Posts Tagged ‘leadership’


Business leaders are constrained by the number of hours in the day, competing demands, and how they choose to prioritize their time. Sadly many spend a large percentage of their day reacting to crises and extinguishing fires. This is lost time that could be better allocated to proactively building their brand.

From our research over 15+ years we know that trustworthy organizations make for good business and are less risky, yet the majority of leaders do not embrace the long-term benefits of trust. If they did, some of their time would be freed up for more worthwhile pursuits.  If you are a leader and this sounds remotely interesting to you, start by asking yourself these ten questions.

Ten Questions For Leaders Seeking to Build Trustworthy Organizations

  1. Have I acknowledged or ignored the business case for trust?
  2. Am I personally trustworthy? Does trust matter to me as an individual or in my professional life?
  3. Is trust mentioned in our mission/vision statement or corporate credo? If not, why not?
  4. Do all stakeholders view me as trustworthy? Have I asked?
  5. Do I speak about the importance of trust on a regular basis?
  6. Do I engage my employees in discussions about trust?
  7. Do I own and model trust building behaviors? Am I transparent, accountable, respectful?
  8. Do I celebrate achievements? Do I allow mistakes?
  9. Do I have a trust tracking mechanism in place?
  10. Have I budgeted for trust building programs?

What other questions should leaders be asking themselves in pursuit of building trustworthy organizations?  Leave a comment.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an author, speaker, product developer and global subject matter expert on trust and trustworthiness. Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World she is author of the award-winning Trust Inc., Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset, Trust Inc., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust and Trust Inc., a Guide for Boards & C-Suites. She majored in International Affairs (Lafayette College), and has an MBA (Baruch- City University of NY). Her expertise on trust has been cited in Harvard Business Review, Investor’s Business Daily, Thomson Reuters, BBC Radio, The Conference Board, Global Finance Magazine, Bank Director and Forbes, among others.


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So what’s your trust excuse?

Fifteen years is a long time to be “talking trust” with leaders and managers, and yet something keeps me doing it. I have spoken with hundreds if not thousands of business leaders during this time from small startups to Fortune 500 and, given the opportunity, ask this question.

What role if any does trust play in your work?

And these are the most common responses in no particular order.

  1. None, trust is a soft skill
  2. None, there is no business case
  3. None, we have no budget 
  4. None, we do not consider it a measurable risk
  5. I never thought about it
  6. My employees trust me
  7. Huge, every year we bring in a “big name” motivational speaker
  8. None, I have too many daily fires to extinguish
  9. None, it’s not my job
  10. None, are you kidding?

What’s the message here? Whether you are a leader, manager or work as a member of a team, if you do not intentionally choose  trust building as part of your daily activities, do not expect it to flourish. It does not happen on its own.

If you are interested in learning more, take a look below.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an author, speaker, product developer and global subject matter expert on trust and trustworthiness. Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World she is author of the award-winning Trust Inc., Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset, Trust Inc., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust and Trust Inc., a Guide for Boards & C-Suites. She majored in International Affairs (Lafayette College), and has an MBA (Baruch- City University of NY). Her expertise on trust has been cited in Harvard Business Review, Investor’s Business Daily, Thomson Reuters, BBC Radio, The Conference Board, Global Finance Magazine, Bank Director and Forbes, among others.

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

Early in 2020 several members of our Trust Alliance convened around the topic:

Trust Lessons from Working Remotely

At the time many of us had only been working remotely for several weeks, while for others, this had been their norm for years. Dozens of excellent insights were offered during the session and they are divided into three categories. 

The Good

  • Trust is foundational regardless of whether people are working face to face or remotely.
  • Trust is the ultimate collaboration tool.
  • Leaders who invested in learning the language and creating a foundation of trust have a competitive advantage in our current environment. Kudos to them for addressing trust before a crisis.
  • The current pandemic environment represents a rare and unique opportunity for managers to work on trust building behaviors like accountability, openness and respect. It’s also a great time to be relying less on email and more on verbal communication.
  • In all levels of society we are learning that facing challenges and solving problems are simplified when trust is amplified.

