Posts Tagged ‘Bob Vanourek’


This week we are providing a quarterly wrap up of our Trust Insights series. Many of the world’s leading trust scholars and practitioners are collaborating on this project to bring you actionable insights that you can use to elevate trust at both the team and organizational level.



Simply click on the blue link in the list below to read more.


Trust Insights Week #1: Stephen M.R. Covey
Trust is both earned and given. January 7, 2020
Trust Insights Week #2: David Reiling
Developing trust starts in the C-Suite. January 14, 2020
Trust Insights Week #3: Margaret Heffernan
Trust is always and only about what you DO; nothing else matters. January 21, 2020
Trust Insights Week #4: Special Announcement
2020 Top Thought Leaders. January 28, 2020
Trust Insights Week #5: Charles H. Green
Trust is what happens when a risk-taking trustor meets a virtuous trustee. February 4, 2020
Trust Insights Week #6: Walt Rakowich
Real leadership starts by building trust; without trust, you have no platform from which to build positive influence with others. February 11, 2020
Trust Insights Week #7: Bob Vanourek
Three trust questions are the best way to deal with the ethical dilemmas we face. February 18, 2020
Trust Insights Week #8: Barbara Brooks Kimmel
The benefits of high trust are too numerous for leaders to ignore. February 25, 2020
Trust Insights Week #9: Bob Whipple
The absence of fear is the incubator of trust. March 3 , 2020
Trust Insights Week #10: Doug Conant
Building trust doesn’t have to be overwhelming… March 10, 2020
Trust Insights Week #11: Lea Brovedani
It is easier to trust someone and for others to trust you if there is genuine care… March 17, 2020
Trust Insights Week #12: Sean Flaherty
Developing trust starts with building a culture that values trust. March 24, 2020



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

Three trust questions are the best way to deal with the ethical dilemmas we face.”

Bob Vanourek, Triple Crown Leadership and former CEO



Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

Every one of us has will face ethical dilemmas. They can’t be avoided. They are the terrible moral quandaries thrust on us by bosses, people in authority, peers, or the unrelenting circumstances of life. The great philosophers have given us ethical frameworks to solve these grim choices. They range from Utilitarianism to Virtue Ethics, Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and more. Not surprisingly, most of us are clueless about how to use these principles.

Answering three trust questions can give us more practical solutions. When you face a difficult ethical choice, where all the alternatives seem terrible, ask these questions:

  1. Which course of action will build the most trust with those impacted?
  2. How can I best implement this course of action to build trust with those impacted?
  3. If some trust is broken because of this choice, how can I minimize that impact to help rebuild trust?


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

I came in as CEO to rescue a very troubled public company. The prior CEO and EVP had been indicted for bribery. Shareholder class action suits had been filed; SEC and IRS investigations were underway; the best employees and customers were panicked; and cash to meet payroll was running critically short. Unfortunately, massive layoffs were necessary. 

Realizing the crisis in the company was not due to the employees who would now face the repercussions, we decided to handle the cutbacks differently. People being laid off were not going to be immediately escorted to the door by security guards with boxes of their belongings in their hands because they could not be trusted. They would be treated respectfully with fair severance and references. With their agreement, they would stay in place for weeks to train others who would assume their duties. We would hold farewell gatherings for each to acknowledge their past work and to wish them well.

Right before the announcements to all employees, I met with a very capable, long-term, and popular senior executive, John, to inform him that his job was being eliminated. He understood, and I invited him, if he wished attend, to join the all-hands meeting starting then.

Naturally, there was shock among the employees as I announced the dire circumstances we were in and what we were forced to do to survive. I assured them that fair treatment for those being separated was involved. But I sensed the anger and skepticism in the audience.

Then, I saw John standing near the stage. As I looked him in the eyes, I intuitively felt I could trust him to do what was right. I told the employees that John was one of those being laid-off. I thanked him for his years of service. Then I invited him onto the stage to say a few words if he wished to do so. I heard an audible gasp from my officer corps. They must have been thinking, “What will John say after being told he was being laid-off?”

