustworthiness of America’s largest 2000+ US public companies. The Framework identifies companies whose leadership is going beyond doing just what is legal and compliant to choosing the right core values that satisfy all stakeholder needs. The FACTS® Framework is the most comprehensive and data driven ongoing study on the trustworthiness of public companies. We analyze companies quarterly and rank order showing trends by company, sector and market capitalization. Read more about the Framework at this link.

In 2018 Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s Trust Alliance, a group of global trust scholars and practitioners, introduced its Trust Alliance Principles (TAP), and in 2019 our AIM Survey tool was created to guide leaders and teams in building trust INTERNALLY. It is based on universal behaviors that strengthen and weaken trust. To date, almost 150,000 global professionals have tapped into trust, and dozens of teams and organizations have used our simple survey tool to start a trust discussion.

 

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its 12th year, the program has developed two proprietary trust-evaluation tools, the latest is AIM Towards Trust. She also runs the world largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series. Kimmel is a former consultant to McKinsey who has worked across multiple industries and with senior leadership. She holds a bachelor’s in international affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch.

For more information visit our website at www.trustacrossamerica.com or contact us.

 

 

Purchase our books at this link

 

Copyright © 2020 Next Decade, Inc.

 

 

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Aug
25

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”  Benjamin Franklin

“Say you’re sorry.” As a child, how often did you hear those words from parents and teachers? While apologies become even more “complex” in adulthood, have you stopped to consider the role they play in trust repair?  This week, as part of our Zoom Lunch & Learn series seven members of our Trust Alliance convened to discuss the topic of apologies in a session called “I’m sorry…but.”

Prior to meeting, I provided the group with the following insights shared by one of our members:  
It’s been almost four decades since Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol crisis, and public affairs professionals have been fixated on the “apologize” model.  Whenever a company is attacked, they recommend that trust can be rebuilt only by an immediate apology. Yet there have been critics of this approach, most notably renowned crisis manager Eric Dezenhall.  In his 2007 book Damage Control, subtitled “What Everything You Know About Crisis Management is Wrong,” Dezenhall argues that not all situations are the same, that not all apologies are the same, and that the costs and benefits of the apology must be carefully evaluated.
Through the lens of trust, the apology plays a particularly important role, which may be to restore, build or further undermine trust. The apology is no panacea that fixes broken trust; at best, it is one step in an ongoing process.  

Our discussion extended beyond apologies at the organizational or corporate level. We reviewed interpersonal apologies as well.

The following are some of the key take aways:

  • The purpose of an apology is to repair a damaged relationship, whether it is between two people or at the leadership/ corporate level, and there must be a desire to do so.
  • Apologies must have a unifying quality with no “conditions” or “buts.”
  • Authentic apologies must contain an acknowledgement of harm and a commitment to a behavioral change. (Example: A husband is caught cheating on his wife. The apology must go beyond, “I’m sorry for hurting you” to “I promise you I will never do it again.”)
  • Apologies should not be confused with taking responsibility. (Example: Johnson & Johnson followed their credo and took responsibility after the Tylenol crisis. They did not apologize.)
  • Victims need validation more than an apology.
  • Apologies are words. Trust is built through actions. A plan must be announced with specifics. Simply saying we “hope to regain your trust” is worthless.
  • Trust can be built only after lasting changes have been made. Remember, actions always speak louder than words.
  • Ethical actions not only reduce the need for apologies, they also raise awareness of the benefits of principled behavior. Incivility, sarcasm and humiliation have no place in relationships inside or outside the office. In fact, they are breeding grounds for reducing trust and increasing the odds of a crisis.
  • Consider what is happening in the relationship that creates the need for an apology. What internal changes should be made to modify the dynamic and prevent future crises? Without an internal culture of responsibility and accountability, there WILL be crises and regardless of whether or not an apology is given, there will not be a change in behavior to correct things.

A few additional thoughts the intersection of apologies and trust for leaders and organizations facing a crisis:

  • While most companies have a mission or vision “statement”, quarterly reviews based on financial returns still rule the day. This creates the perfect storm for a crisis. Leaders then delegate the apology and trust repair “fix” to their corporate communications/PR team, instead of taking ownership. Wells Fargo is the poster child for this approach which fails every time.
  • Most business leaders are unaware of the independent variables or behaviors that create trust. If they don’t defer to PR, they defer to “legal” who are trained in risk, not trust.
  • Spontaneous conversations about reputation rarely occur until reputation is in the ditch. Reputation management, like crisis management, like employee engagement are really PR terms rather than management terms. That’s why they’re not seriously a part of management’s vocabulary. Trust is a management word. Integrity is a management word. Civility and decency aren’t really management words.
  • One of my favorite questions in these circumstances is,” what would your mother’s say if they were in the room right now, after they slapped you in the head and told you that you were not the kid they raised.”
  • An attack on trust/a crisis means that the organization performed below expectations of at least one of its stakeholders. An organization can have a crisis with one stakeholder that does not impact others. For example, HP had a governance issue that caused it to apologize to investors with plans for how it would be avoided in the future, but it did not register with customers.
In conclusion, consider this:
Individuals, leaders and trustworthy organizations who are in the enviable position of having built trust over time, will be more easily forgiven for what may be viewed as a genuine or unavoidable mistake instead of an ethical lapse. This not only increases the chances of surviving future crises, it prevents the majority of those crises from happening at all.
For more information on how to assess the level of trust in your organization and reduce those apology “moments” Tap into Trust and access our simple survey tools.
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To participate in future Lunch & Learns, apply to join our vetted Trust Alliance.
Thank you to Bart Alexander, David Belden, Lea Brovedani, Charles Feltman, Nadine Hack, Jim Lukaszewski and Elliot Schreiber for your insights. Until next time!
_____________________
Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its 12th year, the program has developed two proprietary trust-evaluation tools, the latest is AIM Towards Trust. She also runs the world largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series. Kimmel is a former consultant to McKinsey who has worked across multiple industries and with senior leadership. She holds a bachelor’s in international affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch.

 

 

Copyright © 2020, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Aug
11

“Trust has to be earned, and should come only after the passage of time.”– Arthur Ashe

 

 

 

Performing a quick review of recent news headlines on trust repair and restoration returns the following results:

Restore Trust in Science

Pittsburgh Diocese to do More to Restore Trust

Can a Blockchain Timestamp Help Rebuild Trust

Fair and Unbiased Reporting Will Restore Trust in Media

Mayor Peter Gets Hired by Notre Dame to Restore Trust in Politics

Zuckerberg Has a Lot of Work To do To Restore Public Trust in Facebook

These headlines might lead the average reader to believe that, at one point, the referenced societal institutions had built trust and have now lost it. For others including me, they are a naive attention grabbing media tool, serving no purpose and misleading most readers. It’s simply not possible to rebuild or restore something that was ignored during the organizational construction phase.

Building trust should never be used as a crisis response or news headline following a reputation hit.

Trust doesn’t work that way. It is always proactive, intentional and deliberate and trust is built:

  • Through ethical and principled behavior modeled by leadership
  • From the inside out
  • Over time
  • In incremental steps

A strong foundation of trust supports an even stronger “trust bank account” and ensures that reputation hits will be minimized and repair will be easy and inexpensive. It also brings many collateral benefits including:

  • Elevated employee engagement and retention
  • Reduced workplace stress
  • Improved stakeholder relationships
  • More innovation
  • Better accountability, transparency and communication
  • Reduced costs and elevated profits

Unfortunately the current global crisis has revealed the level to which most leaders across all societal institutions from science to business, have ignored the organizational risks that their low trust environments have created. Many are now faced with the monumental task of climbing their way out of the “trust repair trap.”  While it’s never too late to start building trust, it must begin with leadership acknowledgement that the crisis response strategy to trust does not work. It never did.

Those interested in proactively elevating trust can choose to:

  1. Join our global Trust Alliance
  2. Tap into Trust and join almost 150,000 global professionals who have already done so
  3. Use our AIM assessment tools to start a trust discussion
  4. Host a virtual trust building workshop
  5. Or drop a note to Barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its 12th year, the program has developed two proprietary trust-evaluation tools, the latest is AIM Towards Trust. She also runs the world largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series. Kimmel is a former consultant to McKinsey who has worked across multiple industries and with senior leadership. She holds a bachelor’s in international affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch.

 

Copyright © 2020, Next Decade, Inc.

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Jul
28

Our 7th Trust Alliance Lunch & Learn was held on July 23rd when we convened nine members to discuss trust and trustworthiness. This one-page presentation summarizes our findings, providing both Essential Steps and Additional Considerations for those interested in further exploring the role trust plays in organizational success.

Join the Alliance to participate in our next event on August 6th at noon.