The Bad

  • Adding more technology options does not build trust, nor is it a substitute for trust. Trust is interpersonal. It develops over time and builds in incremental steps through principled behavior.
  • If trust was lacking in the office before the pandemic, this deficiency will be amplified with employees working remotely.
  • If people are more productive working remotely, managers MUST ask themselves why.
  • Employees who were disengaged pre-crisis (the majority according to Gallup) will most likely be even more disengaged now.
  • Some people are finding that the 5 day work week has become a 7 day week and don’t know when to end their workday. In other words, work/life balance can suffer in some cases.

The Ugly

  • Nothing busts employee trust faster than a layoff (some countries have laws prohibiting layoffs.) With so many alternatives, leaders who were the earliest to press the downsize button may be last to fill vacancies with qualified employees when they need them again. These companies will be viewed by good talent as too risky and certainly not employee centric. In fact, decline in profitability, employee performance and even bankruptcies are all too common when layoffs are the solution of choice.
  • Many view fear as the opposite of trust and when leaders do nothing to allay the fears of their employees and other stakeholders during a time of crisis, they are setting themselves up for further damage in the future.
  • Fluffy marketing garbage is not working. The public has become way too skeptical to believe most of the “purpose” filled trust messages that brands are attempting to deliver. When a bank tells me they are “here for me during this time of crisis” while simultaneously cutting savings account interest rates but not credit card interest, I would rather not receive their marketing message. In fact they may just lose my business.
  • And speaking of banks, any organization in any industry whose leaders haven’t learned how to bank trust by building a strong foundation, can now expect their own bank balance to continue to decline as distrust increases.

A few suggestions were offered to elevate trust:

  • Assign a permanent Remote Workforce Manager.
  • If you didn’t already have one, a crisis continuity plan should be created.
  • Have more frequent “touch points” with your team, not only about work related matters but also about personal needs. Also, don’t forget the mental health of your employees during these difficult times.
  • Set up a buddy system for new employees.
  • Get your workforce up to speed with technology, but don’t over invest in it, or view it as a quick and easy trust “fix.”  Set aside some of that budget to learn how to build trust. It may be a little more work, but will produce much great rewards over the long-term.

Finally, Stephen M.R. Covey reminded the group that COVID is redefining our work environments. Once this crisis passes, leaders will need to reevaluate the following:

  1. How work is done: The “new” hybrid combining in-person and remote work will require more trust, not less.
  2. How we learn: Learning may require a different process that also requires more trust.
  3. How we lead: Leading with trust will continue to be a better way.

Now that almost three years have passed, have we made any progress? Not from my perspective. In fact, everything we knew about the benefits of high trust in the past is now further amplified. Often, it takes a crisis to remind us what happens when trust is ignored or taken for granted. Which leaders are emerging the strongest from COVID 19? Could it be those who chose to place trust in the center of their business strategy long before March 2020? Leaders and their organizations who banked trust before COVID 19 are being handsomely rewarded, and should continue to be long into the future.

Trust Alliance members including Lea Brovedani, Stephen M.R. Covey, Natalie Doyle Oldfield,  Charles Feltman, Sean Flaherty, Darshan Kulkarni, Olivia Mathijsen, and Bob Whipple joined me in this very lively discussion. 

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With apologies to David Letterman’s signature skit series of a decade+ ago, Charlie Green and I wrote an article with this original title for the FCPA Blog back in January 2019. After recently speaking with Charlie, the title is being borrowed again to highlight (and update) a few of the many misunderstandings about the nature of trust in business. (This updated article could also be called Trust 101: Back to Basics Again.)

Here’s our list of Five Stupid Ideas About Trust in Business, followed by some comments about the flaws.

Do these flawed views of trust merit actually being called “stupid”? You be the judge.

