Posts Tagged ‘trust across america’


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

Real leadership starts by building trust; without trust, you have no platform from which to build positive influence with others. Walt Rakowich



Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

The best leaders influence others to do great things. Trust isn’t the only factor involved in building that type of influence, but it is an essential factor – perhaps the most essential. You can achieve short-term successes and positive results without trust. But you can’t do great things for yourself or for others over the long haul unless you trust yourself, trust others, and earn the trust of those you lead. If trust is lacking, success will be fleeting. When you have genuine trust, on the other hand, people willingly follow you and collaborate with you on a shared purpose. Things like commitment, risk-taking, accountability, productivity, and excellence fall more naturally into place.

You earn that trust over time by opening a window into your soul and showing yourself to be someone worth following. I learned in the heat of battle while turning around a Fortune 500 company that three virtues are essential to earning trust – humility, honesty, and heart. Humility comes when we look inward at who we really are. Heart comes when we look outward and value people for who they are, not just what they can do. And honesty requires that our actions align with what we say and with our values. When people see those virtues in the actions of a leader, they know their trust is well-placed. Combine that with a purpose and a passion for serving others, and great things aren’t just likely, they are inevitable.


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

I was named CEO of Prologis in the middle of the Great Recession and when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. As we began to rebuild, we knew there were problems involving trust. One of the first things we did as a leadership team was commit to owning our mistakes and to learning from them. We were open with our employees and our investors about those mistakes and the challenges we faced moving forward. But here’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t ask our employees or our investors to trust us. In fact, during a meeting in New York with more than a thousand investors and stakeholders, we outlined our mistakes and committed to some specific ways we planned to restore the company to health. Then we told them this: “Don’t trust us. Watch us.” Trust has to be earned, not assumed. We embraced that idea. If we couldn’t earn it, we didn’t deserve it. We made that very clear to each other, our employees, and our investors. I believe because we set that as a standard, we settled for nothing less and achieved it over time.

Walt, generally, do you think the global “trust” climate is improving or worsening? What actions are making it better or worse?
I don’t know if it’s getting better or worse, but one thing is for sure: It’s more important than ever. We live in a world of glass houses. Everything we do is seen by everybody. Because of that, it’s easier than ever for people to see things they don’t like and don’t trust in leaders. You can’t hide. And because people see more about us, they raise their level of expectations. With expectations rising and transparency now the norm, it’s even more essential for leaders to consistently demonstrate trustworthiness in all they do.


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

There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged about the condition of the world, but also plenty of reasons to have hope for the future. You can look at the environment of politics, sports, business, entertainment—whatever—and find examples of leaders who have abused trust and created cultures devoid of trust. Where was trust in the Volkswagen emissions scandal? Or pick any other scandal going back to the beginning of time. On the other hand, many emerging leaders have shown a great desire to work together and to make their work about something that’s bigger than themselves. The bad stuff draws the headlines and the Internet memes, but you don’t have to look far to find leaders who are transparent and honest and humble and who truly want to do the right things for people and society. I choose to trust that these are the leaders who will win the day.


Walt, 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?

Walt Rakowich is an author, speaker and the former CEO of Prologis, one of the top global real estate companies in the S&P 500. He was named CEO in 2008 during the economic downturn when the company was near bankruptcy. He implemented a change in culture through transparency, orchestrating a dramatic turnaround and restoring its position in the industry. Walt has a BS in accounting from Penn State and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In addition to speaking to audiences on a range of leadership topics, he serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards. He and his wife Sue have two children and reside in Colorado.

And 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.

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

“Trust” is what happens when a risk-taking trustor meets a virtuous trustee.” Charles H. Green, Trusted Advisor Associates

(The definition is surprisingly important, because it is rarely followed in practice.)


Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

Much talk about ’trust’ is abstract and not practically useful. Change in trust happens only when either someone becomes more willing to trust, or someone else becomes more trustworthy. 

We intuitively use personal trust as the paradigm – the strongest form of trust. We describe people as being trustworthy or not – a set of personal virtues, if you will. For example, using the Trust Equation, it breaks down into Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy: all divided by Self-orientation. A trustworthy person exemplifies these virtues in all their interactions.