John stepped to the mic with tears in his eyes and his throat catching with emotion. He thanked his colleagues for their work together over the years, said he would be “just fine,” and encouraged the audience to “hold the course.” The company would survive these tough times, and he was proud to have worked there.

We survived, and with much hard work, we successfully rebuilt. I chose a course of action that, while risky, was one I felt would build trust, or at least help rebuild any trust that was broken.


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

The global trust climate is both worsening and improving.

In this age of instant communication with 24/7 cable news, social media posts, tweets, and cell phone videos, virtually no information remains confidential. Many of the old guard, who have been exploiting others and the world for decades, are being “outed.” Outrage is high. It often seems we are enmeshed in an age of lies, cover-ups, cronyism, and scandals with a trust crisis. For many, therefore, trust levels are low.

But at the same time,  there is a growing body of leaders who have had enough of the old ways. They are ethical, values-based, transparent, humble, and intent on  building organizations with great cultures where trust is paramount. These organizations will not make the “can-you-top-this-outrage-headlines,” but they are the vanguard of the new movement that is growing steadily. These organizations are the winners, who will be talent magnets for the best people. Their influence and exemplary examples will shine through as the role models for all to see. For them, thankfully, trust levels are high.


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

To paraphrase Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities,” it is the best of times and the worst of times. Ultimately, trust will win over fear. Paradoxically, the trust crisis will create a trust transformation, elevating trust to be an organizational imperative.


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

TAA-TAW: Trust Across America—Trust Around the World has led me to connect with some wise and extraordinary colleagues. We have spoken, worked, created, and written together. It is a professional cadre of which I am proud to be a member.


Bob, 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?


Bob Vanourek is the former CEO of five companies, a Lifetime Achievement Winner at TAA-TAW, and the author of “Triple Crown Leadership; Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations” and “Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse,” both international award winners.


And while you are here, Tap Into Trust and complete our 1 minute/1 question quiz. Find out how the level of trust in your workplace compares to hundreds of others.

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


Contact us for more information on elevating trust on your team or in your organization.

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.


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Last week a business owner inquired if I could help his company build a roadmap to a high trust culture. First I asked what he thought the roadmap might include, and his answer was not surprising. “My business coach instructed my office manager to hire a motivational speaker, enter us in a “great workplace” competition, donate money to charity, and have an annual picnic. Then we can call ourselves trustworthy.” ( I didn’t dare ask for the name of the coach, as it was immediately apparent that trust subject matter expertise was not their forte.) My next question was a bit more difficult. I asked him what role he would play in designing the trust roadmap. His response, “That’s why I hired a coach, so I would know how and what to delegate to my staff.” Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing the conversation was occurring by phone so I could end the call quickly.

With unemployment at record lows and employee engagement and retention looking very bleak, one might think that leaders would pay closer attention to building a culture of trust, which some have gone as far as calling the “new currency,” but apparently not so. In fact, over the past ten+ years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard similar (and sometimes worse) answers to the questions posed above. 

So once again I turned to the members of our Trust Council  and asked them for what they considered to be the first three steps in building a culture of trust.

Bob Vanourek a former Fortune 500 CEO was the first to respond, sharing the following, and from the perspective of a consultant engaged by a large organization:
1. Contact the top leader of the organization for a personal appointment to tell him/her what they are undertaking and why it is so important, promising to keep them and all intermediate levels of authority informed about this effort.
2. Call a special meeting (with no other agenda items) of his/her direct reports and other influential staff members to:
  • Inform them of this effort.
  • Ask for their help in supporting it.
  • Ask for their help in finding resources (written, video, or in-person) to support it.
  • Ask their help in creating periodic measures for all of them for how to observe progress.