1. Trust is synonymous with “check-the-box” ESG, DE&I, sustainability, “greening” your organization, etc.

2. Blockchain is a road to trust.

3. Loading up corporate communications with trust words du jour elevates brand or organizational trust.

4. Elevating data security is a pathway to trust.

5. Trust can be chemically induced.

While all these ideas represent flawed views of trust, they are not all “wrong” in the same way. Exploring how they are flawed tells us a lot about what real trust concepts, tools and metrics look like.

In each case that follows, we’ll explore the flaw in the concept; then we’ll give a proactive definition of trust and some valid metrics for evaluating it.

Trust-as-ESG, DEI, sustainability, etc. If your business is promoting equality and sustainable practices, good for you. You may also be creating some positive vibes for your brand, and even — dare we say — being rewarded in the real for-profit world for doing so. But don’t confuse these actions with trust. The most powerful form of trust is personal, not institutional. Policies — whether for equality, sustainability or money-laundering for that matter — are about as impersonal as you can get.

Second, if you are indeed making money by, for example, being sustainable, congratulations — but you’re also raising questions about your motives. If you’re “doing good” in order to be “doing well,” then your motives are suspect, and are actually reasons for most people not to trust you.  

Blockchain. First, count us among those who see the virtues of blockchain quite apart from its dubious connections to digital currencies — certainly Bitcoin. Blockchain is a legitimate and powerful tool, with valid applications that are only beginning to be scoped out. Emerging technology always comes with unanticipated risk. That said, blockchain doesn’t enable “trust” — it brings clarity and efficiency to the anti-fraud capabilities of commercial networks (e.g. documenting supply chains, or eliminating the need for title searches in real estate). You are no more likely to “trust” a realtor or seller with blockchain or without: you are simply more sure of the precise level of impersonal systemic risk of fraud inherent in the business.

Again, the most powerful form of trust is personal. Those who trusted Bernie Madoff were betrayed by Mr. Madoff, not by the system in which he operated. You can reduce systemic risk by regulation — or by blockchain — but the decision to trust an advisor, or anyone for that matter, is ultimately a personal one. You can’t regulate or technologize your way to personal trustworthiness.

Trust words du jour. It is true that consciously altering an organization’s shared vocabulary can have an unconscious effect by nudging people’s perceptions and behaviors — including for trustworthiness. But words alone don’t do the job. In fact, if words are the only effort taken, they can backfire — words are also the favored tool of the best propagandists in history. Context, intent and behaviors also matter.

Words divorced from action — including merely perceived action — actively fuel cynicism. In a world where, broadly speaking, trust is on the decline, cynicism is rising. In the face of cynicism, words without action are predestined to produce the opposite of what was intended. CEO “activism” can also create a “backfire effect” when the words are directed at a third party while the CEO’s headquarters are burning.

Data Security. In most of the Western world (China is a partial outlier on this one), data security is increasingly important. At the simplest level, this is about fear of having our identities stolen and misused with economic consequences. But it also extends to concerns over privacy. It’s tempting to think greater data security adds to trust. But this is the same issue we saw with blockchain, above: a reduction in quantifiable risk is not essentially about trust.

Worse, getting closer to risk-free doesn’t mean we’re increasing trust — it just means lower levels of risk in our trust decisions. Since trusting is essentially a positive inclination to take a risk, higher levels of data security merely remove roadblocks: they don’t say anything about positive levels of trustworthiness. (And by the way, business leaders who have bought in to employee surveillance software are killing any opportunity to build interpersonal trust.)

Chemical Trust. We’re talking about the popularly cited papers on Oxytocin, sometimes called “the trust molecule.” It’s oh so tempting to believe that trust can be reduced to a neuro chemical phenomenon. But there are two powerful reasons to resist that temptation. One is that the early research appears to be just plain wrong. See here, and here, and here. Sorry, folks, it just ain’t true.