The trustor, by contrast, is the one who initiates the trust interaction. They, by definition are taking a risk, putting themselves willfully in the way of some kind of harm through the potentially untrustworthy behavior of the trustee. 

The business world is much enamored of ‘measuring’ things; but when it comes to trust, it is largely a fool’s errand. Measuring ’trust’ per se is elusive: most measurements are, and should be, actually metrics of the trustor’s propensity to risk, or of the trustees level of virtuousness. 


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

One headline from Edelman PR’s annual Trust Barometer is “trust in social media is down.” Substitute ‘brands,’ ‘banking,’ ‘politics,’ and a host of others, and you’ll find similar headlines. But what do such sentences actually mean? Take banking, for example:
  • Does such a headline mean that banking has become less trustworthy? 
  • Or does it mean that people have become less trusting of banks in general?
In the case of Wells Fargo, you can make a good case that the problem was specific to the firm – rampant cases of untrustworthy behavior. Wells Fargo showed itself to be unworthy of trust. 
But take the case of violent crime: it is down, verifiably, over two decades in the US. At the same time, just as verifiably, fear of violent crime is up. That is a problem of perception on the part of would-be trusters. 
If you are interested in improving trust, you must define the problem: does it lie in the trustworthiness of specific would-be trustees? Or does it lie in excessive risk-avoidance on the part of would-be trustors?
Focusing on ’trust’ itself masks the practical question: is it a problem of trusting, or of trustworthiness. 


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

There is plenty of data – some flawed, but some very good – that suggest we are in a period of declining trust. It is tempting to ascribe this to political polarization, tribalism, and nationalism. But I think there is a bigger threat. 
The larger problem is that we have come to de-emphasize the inherently personal nature of trust. The strongest form of trust is personal, not institutional. Yet much of the public dialogue is about institutional trust: and much of the discussion about how to improve trust is also about institutional or structural fixes to trust. 
Factors driving down the focus on personal trust include:
  • A deep-seated business preference for metrics and quantification, including on things that are frankly quite non-measurable
  • A fascination with ’scientific’ explanations of trust, including many neuroscientists and Big Data, which have the effect of downgrading traditional, and still valuable, other approaches to the subject 
  • The de-humanization that comes out of most participation in social media
  • The de-humanization that comes out of the very nature of ‘online’ social media participation as a substitute for direct human conduct


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




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

Invaluable direct contact with other fellow-travelers interested in the exploration of this very rich topic. 


Charlie, 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?


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 has worked with a wide range of industries and functions globally. Charles spent 20 years in management consulting. He majored in philosophy (Columbia), and has an MBA (Harvard).

A widely sought-after speaker, he has published articles in Harvard Business Review, Directorship Magazine, Management Consulting News, CPA Journal, American Lawyer, Investments and Wealth Monitor, and Commercial Lending Review.

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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It may be no coincidence that three trust surveys were published just when the annual World Economic Forum Davos event kicked off in Switzerland.  Let’s take a quick look at them:



Edelman Trust Barometer: The annual Edelman survey polls the public on the four major societal groups: government, business, NGOs and the media.  The results are not so much about trust, but rather PERCEPTION of trust by members of the public who participate in the survey.

YPO Global Pulse Survey on Trust: Another global survey, this time of business leaders. Again, a measure of perception of trust, this time by business leaders.

Morning Consult: Survey of the Building Blocks of Consumer Trust in Brands: Explores the factors that are important to consumers when considering whether to trust a company. The results of this survey are quite different from the first two. I suppose it depends who you ask and how you ask your questions about trust. This survey also measures perception of trust, this time on the part of consumers.

These surveys, and others like them provide Davos attendees with some common language to talk about trust, and in many ways, that’s important, especially in a gathering of world leaders who may be thinking about “trust” for the first time. But it’s only a start.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, and has been for over a decade, that perception of trust surveys provide no action plan for moving the needle on trust in any societal group. All they do is provide something to talk about.

And what is the solution?