 

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Jun
30

Today we conclude our 2020 Trust Insights series. Should you ever choose to think about the role trust plays on your team or in your organization, start by answering the question “Trust to do what?” and then consider the following:

 

 

 

  • All leaders and their team members must take ownership and be proactive about trust. Trust must first be well defined, never taken for granted or only talked about after a crisis. More on this subject at this link.
  • Trust is an outcome of principled behavior on the part of all leaders and team members. Access our Trust Alliance Principles to learn more. The weakest behaviors break the trust chain.
  • Leadership effectiveness should be evaluated by the internal environment of trust that has been created and maintained. Learn how you can evaluate it.
  • Trust cannot be regulated or delegated to a “department.” Without shared values that foster a culture of trust, leaders defer to legal and compliance to enforce rules. Read “Trust: Going Beyond Compliance & Ethics.”
  • No organization is sustainable without a foundation of trust, and there are no shortcuts.
  • Trust in leadership and among teams cannot be measured by public opinion polls. Don’t confuse external “perception of trust” surveys with internal surveys of trust.
  • A company cannot create authentic brand trust without first building trust internally.
  • If you are a leader who is not willing to personally do the work to build trust, don’t talk about it as if you are. Read “Ten One Liners for the Low Trust Leader.”
  • The only way to build trust is to behave your way into it. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to trust, and there are many work arounds.
  • Ignoring trust as an intentional business strategy presents enormous enterprise risk. The benefits of high trust are too numerous to ignore.

I hope you have enjoyed our 26-week Trust Insights series.

Before you leave, Tap Into Trust and complete our 1 minute/1 question quiz. Find out how the level of trust in your workplace compares to over 500 others. 

Have you reviewed how our workshops are helping teams and organizations just like yours elevate trust? Schedule an ONLINE webinar today.

Did you miss our previous 2020 Trust Insights? Access them at this link.

Contact us for more information on elevating trust on your team or in your organization or email me directly:

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.

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May
12

 Geert, thank you for participating in our 2020 Trust Insights series. What is your trust insight?

Ethics and compliance officers need to stimulate and assist management to establish a culture of trust.  Geert Vermeulen

 

 

 

 

Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

If you want to create a culture where people feel free to speak, hold people accountable, managers set a good example, where employees are engaged with the organization and feel that they are treated fairly, you are basically working towards establishing a culture of trust. This means that as management, you should not only focus on satisfying shareholders, but also on your other stakeholders, starting with your employees.

By establishing a culture of trust, where people are not afraid to admit errors and mistakes, are able to challenge decisions, where they openly discuss potential problems as well as new ideas, you will not only have fewer long-lasting problems but you will also stimulate a more innovative culture. As a result, you will have a better reputation as a company.

Therefore, you will be better able to attract high-potentials to come and work for you and clients will be more inclined to buy something from your brand. And as a result of fewer problems, more innovation and a better reputation, you will see that you will have better financial results in the long term. So, in the end, this also benefits your shareholders. It’s a win-win situation in the long term.

 

Can you provide a real life example of a trust “challenge” where your insight has been effectively applied.

I was working as an ethics & compliance officer at a multinational and found out that in a certain country people were making corrupt payments. We stopped the payments and asked an outside party to conduct an investigation. Unfortunately, the quality of the investigation was unsatisfactory and in the end, I decided to continue the investigation myself together with a colleague. So, we traveled to this country to interview people, analyze what had gone wrong and submitted a report to the management in which we advised to take a number of corrective and preventive measures, including firing a few people and taking disciplinary measures against others. Virtually all of our recommendations were adopted. As a result, people in the local organizations looked at me as the guy who got their colleagues fired and were frightened to talk with me. But that is not what I wanted, I wanted people to come to me with their challenges and issues, so we can have a discussion and try to find solutions together. We, (the management and I,) basically had to restore trust. But the question was how. We decided to use all the tools that we could think of.

We started by confessing that we (regional/global management and the compliance department) had also dropped the ball and had not been sufficiently involved in this country, despite the fact that it was identified as a high-risk country. Therefore, we invested in the local compliance function and I also visited the country more often. We encouraged everyone to come forward with anything that had happened in the past that they were concerned about, trying to create a culture of openness and transparency. And if they had not been the main driver behind the unethical behavior, they would not get fired or face any negative consequences whatsoever for coming forward. We offered all employees free access to external lawyers for a number of days. They could ask confidential advice and we would pay for that, without knowing who asked what.

Now that the corrupt payments had been stopped, some of our employees received death threats from former clients. After a careful deliberation we decided to step into that discussion, taking away the authority to make payments from the local country office and by communicating that if anyone still had problems with that, they could have a discussion with somebody from the head office (me), herewith exposing ourselves to these threats as well, demonstrating personal commitment. I have to admit that, since I have children, I have become less brave and more careful, so this was quite uncomfortable. Luckily nobody showed up to have that discussion.