And even if it were true — that we could isolate a particular set of chemicals (or synapses, or even genes) which “explain” trust — we likely wouldn’t trust the resulting “trust.” Merely describing something in reductionist physical terms doesn’t account for the full human meaning of trust.   

The only practical application of chemical trust would be through chemical induction. But consider: would you trust someone’s declaration of lifelong friendship if they said it under the influence of five martinis? Would you trust your child with the babysitter if said sitter showed up high as a kite on weed?

Defining Trust

So far, we have only nitpicked at “stupid” definitions of trust. It’s time for us to be more proactive, and to put our own stake in the ground.

  • Trust is a relationship. It takes two. It doesn’t happen unilaterally; it’s not real until a trusting party meets a trustworthy party. 
  • At the organizational level, trust must be built one stakeholder at a time, starting internally with employees not customers.
  • Organizations don’t build trust — they can only facilitate, or hinder, interpersonal trust. It’s up to the people who work for them, and that begins with leadership.

This means a lot of popular statements are fatally imprecise. If, for example, you see a statement (usually after a survey has been published) like “trust in business is up,” should you infer?

That business is more trustworthy?
That people should trust businesses more?
Or some composite measure of both?

Nonetheless, it is possible to speak more clearly about trust.

  • The General Social Survey has for years measured the personal propensity to trust.
  • Trusted Advisor Associates has developed the TQ Trust Quotient Self Assessment, which measures personal trustworthiness; and the Four Trust Principles, which are organizational guides to personal behavior in trust-relevant situations.
  • Trust Across America’s Trust Alliance has developed Tap Into Trust (now accessed by almost 175,000 people) and its simple AIM (Acknowledge, Identify, Mend) Assessment Tool to identify the behaviors that are building and weakening trust inside and between teams so that they can be directly addressed.
  • Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup, has created the Conant Flywheel, with “inspiring trust” as the outcome of six drivers. It is noteworthy because it emphasizes the personal nature of trust, and the critical personal role of leaders in creating it.
  • Trust Across America’s FACTS® Framework has been measuring the “trustworthiness” of public companies for over ten years, making a business case for trustworthiness as an intentional business strategy.

Other great trust models exist for measuring trust at the individual, team and organizational level.

Organizational trust

 If, as we have argued all along, personal trust is stronger than institutional trust, then what sense does it make to talk about trust at the corporate level?

That is a very good question, and one that most trust researchers fail to address — it may be the “stupidest” trust trick of all. Merely focusing on corporate reputation, sustainability, “rules” or other corporate attributes does not address the core personal level of trust — the most powerful form, and the one that tends to take a back seat, probably because it requires the most work.

Our definition of organizational trust addresses the issue head on.

A trust-based organization is one in which people behave in trusting and trustworthy manners toward each other, and toward all stakeholders.

The right way to think about trust is that it is all driven and experienced at the personal level: the role of the organization is to help those personal experiences become trust-positive.

Trust Glossary

And finally, we would like to leave you with a glossary that defines the various relational components of trust. While some may believe this adds unnecessary complexity, the definitions can be an important reference when we talk about trust. 

Trust:  (the noun) is a relationship between trustor and trustee, in the case of individuals. “The level of trust is down.” In its simplest form, some, like Trust Across America,  describe it as the outcome of principled behavior.

Trust: (the verb): To trust, or not to trust, the decision to trust, the risks of trusting.  “I trust him (or her) (or them).”  The field of psychology focuses on this definition.

Trustor: (noun): The one taking the risk, the one choosing to trust — or not to trust. “He trusts them; me, I’m usually more hesitant about it.”

Trustee: (noun) One to whom something is entrusted or the acceptor of the trust. “She’s the one in the group to trust.”

Trustworthy: (adjective) Deserving of confidence based on ethics, competence, dependability and reliability. “He’s highly trustworthy.” “That company is trustworthy.”

Trusting: (gerund) the trust action taken by the trustor. “I’m nervous about trusting them.”

