Posts Tagged ‘Doug Conant’


The Trust Action Project 2021 (#tap2021) Weekly Action is one of many Trust Alliance resources designed to help leaders, teams and organizations move beyond trust talk to ACTION in 2021 and beyond.



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

How would you like to get involved?

Copyright 2021, Next Decade, Inc.

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

“Building trust doesn’t have to be overwhelming; trust starts with small actions that honor your commitment to others and grows larger and more powerful over time.”  Doug Conant, ConantLeadership



Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

Many leaders are so beset by the deluge of competing priorities they face on any given day that the idea of creating space for building and maintaining trust is daunting. But the heartening truth is that trust—like anything else—can be built by taking small, manageable steps. Rather than feeling that you must embark on an enormous and momentous trust-building endeavor that could extend across the space of many months or years, you can start to bring trust to life in your leadership today by taking one small action in service to trust.

Remember: Behaviors are what make trust real. Focus on building micro-practices that honor your commitment to others into the way you lead; this allows you to create trustworthy teams and organizations while acknowledging the zany reality of busy, modern life. Each step you take towards trust can and should be in harmony with the pace and complexity of the modern enterprise. You don’t have to choose between honoring your commitments and cultivating trust. With a small-steps approach, you can do both.

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

In 2001, on my first day as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, I arrived to a foreboding sight: a rundown building surrounded by razor wire with guard towers looming in the sky. The grounds were overgrown with weeds and the whole headquarters looked like a prison. Inside was just as bad: the paint was peeling and there were dead plants in the common areas. The drab tableau was a grim visual metaphor for the state of the company overall where market performance had been declining and employee engagement had become abysmally low. There was barely any trust left between the leadership and the employees. It was going to be an uphill battle to rebuild trust and advance performance. But I was determined to make an impact. I knew I couldn’t tackle it all at once; I had to start small.

The first micro-action I took was the simple act of listening, really listening to people. I started soliciting feedback right away. I discovered that many employees felt disrespected, even imprisoned, by their sub-par workplace environment. Some leaders might dismiss this as petty belly-aching. But they were right; the facilities needed help. And I saw a clear and compelling opportunity to start to build trust. Here was a way I could demonstrate that I valued the perceptions of our employees. Relative to other initiatives, it would be a low-investment endeavor that could earn me lots of goodwill.

Almost immediately, physical changes were made; we removed the razor wire, we cleared the overgrowth, we repainted the walls. These improvements quickly contributed to an increase in employee engagement. Performance got better. A virtuous circle began to form. As I heard people and took action in response to that listening, I earned trust, which led to better outcomes, which led to even more trust.

Building trust began with something as tiny and seemingly inconsequential as a fresh coat of paint. But it activated a cycle of continuous improvement across all of our operations and paved the way for more and better facility improvements. Over my decade-long tenure, these upgrades became symbols of my promise to listen to the people who worked there. Bettering the work environment and making people feel heard ultimately led to a modern reimagined world headquarters in Camden that everyone in the company could take pride in. The better facilities were a manifestation of trust-building in action. We started with very small actions like listening, pulling up weeds, and removing some razor wire; it might not seem like much, but these actions grew into something bigger which was inflected throughout all of our initiatives and our improved performance in the marketplace.

Little, incremental steps are the “walk” that demonstrate the “talk,” or language of trust. It’s a powerful lesson to learn. You don’t have to fix everything all at once. To start to build trust, just do something small. Do it earnestly, do it quickly, and you’ll begin to create a positive cycle of elevated trustworthiness and better outcomes.

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

There is an undeniable dearth of trust globally. That said, I do think the global trust climate is modestly improving–at least in the business community (where the baseline is admittedly far too low to begin with). It’s easy to watch the news and feel discouraged—and it is important to have a clear-eyed view of the trust challenges we face as a whole—but it’s important to remember that good news seldom makes headlines.