If you lead any team or organization, please consider the following statements when planning an ACTIONABLE trust strategy:


  • In every organization, trust is an outcome of ethical leadership, nothing else will build it. If the leader is unwilling to acknowledge that trust starts and stops with them, there is no reason to read any further.
  • To elevate trust, only the leader can CHOOSE it as a business priority.
  • Leaders should not confuse PURPOSE with PRINCIPLED BEHAVIOR. Principles must be addressed if purpose is to have any meaning or impact. Putting purpose before principles has the same effect as a clean shirt on a dirty body.
  • Trust is built through actions not words. Modeling trust is an intentional business strategy that must be practiced and reinforced daily, and driven by leadership.
  • Trust is not a marketing tool, and it can’t be delegated to compliance, HR or any other function. The leader owns it along with the Board.
  • A leader cannot expect anyone in their organization to care about trust if they don’t. And if you think low trust is not a tangible risk, consider its impact on Boeing and many others who chose to ignore it.
  • Trust is interpersonal, and a trustworthy culture is built from the inside out. Brand trust, data trust, AI trust and every other “buzzy” trust of the day, including “Purpose” will be natural outcomes.
  • When presented with an expensive trust “solution,” by an organization that offers “trust” as one of many options, a closer look is probably in order, since its chances for long-term success are slim. Trust subject matter experts may be more difficult to identify, but locating them will be well worth the price. Don’t follow the crowd.
  • Waiting until after the crisis to build trust will be very costly and in most cases, completely ineffective.
  • Many leaders are proactively embracing trust as an intentional business strategy. They currently have an advantage over those who are still at the “talking” stage.

Making the decision to move beyond trust talk to trust action is a hard one. It requires not only introspection but a certain amount of vulnerability. Virtues like trust, the ones that really matter, may not be easy, but they are certainly worth exploring for those who are seeking long-term success.. Who is up for the challenge once Davos ends?

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World. Now in its eleventh year, the mission is to help organizations build trust. That’s all we do. 

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.





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

Developing trust starts in the C-suite. 

David Reiling, CEO Sunrise Banks




Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

A culture of trust needs to be established by organizational leaders and promoted from the top down. The executive team should set the tone for the rest of the organization, and exhibit trustworthiness and integrity as role models for the organization.

Without trust at the top, it will be impossible to spread throughout the rest of the organization.

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

Years ago I saw some management behavior that was not acceptable as defined by the organization’s values. When something like this happens, trust slowly erodes and the organization started to break. With time, I saw the management team rebuild itself embracing the organization’s values, leading to a trusted leadership team.  This resulted in a ripple effect of trust and transparency throughout the organization.

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

I think it depends on who you ask. Our political climate is extremely polarized of late and this has caused trust issues for certain people. We’re also experiencing a boom technology and artificial intelligence; data breaches and mishandling of personal information has created a lack of trust in data collection and big tech.

It’s too speculative to say the climate is improving or worsening. However, I do think there would be strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

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

I wouldn’t call it a crisis of trust, but rather a healthy dose of skepticism in regards to certain developments. In particular, technology and personal data collection have been a point of contention for some. We’ve yet to reconcile our desire for the convenience of technology and the risks that can come with it.

We’re comfortable quickly signing privacy policies – likely without reading them – but we become frustrated when we learn our actions have been used for marketing purposes or our information compromised. As new technology continues to emerge, tech companies need to be as transparent as possible and consumers need to become more self-aware of their actions and the potential consequences connected with providing personal information.

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

The Trust Alliance has set the bar for years now.  As a member, the value I have received, as well as the value my organization has received, has been more than significant.  The concepts that the Trust Alliance presents have been great fire-starter conversations within the organization at all levels.

David, 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?

David Reiling is a social entrepreneur, who is an innovator in community development finance and financial inclusion. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Sunrise Banks and has been in the community development banking industry for more than 25 years. Under David’s leadership, Sunrise Banks became a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a certified B-Corp, a legal Benefit Corporation, and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

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 below.

Trust Insights Week #1: Stephen M.R. Covey

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

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.


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Our 2020 Trust Insights series kicks off with the best trust-building stories of 2019.