Propensity to trust: An inclination to trust people or institutions. “I leave my car unlocked in the driveway.” “I trust my doctor with my life.” The fields of sociology and group psychology focus on this definition.


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an author, speaker, product developer and global subject matter expert on trust and trustworthiness. Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World she is author of the award-winning Trust Inc., Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset, Trust Inc., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust and Trust Inc., a Guide for Boards & C-Suites. She majored in International Affairs (Lafayette College), and has an MBA (Baruch- City University of NY). Her expertise on trust has been cited in Harvard Business Review, Investor’s Business Daily, Thomson Reuters, BBC Radio, The Conference Board, Global Finance Magazine, Bank Director and Forbes, among others.

Charles H. Green is an author, speaker and world expert on trust-based relationships and sales in complex businesses. Founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates, he is author of Trust-based Selling, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor and the Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. He majored in philosophy (Columbia), and has an MBA (Harvard). He has authored articles in Harvard Business Review, Directorship Magazine, Management Consulting News, CPA Journal, American Lawyer, Investments and Wealth Monitor, and Commercial Lending Review.

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DATE: January 30, 2023


Barbara Kimmel, Founder and CEO

Trust Across America – Trust Around the World

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World Announces 2023 Top Thought Leaders

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World (TAA-TAW), global leaders in organizational trust honors its 2023 Top Thought Leaders in Trust. The awards program, now in its 12th year, celebrates professionals who are transforming the way organizations do business.

While a growing number of global “top” lists and awards are published, no others address organizational trust. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, TAA-TAW has been working with a growing team of global cross-functional professionals to research the “practice” of trust and build tools to support leaders, teams and organizations who choose to build, elevate or repair trust.

According to Barbara Kimmel, CEO, ”As in the past, the release of our 2023 honors brings the focus to global champions of trust. This year we again recognize those whose professional endeavors include leadership, culture, compliance and ethics, innovation, reputation and risk management, governance, communications, employee engagement, sales and customer service. Our honorees represent the largest global and functionally diverse group to date.” They inspire organizations to look more closely at their higher purpose…to create greater value for, and trust from all of their stakeholders, and understand trust is a “hard currency” with real returns.

The honorees can be accessed via the Winter 2023 issue of TRUST! Magazine, available at no cost at this link, including complete details on our methodology, award winners, and additional trust resources.

Nominate now for our 2024 Top Thought Leaders at this link.

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World™ is a program of Next Decade, Inc., an award-winning communications firm that has been unraveling and simplifying complex subjects for over 20 years. TAA-TAW helps organizations build trust through an abundance of resources and ever-expanding tools. It also provides several frameworks for organizations to improve trustworthy practices, and showcases individuals and organizations exhibiting high levels of trust and trustworthiness.

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by Barbara Brooks Kimmel

Now that the year has drawn to a close and a new one has begun, I am reminded of the similarities between the 2008 financial crisis and the market instability of 2022. In fact as Reuters recently reported, Wall Street ended the year with the biggest annual drop since 2008, as the global stock and bond markets shed more than $30 trillion dollars. And sadly as we head into 2023, the prevailing mood among both investors and the general public is fear, and fear is the opposite of trust. The chart below shows the outcome when trust replaces fear.

What lessons, if any, has the investment community learned over the past 14 years?

Consider these:

  1. Ten+ years past the 2008 financial crisis, little has changed to increase investor confidence in the ethical decision making practices of business leaders and the titans of Wall Street.
  2. It is not valuation, liquidity, or profits that keeps many investors on the sidelines. It is a lack of trust.
  3. We continue to see high profile business scandals, accounting coverups, out of touch compensation practices and a leveraged lending fiasco with no end in sight.
  4. Many investment professionals and investors are choosing to take their guidance from the wrong teachers who may be placing their own short-term interests first.

How do we learn from these lessons and move forward as we head into 2023? The solution is very simple. The industry must turn its attention to building trust.

