Arthur W. Page Society

Trust and Consequences

Last week, Roger Bolton, former Page chairman and current trustee (and frequent Page Turner blogger) was named one of America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders on Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

The list includes such luminaries as Stephen Covey, author of The SPEED of Trust, Warren Bennis, founding chairman of USC’s Leadership Institute, and Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of Pepsico.

According to Trust Across America, a new organization “dedicated to unraveling the complexities of trustworthy business behavior”, the 100 individuals chosen “collectively represent a group that can genuinely transform and reverse the cycle of mistrust in business.”

Note – it is not enough for corporations to behave in ways that build and sustain trust. In order for the “cycle of mistrust” to be broken, there has to be a reciprocal openness on the part of stakeholders to recognize and respond to authentic efforts and progress on the part of corporations.

I’m no Pollyanna about corporate greed and malfeasance. But there are some companies that, no matter how hard they try, evolve, and take positive action, never to get beyond a deeply entrenched public mistrust. One has to wonder why they even bother trying. But it is critical that they persist – because it’s the right thing to do, because it fosters accountability, and because their employees depend on it.

It’s just as important that companies enjoying high trust among their stakeholders not divorce themselves from the problems of their industry, and the public distrust in business overall. Page’s report “The Dynamics of Public Trust in Business” (co-authored by Bolton), makes this point, “While companies with high trust are likely doing things that other firms are not, the truth is that distrust in business puts all companies at risk.”

I was recently part of a conversation with a corporate communications leader whose company was in a great position to take advantage of a competitor’s acute reputation problems. But this CCO’s management resisted the temptation to try and capitalize on another’s crisis, recognizing the repercussions for the sector were far greater than any short-term benefits they might realize. That’s the kind of unheralded trust building that impacts not just one company or industry, but resonates throughout the whole corporate organism.

Julia Hood
Arthur W. Page Society

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