So how do you restore trust?

25 October 2013

It’s a difficult question – and one that we’ve been talking to leaders about in a series of round table discussions this year. So I was interested to hear our chairman Ian Powell sharing three top-line actions from those round tables at the recent Building Public Trust awards.

Ian said that many of the leaders from across the private and public sectors agreed that a first step to rebuilding public trust was to set out a “clear and explicit long-term purpose and the values to achieve it”. And participants also thought it essential that those values are used consistently and authentically – something that Ian said he has been working hard to achieve at PwC.

Leaders also agreed in their discussions that they should take responsibility for organisation-wide culture and behaviours by setting the right ‘tone from the top’ and making sure that all employees understand what behaviour is expected of them. They felt that people also need to be clear about what will happen if they behave counter to the shared values.

“It’s not about fine words, but real behaviour,” Ian said.

The second step to building trust, which Ian highlighted at the BPT awards, was to work with government to help it create rules and regulations that reinforce trust, rather than undermine it. As Ian said, “for business leaders, there’s no point hanging back and complaining about inappropriate or counterproductive regulations after the event. Instead, get involved and help shape them.”

The third step that Ian shared in his speech, was for both business and government to seize every opportunity to highlight the positive impact of business on society, and “avoid fuelling distrust through headline-grabbing comment”.

“Throughout these debates, a consensus emerged that rebuilding trust is about the long-term articulation and demonstration of the DNA and principles of our businesses. About showing personal responsibility as leaders, and driving it through the organisation. And it's about protecting shared values, particularly in fostering a culture where challenging unacceptable behaviour is the right thing to do.”

And he concluded that if business leaders can take these steps, they are on the way to earning and deserving public trust.

See the winners of this year's awards for excellence in reporting (international, FTSE 100, FTSE 250 and the public sector).

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you build trust in your organisation, please do let me know.



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