Trustworthy companies outperform their peers with less risk

In the wake of the financial crisis I started a program called Trust Across America with the mission of helping organizations build trust. One of our first challenges was to make the “business case for trust” having been told that without proving that trust works, business leaders would ignore us. With the assistance of dozens of cross silo professionals, in 2012 we finalized a model to evaluate the trustworthiness of public companies, incorporating quantifiable metrics and data and named it the FACTS® Framework, an acronym that includes five drivers or indicators of trustworthy business behavior. They are:

  • Financial stability
  • Accounting conservativeness
  • Corporate governance
  • Transparency
  • Sustainability

When we began this research over ten years ago we were also told that a ten year tracked record would be required before serious consideration could be given to our model. Having recently reached that milestone, in June 2022 we retained Index One, a global index creation firm based in London to evaluate our FACTS® Framework versus major US indexes.” The results:

  • The top 50 FACTS® companies outperformed IWD by 47%, 15.46% vs.10.51%
  • The top 100 FACTS® companies outperformed IWD by 52.9%, 16.07% vs. 10.51% for IWD          
  • Index One also performed the same analysis using the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) ETF. 16.07% (50 companies) and 15.46% (100 companies) respectively vs. 15.27% for SPY.

Further evidence of the outperformance of trustworthy companies is contained in this ten+ year study published in November 2021, and covered in Investor’s Daily in May 2022. It is, by order of magnitude, the most comprehensive and data driven analysis available regarding the trustworthiness of public companies. It speaks to both the public and the financial industry’s understanding of trust, supports trust based investment decision making and enables targeted and simplified trust portfolio construction. 

Vast amounts of money remain parked in low yielding money market accounts and other underperforming investments. By delivering a time tested and “beyond reproach” strategy to investors combining the key drivers of corporate trustworthiness, Trust Based Investing can become the solution that both the industry and the public has been seeking.

Some may be curious as to how our Trust Index performed in 2022. We finished up close to 1% in a year when the S&P 500 declined almost 20%.

Don’t Take Our Word for the Importance of Trust

Building a trustworthy business will improve a company’s profitability and organizational sustainability. A growing body of evidence shows increasing correlation between trustworthiness and superior financial performance. Over the past decade, a series of qualitative and quantitative studies have built a strong case for senior business leaders to make stakeholder trust building a high priority. While none of these studies are perfect, their results are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

  • Research shows that 30% of a company’s value is at risk where trust is broken with the public and external stakeholders. Those CEOs who have a proactive approach to crisis planning view simulation training and drills as an investment. They also see it as a way to test and build the trust and confidence of their teams. It hones and develops leadership and communication skills, builds coherence and cross-functional support. *McKinsey & Company research in Connect: How companies succeed by engaging radically with society – 2015 – John Browne, Robin Nuttall, Tommy Stadlen
  • According to the proprietary FACTS® Framework research conducted by Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, on average, and over the long-term, the “Top 10″ most trustworthy public companies have significantly outperformed the S&P 500 over 10 years, 5 years and 3 years.
  • Only 7 percent of Americans believe that major company CEOs have high ethical standards, and only 9 percent have a very favorable opinion of major companies. Only 42 percent Americans trust major companies to behave ethically, down from 47 percent last year. Public Affairs Council, 2018
  • Today, only a minority of millennials believe businesses behave ethically (48 percent vs 65 percent in 2017) and that business leaders are committed to helping improve society (47 percent vs 62 percent in 2017). Deloitte Millenial Survey 2018
  • In an innovation survey published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the early 2000s, trust was identified as a key characteristic of innovative companies

In conclusion

The business case for both trust and Trust Based Investing is being made. Trust Based Investing provides the following:

  • Companies have proven through a rigorous analysis that they are trustworthy and represent lower investment risk.
  • Investors can be assured that both business and investment decisions are being made ethically.
  • The most trustworthy companies have stable and strong investment returns.
  • A virtuous cycle is created. As investment money flows into the hands of these companies, other companies will want to follow suit and become more trustworthy.