As the year comes to an end, the news media routinely “treats us” to the top “trust fails,” and 2019 is certainly no exception. This year we saw Boeing, Google, and the continuation of the Facebook trust saga take center stage.

While media outlets hold fast to the belief that only “bad news” sells, Trust Across America-Trust Around the World was launched more than ten years ago, in part to tell the “good” stories that rarely get coverage.

The following list is not about “feel good” PR, CEOs taking stands, philanthropy, “check the box sustainability” or a CSR project, but rather about high integrity leaders who understand the benefits that a long-term holistic trust-building strategy can have on their stakeholders.

While this is not the first year running our year-end review, this one was particularly challenging. Finding ten “trust in action” stories wasn’t easy. 

This diverse group of business leaders have gone beyond “talking trust” to sharing their strategy for building it.

The following list is presented alphabetically:

Aron Ain, CEO Kronos

Aron builds trust by focusing on “us” not “me.”

Dr. Richard Baron, CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the ABIM Foundation

Dr. Baron offers insights on building trust with patients.

Marc Benioff, co-CEO Salesforce

Marc considers trust a company’s highest value and explains why.

Anil Dash, CEO Glitch

Anil discusses the role personal accountability plays in building trust.

Hussein Fazal, CEO Snaptravel

Hussien finds common ground, shares responsibility and prioritizes transparency to build trust.

James Filsinger, CEO Yapta

James stresses maintaining culture and rowing in the same direction.

Fisk Johnson, CEO SC Johnson

Fisk is transparently sharing the ingredients in his products so consumers know what they are buying.

Beth Mooney, CEO KeyCorp

Beth is a strong advocate for transparency, truth telling and a mission mindset.

Brian Niccol, CEO Chipotle

Brian talks about the new food safety culture at Chipotle to address customer trust.

Rami Rahim, CEO Juniper Networks

Rami discusses building trust as one of the 3 “Juniper Way” pillars

Congratulations to all of these CEOs!

Let’s work together to build more trust in 2020.


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

For more information visit our website at or contact Barbara Brooks Kimmel


Why aren’t more business leaders choosing to publicly share their stories?  This could be attributed to one of several factors:

  1. Trust is not believed to be a proactive business strategy
  2. Trust is viewed as a soft skill or taken for granted, and low trust is not considered a risk
  3. The crisis of the day takes priority
  4. Only the CEO can “own” trust to communicate it effectively. It can’t be delegated.

You may also join our Constant Contact mailing list for updates on our progress.

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Tracking trust in teams and organizations and addressing trust weaknesses has the following benefits:

  • Elevating employee engagement & retention
  • Reducing workplace stress
  • Enhancing decision making
  • Increasing innovation
  • Better communication
  • Reducing costs and increasing profits

How many readers work on teams and in organizations with these attributes? 

The growing interest in our Tap Into Trust campaign has brought over 75,000 global professionals to our universal principles, available in 16 languages, since spring 2018. We are now running the largest global (one minute/one question) anonymous survey on workplace trust, with the goal of determining which of our 12 principles of trust are the WEAKEST in teams and organizations. The anonymous survey can be taken here and the results viewed upon completion.

Building a trust based team or organization first requires leadership ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that trust is a tangible asset, not to be taken for granted, and acknowledgement remains the greatest obstacle as it requires vulnerability. If that hurdle can be overcome, then it’s simply a matter of ensuring that the right personal and interpersonal principles of trust are being, IDENTIFIED, discussed, MENDED and tracked. We call this AIM Towards Trust, and the framework is being adopted by enlightened leaders of teams and in organizations of all sizes and across industries, providing a path forward to high trust.

Elevating trust in teams and organizations requires specific personal and interpersonal principles and skills.

The weakest principles break the chain.

If you are still at the point of talking trust, it might be time to start acting on it. Dress down Fridays, four day work weeks, ice cream socials and “purpose” are merely work arounds. 

For more information contact Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Founder, Trust Across America-Trust Around the World

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, inc.

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My high school friends still like to tease me that I was one of the hardest “workers” in the class. So yesterday, when we reached our 75,000 milestone, I took a deep breath and begin thinking about the next milestone and how we might get there.