We personally visited some of the more problematic locations to actually see with our own eyes what was going on. We organized dilemma sessions with the employees to explore potential solutions and panel sessions with senior management where employees could ask anything. At the same time, we launched a marketing campaign, organized a compliance quiz and handed out rewards. And to conclude the marketing campaign, we organized a party.

We knew that we would lose a number of clients and were prepared to make a loss. Much to our surprise our experience proved that, as we profiled ourselves as the most compliant supplier in the market, we obtained new clients and our annual results in the end actually showed a growth of both revenue and profit. We put a lot of effort into restoring the trust and I think that we managed to succeed. That said, keeping the trust also requires a lot of work and is something that should not be taken for granted.

 

Generally, do you think the global “trust” climate is improving or worsening? What actions are making it better or worse?

This is a difficult question. If I look at the political climate across the world I am not very positive. I notice that quite a few leaders with a nationalist agenda are elected, taking protective measures. Not trusting other countries. Blaming the opposition. 

At the same time, I also see changes in the business world, like the recent emphasis on ESG, as expressed by BlackRock and other major investors, as well as the declaration from the Business Round Table in the US. Business leaders are realizing that they are losing credit from society and they release statements that they want to balance the interests of the shareholders with the interests of the other stakeholders. But do we see that happening in practice? I guess it is still too early to tell. In The Netherlands we have seen leaders like Paul Polman from Unilever and Feike Sijbesma from DSM making their companies more sustainable and at the same time also delivering better business results. The question is what their successors will do now that they have stepped down. And whether other companies will adopt a similar strategy.

More importantly, I am very optimistic about the younger generations, the millennials, who seem to have another attitude. In the US we have seen employees starting protests against their companies who don’t seem to follow their own value statements. I have not seen that in other countries yet, but I do notice (anecdotally) that also in Europe the young generations are less interested in money, possessions and wealth and more interested in experiences and doing something meaningful with their life.

 

Many claim we have a crisis of trust. Do you agree?

Yes, I do. Countries seem to be less inclined to support each other. Free trade agreements are re-negotiated. The value of international institutions is challenged. We spend less money on development aid. The US and Europe stop refugees who want to enter their countries looking for a better life. We have free movement of goods and capital but not of people. If anything bad happens, foreigners are blamed. In the US the Democrats and republicans are so divided that it is hardly impossible to reach a compromise. This while a good democracy also takes the interests of the minorities into account.

Instead, we see an ‘us against them’ attitude and people hardly seem to be able to listen to each other, feel empathy with other people, trying to understand their situation and line of thinking. And this happens at a time where we are more connected than ever through social media and global supply chains. The reality is that we are all in this together. Trust in vital institutions like journalists and scientific institutes is waning. However, I also see some positive trends, as described above.

 

Geert, how has your membership in our Trust Alliance benefitted you professionally?

The Trust Alliance inspires me. I learn from other people and it is always nice to meet likeminded people to exchange thoughts and ideas. I have also used the outcomes of the FACTS(R) Framework to support my theory that ethical/trustworthy organizations achieve better business results in the long term. I use that in my articles, talks and training sessions.

In The Netherlands I have been active in the Association of Dutch Compliance Professionals. I am the former Chairman. I launched and still chair the expert group on Financial Economic Crime and am a member of the expert group on Culture and Behavior, where I lead the internationalization effort. This last group developed a toolbox with some 40 tools that ethics and compliance officers can use to (assist management to) influence the company culture and the behavior of individuals. We are going to include Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s AIM Survey tool in our toolbox this year.

 

Geert, thank you so much for your time and more importantly for your commitment to elevating organizational trust. What would you like our audience to know about you?

My mission is to help organizations conduct business in an ethical and compliant way by reducing risk and stimulating better business. I specialize in establishing and improving ethics and compliance programs in general and anti-corruption programs in specific. In 2016 I founded ECMC: Ethics & Compliance Management & Consulting to provide compliance training, consulting and interim ethics & compliance management. I also speak and write on ethics and compliance.
Most of my experience was obtained in-house as the Chief Compliance Officer Aon EMEA and the Global Head of Compliance of Damco, the freight forwarding arm of Maersk. I have been the President of the Dutch Compliance Officers Association, the founder/chair of the expert group on Financial Economic Crime of the Association, a member of the expert group on Culture and Behavior and a member of the Professional Advisory Committee of the Law Compliance Minor at The Hague University. I am the recipient of the 2020 National Compliance Award.

 

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