3. Commit to keep trust-building as a top professional priority in the future.

Bob Whipple of Leadergrow approached the question from the perspective of what a small business owner might do:

Have a staff meeting and tell your team there are some new rules for the enterprise:

  1. We will admit our mistakes, and model that behavior by admitting a mistake you have made during the last week that you have not shared yet.
  2. Ask that every time a person receives help or some special effort from someone else on the team – that person writes a thank you email to the person and copies you on it.  You then read a selected few of those notes at the start of every meeting. Build a culture of reinforcement at all levels of the organization.
  3. Insist that when you say or do something that someone in the organization believes is not right or consistent with our values, that person is obligated to tell you what the concern is and promise that you will make that person glad he or she brought it up.  Then do exactly that without fail – ever.  Practice reinforcing candor!

My approach to constructing a high trust culture, encompasses some of the suggestions made by “the Bobs” above, and will work in any organization of any size.

  1. Establish an organizational trust-building committee comprised of a Board member if applicable, a member of the executive team, one senior employee from the compliance, finance, communications and HR functions. Set a one-year goal to build a culture of trust from the inside out, at the team level, including the Board and executive team.
  2. Since trust is an outcome of many universal principles, step two is for each team to determine which principles are weak, and which are strong. As our past surveys have shown, the results won’t necessarily be the same from team to team within the organization. (If the organization is relatively small, it may not be necessary to survey each team individually.)
  3. Spend the first six months addressing the weakest principles on each team and celebrating the strengths. Repeat survey in 6 months and continue working on the principles that remain weak. By the end of one year, the hardest part of the trust “construction project” will have been completed. Now go have that ice cream social!

Building a culture of trust will only be effective when: 

  1. Leaders acknowledge that culture change starts with them, and is always built from the inside out
  2. The right tools are used to identify trust weaknesses and strengths
  3. Team members are free to discuss survey or other diagnostic outcomes through open dialogue
  4. Trust weaknesses are mended and strengths are celebrated

We call this process AIM Towards Trust... Acknowledge, Identify, Mend and it’s been used successfully in teams and organizations of all sizes, shapes and colors; but only when leaders intentionally choose to build trust into their corporate culture AND own it. That must always occur BEFORE a crisis, not after the fact.

Finally don’t get caught up in “work arounds” to building a high trust culture because there ARE no quick fixes. These are a few of the more “trendy” ones that you might have encountered:

  • Misdefined trust: This includes brand trust, data trust, blockchain trust, and check-the-box trust. Trust is always internal and interpersonal.
  • External trust polls: If the question “trust to do what?” is not answered, the survey is either invalid or misleading.
  • Trust as a popular place holder title:  Many will use trust interchangeably with other terms like transparency, ethics or integrity, when it is actually a combination of many universal principles.
  • Trust as one-size-fits-all: Because of its complexity, all organizational trust challenges can be attributed to a variety of factors that must be identified and addressed separately and differently.
  • Trust that is not “principles” based: Trust is not a function of the PR department or a “purpose” campaign, but rather a function of highly principled trustworthy leadership.

I hope these suggestions will help you in constructing your own trust roadmap. Special thanks to Bob V. and Bob W. Your contributions to elevating trust are always appreciated.

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

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.


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We are heading into Week #2 of 2016. How many readers took the advice of Kouzes & Posner on building organizational trust in Week #1?

This is the second blog in a series of weekly ideas to elevate trust in your organization, pulled from our third annual 2016 Trust Poster, 52 Ideas That You Can Implement to Build Trust.

This idea is offered by Bob Vanourek, a former CEO and multi-year Trust Across America Top Thought Leader honoree, and a Trust Alliance member. You can read more about Bob’s work at this link.

 Identify what builds trust and what breaks trust

Action: Hold several small-group discussions with your colleagues. Elicit their thoughts on:

  1. Why is trust important?
  2. What builds trust?
  3. What breaks trust?
  4. What can each of us do to build trust?

If you currently hold a leadership position or aspire to be a trustworthy leader, remember that if leaders can’t identify trust builders and busters, they are missing out one of the best opportunities to improve their workplace.  And by the way, trustworthy leaders also ask the right questions!