Getting this far….

Our Trust Alliance, comprised of some of the world’s leading trust scholars and practitioners) spent over a year (2017-18) studying (and debating) the question of how trust is built and busted in teams and organizations, until we were able to agree on a set of universal trust elevating principles which we call TAP (Trust Alliance Principles.)

TAP is available at no cost in 16 languages and yesterday we crossed a threshold of 75,000 global views. As someone said in a recent conference call, TAP is quickly becoming the universal gold standard for elevating trust in teams and organizations. How cool is that?
Translating trust “talk” into “action”
Using the TAP principles as a framework, a suite of proprietary survey tools called AIM Towards Trust have been created, and the surveys have been run successfully with great results in over a dozen teams and organizations in the past few months. Later this week we will be introducing this powerful tool to 700 attendees at a national conference.
I am thrilled with the progress we are making moving the needle beyond trust talk to trust action. In fact, there is no longer any justifiable excuse for ANY leader, team or organization to talk about trust, but not act on it.
As for the future, we will continue to chip away, and I will keep working hard.
Thank you for helping us reach this important milestone.
Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World.
For questions or comments, email her at or visit the website.

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How often has the word “trust” been mentioned in the news this past week?

Trust in Google, Facebook, the Supreme Court, science and even the MLB. It seems that by the day, trust “talk” gains in popularity. There is no arguing that trust is a hot topic from the mountains of Davos all the way down to Wall Street.

Unfortunately, most news articles ignore the interpersonal and internal nature of trust in organizations (the ones that are difficult to monetize), instead focusing on trust “talk” and “work arounds.” We read about trust and data security, trust and sustainability, brand trust, and one of my favorites, Natural Language Processing (NLP) measures of trust. This not only adds  to the public’s misperception of what trust is, and what it is not, but it also dilutes the importance of the role trust plays in building principled and healthy organizations; the ones where people want to work.

This past week the global communications firm Edelman turned the discussion of trust to who owns it within the corporate structure. Their conclusion? The CIO. “The CIO in Focus study by Edelman reveals that CIOs are under increasing pressure to help safeguard not only a company’s data but also its corporate reputation and trust.”

What better opportunity to engage the members of our Trust Council  and ask them the same question: “Who owns trust?”

According to Bart Alexander of Alexander & Associates, it’s certainly not the CIO, although that person does play a role.

Chief Information Officers certainly do not “own” trust, nor are they the sole “guardians of trust.”  All C-suite members play significant roles in setting corporate culture including the norms and behaviors that foster trust.  In that respect, CIOs share the same responsibility as their C-suite peers.

At the same time, CIOs do play at least two unique and key roles in building and guarding trust., First, CIOs determine data strategy that determines the level of respect for privacy and security. And additionally, CIOs are business partners across the enterprise in both ongoing operations and innovation, giving them a direct view of the and influence on the value being placed on integrity and respect now and down the road.

Randy Conley of Ken Blanchard supported Bart’s position, taking the response one step further:

The person at the top (CEO, President, etc.) has a greater obligation to be the guardian of organizational trust.

Delegating responsibility to the CIO, “Chief Trust Officer,” or any other person or team, signals that trust is just another corporate duty that can be compartmentalized and managed in a silo. Saying the CIO is the guardian of organizational trust is a myopic view on the scope and importance of organizational trust. Corporate governance, brand reputation, customer experience, financial integrity, environmental responsibility, and community stewardship are among many key areas that impact stakeholder trust in an organization. Everyone needs to shoulder responsibility for building trust if an organization wants to achieve the quadruple bottom-line (employer of choice, provider of choice, investment of choice, environmental steward).

Bob Vanourek a former Fortune 500 CEO agreed:

Glad to see CIOs need to “safeguard” and “play a crucial role,” or even be the “Guardians” of trust. But trust-building among all stakeholders is so critical that it must not be delegated. Enlist the CIO, CHO, CFO, and more. But only the CEO should “own” trust.

