The Power of Trust: A book review by Bob Morris


The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It
Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta
PublicAffairs (July 2021)

A major challenge for all organizations: Build and then retain the trust of stakeholders

Note: Although Sandra J. Sucher seems to be the primary voice throughout this volume’s narrative, I refer to her and Shalene Gupta as co-authors. Both should share the credit for a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

* * *

The title of this brief commentary correctly suggests that all organizations — whatever their size and nature may be — must earn and then retain the trust of their stakeholders (employees, vendors, and service providers as well as customers) or they will be eliminated from a global marketplace that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more volatile than at any prior time that I can recall.

Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta focus on four separate but interdependent elements whose shared goal is “helping companies understand what trust is, how it works, and what they can [and should] do to fold it into their thinking from everyday decisions to long-term strategies”: Competence, Motives, Means, and Impact. Sucher and Gupta devote a separate chapter to each element, citing real-world examples to anchor them in a human context.

Here’s one of my favorite observations by Warren Buffett: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Here’s another: “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

Sucher and Gupta wholly understand the issues to which Buffett refers. They agree with him that both trust and mistrust possess great power…for better or worse.

This is a research-driven book, based on what they characterize as a “goldmine” of information, insights, and counsel that thoroughly explain “how companies and their leaders make decisions that retain [or in some instances regain] the trust of their constituents.” Readers will appreciate the inclusion of several mini-case studies or snapshots of organizations that include (in alpha order) Amazon, Apple, BBC, Fidelity Investments, Japan Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, Michelin, Quakers/Society of Friends, Recruit Holdings, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and Uber. This material illustrates the most important dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Trustworthiness cannot guarantee success for either individuals or organizations but those lacking it are almost certain to fail or fall far short of success.

Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta offer what is probably the single best source for learning how to build trust, lose it, or regain it. Their book will be especially valuable to those now preparing for a career or who have only recently embarked upon one. I also highly recommend it to business leaders whose organization are now struggling with major challenges such talent attraction and retention, employee engagement, and development of what Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell characterize as “customer evangelists.” The healthiest organizations — those most highly admired and best to work for as well as the most profitable — also have evangelists among their workforce at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

I agree with Brian Tracy, among others who assert: “The fundamental glue that holds any relationship together is trust.”




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