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Trust − A Company's Greatest Asset

October 28, 2013


Barbara Brooks Kimmel, co-founder and executive director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World and president of Next Decade Inc., has edited and recently published a new book called Trust Inc. − Strategies for Building Your Company's Most Valuable Asset.

In it, over thirty trust experts make the case that elevating the idea of trust within an organization brings about major improvements in employee engagement and financial performance. (The Foreword is taken from a recent speech that I gave at Rutgers Business School Institute for Ethical Leadership Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility.)

Specifically, through short case studies, real world situations, models and examples, the authors share insights on:

  • Why trust matters
  • How trust works in practice
  • What it takes to be a trustworthy leader
  • How trustworthy teams impact business
  • How to restore trust
  • What the future holds in store for trust

Ms. Kimmel writes in her introduction that the essays contained in Trust Inc. "describe better ways to do business and improve the odds for long term success and sustainability." She goes on to say that "Regardless of whether the reader is the owner of a small startup or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, this book will provide lessons in how to infuse trust into any organization and reap the resulting rewards."

In his introduction, Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager and Trust Works! asserts:

  • "Without trust, people give up on relationships and leave organizations, cynicism reigns, progress grinds to a halt, and self-interest trumps the common good. But, in a trusting environment, people feel free to move faster, risk more, and give it their all. They don't feel the need to protect themselves or hold back the way they might in a less trusting environment. Creativity flourishes, productivity rises, barriers are overcome, and relationships deepen."

In a recent "Trust Barometer" survey, the public relations firm Edelman found that trust, transparency and honest business practices influence corporate reputation more than the quality of products and services or financial performance. Yet, as the authors assert, "scandals and bad behavior continue to pile up."

So, what is trust and how does a company get it and keep it? Trust Across America-Trust Around the World has created a framework to give stakeholders a way to define and compare organizational trustworthiness. Five quantitative markers were chosen to indicate whether a business is trustworthy or not:

  • Financial stability and strength
  • Accounting conservativeness
  • Corporate governance
  • Transparency, and
  • Sustainability.

Each of these indicators is explored in depth by different authors throughout the book. Some examples:

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, co-authors of The Leadership Challenge and many other books on leadership, state:

  • "The truth is that trust rules. Trust rules relationships. Trust rules your influence. Trust rules your team's cohesiveness. Trust rules innovativeness. Trust rules brand image. Trust rules financial stability. Trust rules performance. Trust rules just about everything you do."

Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the father-son co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical and Enduring Organizations, list 20 "trust busters." Some of my favorites:

  • Blaming
  • Corner cutting to get results
  • Disrespectful behavior
  • Micromanagement
  • Responsibility without authority
  • Tolerating toxic behavior

In his conclusion, Robert Easton, a senior managing director at Accenture, suggests that most of the dialogue in today's world is about the trust deficit or distrust. Instead, Easton argues that we need to think more constructively about "positive trust" − a force for helping people, corporations and societies to thrive:

  • "We must encourage leaders to view trust as more than just an instrument to improve corporate profit and organizational accomplishments to one of fundamentally increasing the total positively of the organization."

I highly recommend this concise, thoughtful and well-organized compilation of essays on this important topic. Those of us who practice corporate social responsibility and those who advocate on its importance will find much to learn from the many experts contained in Trust Inc.

What do you think about trust? We would love to hear your comments and questions. Please write us by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing this with friends and colleagues.
 

P.S. Did you know it is estimated that the percentage of a company's value attributed to intangibles (like trust) has increased from just over 30 percent in the 1950s to approximately 62 percent today? Interbrand's 2011 survey lists the total value of the top 100 global brands at $1.25 trillion, with Coca-Cola valued at $72 billion alone.

 

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