Bob Whipple of Leadergrow also agrees that the ownership of trust is the responsibility of everyone in the organization:

The short answer is “everyone,” since trust can be created or destroyed by anyone in an organization.  In reality, the mandate to create, maintain, enhance, and repair trust gets more important as you go upward in an organization.  The most senior leaders have the responsibility for setting the tone for everything that happens in their organization.  If the level of trust throughout the layers is inadequate, the senior-most leader needs to take a good long look in the mirror to see the culprit.

Apparently, engaging subject matter experts who know trust best also provides the most coherent answers to questions like “Who owns trust?”

In summary, trust ownership cannot be delegated to a CIO or anyone else, and it will only be effective when: 

  1. Leaders acknowledge that trust starts with them, and is always constructed from the inside out
  2. The right tools are used to identify trust weaknesses and strengths
  3. Team members are free to discuss trust 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 don’t attempt to delegate it. 

Falling prey to quick fix solutions for elevating trust should be avoided. So should news coverage that misdefines and misplaces trust including discussions of brand trust, data trust, NLP trust, and check-the-box trust. Trust is always internal and interpersonal. These “perception of trust” work arounds may be money-makers for those who promote them, but as far as ensuring sustainable trust within an organization, there is only one route, and it’s not by having the CIO “own it.”

Thanks Trust Council members for your contributions to this article. Would you like to serve on our Council? The place to begin is by joining our Trust Alliance.

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.


Click here to read Edelman’s Press Release.

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A story of a toxic industry and how a soccer game might just offer some guidance…

This week HSBC announced the layoff of 10,000 employees, just months after ousting its Chief Executive, and bringing in an interim. According to the Financial Times, in 2014 the company employed 24,300 risk and compliance officers, and in their 2018 annual report the word “compliance” appeared 129 times. Yet since 2014, billions of dollars in fines have been levied against HSBC ranging from bank violations, fraud, money laundering, wage and hour violations and toxic securities abuses. Even with a very significant compliance presence, something still isn’t quite right at HSBC, and hasn’t been for years. Could it be that it’s not a compliance issue?

HSBC isn’t alone. Others in the industry are taking similar steps, with banking leaders continuing to cite “external” factors driving their decisions. Rarely, if ever do we hear “I screwed up” or better yet, “Our culture remains toxic and the expensive 1980s fixes are no longer working.” What if instead, leaders chose an all together different strategy, one that began with some introspection and ended with an outcome other than mass layoffs?

And now for the soccer part…

Any parent who has sat on the sidelines of a high school soccer game knows that the referee serves in a “leadership” capacity, “controlling” both the technical and behavioral components of the game. Some might think of the referee as the “Chief Compliance Officer.” Usually the “calls” are accurate, but not always. When they aren’t, coaches, parents and players pile in, and the yellow cards fly.  Sometimes these “stakeholders” are even removed from the field.

But what happens when the referee doesn’t to show up? That scenario recently played out in a game between two teams- one a big inner city group, and the other a “smaller” suburban group. From the sideline, it looked like trouble. Who could imagine these two groups facing off on a field with no one in charge? But since it was an “add on” to the schedule, and didn’t “count”, the coaches made the decision to play the game without a “leader.”

The parents and coaches held their collective breath as the game began, and for the next hour, we waited for “trouble.” It never came. In fact, the two teams got along just fine, better than in most games. Good sportsmanship was displayed and members of both teams were communicating and laughing with each other throughout the hour. It ended in a 2-1 victory for the urban team, the boys shook hands, and we all went home. What a pleasant surprise. Nobody got “carded.”

What can we learn from this story?

Perhaps the person in charge only thinks they have the power. After all, they can make the “obvious” short-term calls, collect their fee and leave the field. They have completed the “task” they were hired to do. Yet when no one is in charge or the leader chooses to relinquish some control, team members are empowered and collaboration replaces command and control. The obvious calls are mutually agreed upon, and the not so obvious are talked through until a consensus is reached. This is a healthy culture where trust replaces fear. Maybe there is a lesson for everyone to take away from this story.

What are your thoughts? Drop me an email at

If you want to learn more, join over 70,000 global professionals who have Tapped Into Trust, participate in our global 1 minute/ 1 question global workplace study and access our survey tools.

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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