The second week of 2016 starts soon!

Thanks Bob. Best wishes for 2016.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO & Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help responsible organizations build trust. She facilitates the world’s largest membership program for those interested in the subject. Barbara also serves as editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Copyright 2016, Next Decade, Inc.


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A spate of corporate crises in 2015 have only served to fuel the long-term fire of low organizational trust. Under the theory that trust starts at the top and trickles down, we asked our Alliance Members and Top Thought Leaders how Boards of Directors can be the catalyst to drive organizational trust in the right direction in 2016.

Our readers will find twelve suggestions below:


Boards must replace fear with trust:

A trust-based culture increases morale, productivity, innovation, speed, agility, pride in the workplace, value to the customer and sustained high performance.

Edward Marshall, The Marshall Group


Boards must widen the scope of their membership:

Diverse boards bring different and new types of expertise and perspectives, increasing the range of topics discussed, and most important, encouraging open, candid and provocative discussions.

Nadine Hack, beCause Global Consulting


Boards and CEOs must be proactive:

Boards can and should lead certain functions for the firm from defining the desired culture to involvement in strategy development. They should not be passive monitors.

Bob Vanourek, Triple Crown Leadership


Board members must have authentic conversations:

They must be provided with sufficient information; a safe space that protects privacy and rejects behaviors to intimidate, ridicule or insult; and enough time to explore systemic issues without jumping to conclusions.

Alain Bolea, Business Advisors Network


Boards must avoid entrenching polarized attitudes:

Boards must have synergy. Look for warning signs in communications including “we versus they” or “if only we can get them to do this.”

Bob Whipple, Leadergrow


Board members must ask the tough (ethical) questions…and act on the answers:

Tie compensation and bonuses to ethical leadership metrics as well as financial performance.

Donna C. Boehme, Compliance Strategists


Boards must demand management accountability:

Mission, purpose, values, culture, strategy, business model and brand must be thoughtfully defined, activated and aligned to create a coherent whole.

Roger Bolton, Arthur Page Society


Boards must align their business agenda with societal expectations:

Board members must have an unmistakable sensitivity to the societal issues of the day. Capabilities must be aligned to build a better world AND a better company.

Doug Conant, Conant Leadership


Boards must speak with candor:

The canned, compliance-approved double-talk and corporate window dressing must be replaced. It is, at best, a short-term unsustainable business strategy, and hiding behind philanthropic efforts simply doesn’t work. Boards must build cultures of authentic long-term trust, practice it holistically, and regularly communicate it to all stakeholders.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Trust Across America


Boards must kill the evening before dinner:

Instead take a small group of front-line or mid-level employees to dinner in an informal setting without the presence of other corporate executives.

Robert Galford, Center for Leading Organizations


Board must understand their organization’s relationship with their stakeholders:

Take surveys, monitor social and legacy media, and share information across the organization; track the emotions of issues, events and topics, follow changes in the environment; engage and address concerns.

Linda Locke, Standing Partnership


Boards must develop their own crisis plan:

Enumerate what kinds of actions will be taken for different issues, their crisis strategy and who will be designated to play “first string.”

Davia Temin, Temin and Company


What would you add to these recommendations? Drop me a note at

Dozens more suggestions like this can be found in Trust, Inc: A Guide for Boards and C-Suites and in our brand new 2016 annual poster Weekly Ideas That You Can Implement to Build Trust



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Has CEO compensation destroyed trust in corporate America?

Will the real root cause of the destruction of trust please stand up. While many blame Wall Street and the financial meltdown in 2008, trust began to gasp for air many years earlier. The financial meltdown just added a nail to the coffin.

Trust had a quick descent  in the 1990’s with the explosion of stock option grants and an increased focus on shareholder value. In fact, By 2000, stock options accounted for more than half of total compensation for a typical S&P 500 CEO.