While I do believe trust is modestly improving, we can’t rest on our laurels. Leaders must lead from in front on this issue, championing the importance of trust from the top, and modeling the behaviors that build trust–with diligence and passion.

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

I don’t believe it is a crisis; however, it simply must get better. When we catastrophize, we let ourselves off the hook; people begin to feel the problem is so big that they absolve themselves of the responsibility of addressing it. This benefits no one. We must be both idealistic and realistic: we have to acknowledge that there is indeed a lack of trust in public institutions and in leadership while simultaneously working to be the change we want to see in the world at large. As leaders, it is our duty to show people the way. We have to rise to the occasion and stand up and be counted. Trust is paramount. Let’s show people how to build it one small action at a time.

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

As a leader, I always benefit from the learnings and insights from a community of my peers. The Trust Alliance helps me engage with a like-minded cadre of trust-focused leaders, buoys my dedication to continuous improvement, and empowers me to remain steadfast in my commitment to workplace trust.

Doug, 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?

Doug Conant is an internationally renowned business leader and New York Times bestselling author with over 45 years of experience at world-class global companies. He is Founder of ConantLeadership, a boutique leadership firm committed to championing leadership that works in the 21st century. For the past 20 years of his leadership journey, Doug has honed his craft as a C-suite executive – first as President of the Nabisco Foods Company, then as CEO of Campbell Soup Company (2001-2011), and finally as Chairman of Avon Products. Doug’s new book, The Blueprint: 6 Powerful Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights is now available wherever books are sold.

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. 

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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 or email me directly:

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.

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It’s Week #5 of 2016. This is our latest article in a series of weekly ideas to elevate trust in your organization, drawn from our third annual 2016 Trust Poster, 52 Ideas That You Can Implement to Build Trust.

Doug Conant of Conant Leadership and one of our 2016 Top Thought Leaders in Trust offers this:

Work tirelessly to dispel the illusion that trust is a “soft” skill.

Here are eight research-based reasons for taking Doug’s advice:

Trust Across America’s FACTS® Framework (an ongoing 3-year analysis) shows America’s Most Trustworthy Public Companies more than doubling the outperformance of the S&P 500 over that same period: FACTS 62.4% vs. S&P 29.5% in a live institutional portfolio.

A study by KRW International surveyed employees and CEOs in 84 companies about the character of their leadership teams and compared the results to their financial performance. The average ROA for the S&P 500 ranges from 2 – 3.25%. Character counts and pays off.

From Global Alliance for Banking on Values, (see more on the GABV in the first issue of TRUST! Magazine,) which compared values- based and sustainable banks to their big-bank rivals and found: 7% higher Return on Equity for values-based banks (7.1% ROE compared to 6.6% for big banks).

A 2013 study by Guiso, Sapienza and Zingales called “The Value of Corporate Culture” finds that proclaimed values appear irrelevant. Yet, when employees perceive top managers as trustworthy and ethical, firm’s performance is stronger.

And when trust is ignored or perceived as a soft skill, organizations suffer from the following and much more:

Less than one-third of US workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014, with millenials the least engaged. (Gallup) and this is costing the US economy $450-550 billion a year, which is over 15% of payroll costs. (Gallup, 2013)

The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. have piled up $103 billion in legal costs since the financial crisis. (Bloomberg, August 2013)

The PR firm Edelman finds in their 2015 “Trust Barometer” that Among the informed public segment of the 33,000-person survey — a group of 700 wealthy, well-educated, well-informed individuals — 57 per cent said they trusted business, down from 59 per cent last year. (Financial Times, January 20, 2015)

The Washington Post reported that “the federal government imposed an estimated $216 billion in regulatory costs on the economy (in 2012), nearly double its previous record.”

Do you still believe trust is a soft skill? Need more proof of the argument that trust is a hard asset?

How many readers took took the advice offered in January in our Weekly series?

Week #1 Kouzes & Posner 

Week #2 Bob Vanourek

Week #3 Barbara Kimmel

Week #4 Mark Fernandes

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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