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

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an author, speaker, product developer and global subject matter expert on trust and trustworthiness. Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World she is author of the award-winning Trust Inc., Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset, Trust Inc., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust and Trust Inc., a Guide for Boards & C-Suites. She majored in International Affairs (Lafayette College), and has an MBA (Baruch- City University of NY). Her expertise on trust has been cited in Harvard Business Review, Investor’s Business Daily, Thomson Reuters, BBC Radio, The Conference Board, Global Finance Magazine, Bank Director and Forbes, among others. 

To obtain more information please visit the contact page on our website or

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I recently published an article titled Twelve Ways to Kill Stakeholder Trust. It explained how “check the box” practices will not fix trust. Why is that? Because trust is interpersonal and starts with your people who do not fit into square boxes. Leaders who are counseled to perform trust work arounds, while calling them trust, should have no expectations of trust improving. In fact, they are elevating organizational risk by failing to commit to being consistently and continuously involved in trust building activities. Said another way, those who choose to delegate expensive box checking activities and treat trust as a soft skill will continue to build on their current trust deficit.

The article concluded with a promise to provide some actionable steps that business leaders can take to elevate trust. I asked some of our Trust Alliance members to provide their suggestions and selected the twelve most actionable responses. They are offered in no particular order. Each action stands alone as a powerful step in elevating trust. Pay careful attention to the words highlighted in bold. Read the actions published on Medium by clicking here.

Find out how you can elevate trust the “right” way.

Start by answering this one question (it will take no more than one minute and your response is 100% anonymous) and compare your response to 700 others.

And then learn more at this link.

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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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Introducing the Trust Across America-Trust Around the World 

2022 Playbook for Building Systemic Trust…




These turbulent times have created a unique opportunity for enlightened and ethical leaders to foster an inspiring, inclusive, innovative, engaged, safe and enduring work environment. That means taking trust beyond talk to action, and placing it in the center of the business strategy.

The twelve principles comprising The “Art” of Trust™” were collaboratively created over the course of many years by a group of leading global trust scholars and practitioners who are members of our Trust Alliance. They have been tested and used with dozens of teams and organizations. In fact, these universal principles, known by the acronym Tap Into Trust or TAP, have been accessed over 150,000 times. They provide a common language for discussing the behaviors that build high stakeholder trust, beginning internally and working outwards. Trust can be a learned competence. Understanding its behavioral components takes the emphasis away from arriving at a common definition and towards a common language. Our framework also provides a less threatening, concise and action friendly trust building solution.


Our 2022 playbook is designed to assist both team and organizational leaders in elevating interpersonal trust and then applying those skills to other stakeholders. Each month we will showcase one of our twelve principles, provide our monthly visual cue, a description of the behavior, team discussion questions, and additional resources including case studies. While every team faces unique trust challenges at different times, these twelve behaviors represent the most common ones that build or break trust. Sharing this playbook and having a scheduled team conversation about the monthly principle will bring the group closer to high trust by year end.

That’s our promise and our gift to you for 2022. Visit our website, hit the contact button and send us a note, or email The playbook is free and will be delivered monthly via Constant Contact.

Let’s get started!

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


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 How “safe” is your workplace?

Is honesty encouraged or is “mum” the word?

To date, over 20% of 600+ survey respondents say “Safety” is lacking in their workplace. Is it lacking in yours? 

We certainly hear lots of “buzz” around “speak up” cultures and psychological safety. How often does this translate into action?

Safety is not rule based. It can’t be delegated to EH&S, legal or compliance. Leadership either chooses to embed it into the core values of the organization, model and reinforced it daily, or they do not.


Safety is the eleventh 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 “Safety” as follows:

We call out unethical behavior or corrupt practices – we make it safe to be honest with no fear of reprisal.

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

      1. How do we fix an unsafe culture?
      2. Have we created an environment in which all members of our organization can share honest input?

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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