Over the 14-year 1992-2005 time period, the average US S&P 500 company awarded over €1 billion worth of
options to its executives and employees (or €500 billion across all 500 companies). Moreover, the average S&P 500 company transferred through options approximately 25.6% of its total outstanding equity to its executives and employees (Murphy, Jensen and Wruck (2011).

And lest we forget the accounting scandals like Enron, Sarbanes Oxley, pay for performance, options backdating and Dodd Frank, perhaps sealing the fate of trust for good. Unfortunately, regulation is punitive and does little if anything to create value or trust. For those interested in read more about the global history of CEO compensation and it’s impact on trust, this is an excellent paper.

A more recent July NY Times article written by Eduardo Porter called Motivating Corporations to Do Good contains the following:

In 1993, some 20 percent of executive compensation was based on stock, according to Lynn Stout of Cornell Law School. Today, equity accounts for about 60 percent of the remuneration of executives at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. With so much money tied up in stock options and the like, it is not surprising that executives will do almost anything to give their share price a boost regardless of what costs this might incur after their options have vested. (and regardless of how much trust must be compromised along the way)

And finally, as described in this September article in The Week, written by James Pethokoukis, most US companies and their CEO’s are stuck in the short-term and quarterly earnings mentality, again both killers of trust.

The Silver Lining

In a recent blog post called The Good News About Leadership  Bob Vanourek describes more enlightened versions of capitalism that are emerging and go beyond the “maximize shareholder value” mantra that is becoming increasingly obsolete and discredited. He references this article in McKinsey Insights called Redefining Capitalism.

Have We Yet to See Any Examples Of CEOS Embracing a New Way of Thinking about Trust?

Yes indeed! I wrote about the Top Ten CEO Trust Stories of 2014 in this recent post. It includes examples from enlightened CEOs like Howard Schultz at Starbucks and Capital One’s Richard Fairbank.

Perhaps there is still a ray of hope for trust to make a comeback in corporate America, but it won’t be through increased regulation and mandatory rules. After all, trust is voluntary.  Let’s see what happens in 2015.

Our library of our own award-winning books and many others on building organizational trust can be accessed here and provide a good starting place for learning more about the subject, especially if you are an enlightened CEO, or want to be one.

PrintND Trust CEO cvr 140602-ft914Trust front Cover


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Copyright 2015, Next Decade, Inc.


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TrustGiving 2014 Logo-Final


Welcome to TRUSTGiving 2014, our first annual weeklong trust awareness campaign.  Join the Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts as we help our readers navigate the complexities of trust. During the week we will be blogging (several times a day) and posting on Twitter #TrustGiving2014.

Bob Vanourek is a former CEO of 5 firms. What happened when he got fired?

When I was in my late-20’s, I was CEO of a small company owned by a venture-capital firm in California that had hired me. We had a great run over a few years, taking the firm from $1 million in revenue to almost $4 million, and I was hoping we might “go public.”

Then I was told by the venture capitalists that they had sold the firm to a larger company. I was shocked. After the sale, I had a chip on my shoulder, which showed in my behavior at the new firm. I was a pain-in-the butt.

One day the Group VP to whom I reported arrived in town and fired me. What an embarrassment in the small town where we lived. No outplacement services in those days. I was just out. 

One of my direct reports was named CEO, and I learned my officers had all been interviewed for my job before I was canned. How untrustworthy they had been.

Then I heard a radio jingle:

“Love many; trust few; and always paddle your own canoe.”

“That’s me,” I said. People betrayed me, so, I’ll trust few.

I operated that way for a while but soon realized, when I showed I didn’t trust people, then they didn’t trust me. As my friends, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say, leaders go first.

To lead, I had to regain a positive attitude and extend trust first. 

Bob Vanourek is the former CEO of five firms from a start-up to a billion dollar NY stock exchange turnaround. He is an organizational consultant and is one of Trust Across America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. He is the co-author of the award-winning book Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Copyright 2014 Next Decade, Inc.

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