Learning and Trust LO13367

chris macrae (wcbn007@easynet.co.uk)
Wed, 23 Apr 1997 21:32:22 +0100 (BST)

Re the alternate views of LO13301 (Rol Fessenden) and LO13293

I wanted to add some weight to Rol's opinion:

I suggest that it precisely because trust is so fragile - ie easily abused
in short-term organisation politics - that it's transparent propagation is
up there close to being the number 1 duty of any leader of a big
organisation which wants to earn the right to stay big.

I believe trust is the number 1 value for growing relationship loyalty -
be this the one a team's learning (goals) revolves round, or why a
consumer stays loyal to a company's brand over a life time

I have recently participated in an e-mail dialogue on marketing learning
organisation where a former chairman of Lever Brothers UK had this to say.
(I realise that his trend remarks also raise interesting questions as to
what changes to organisations are making trust ever more important ... an
issue I'd like to hear views on)

Andrew Seth, Former Chairman Lever Brothers UK, Current Chairman
Added-Value Company- "I have huge sympathy with the point of view (that
people in an organisation need an almost religious trust in each other and
the mission) whether viewed on an individual, a company or a national
dimension. My own experience of it at an entirely practical level -
Unilever over several decades - as time has passed it became abundantly
clear to me that the characteristic which mattered most among one's own
team was whether one was able to trust the other member(s) or not.

In the early days it seemed to me that it was attributes such as process
or subject knowledge, energy, intellect or commitment/motivation which
were crucial and we spent quite a bit of time e.g. when recruiting new
managers to the team, evaluating these attributes. Of course, sight
unseen, it is pretty difficult to establish whether someone can offer you
honesty or trust : but through time, this is unquestionably what mattered
most. I now believe that's what, at a root and branch level, we should
have been trying to look for, difficult as it might have been. Not of
course to the exclusion of the other virtues, skills of course.

I observed this first as Marketing Director of a big business in the early
eighties both in the UK first and then in the US. In UK I had a first
class team, many star studded managers with high expertise in marketing
most of whom went on to great things. The Board, such of it as mattered,
were entirely clear, simple and straightforward in what they were trying
to do and our confidence was high and as results showed, not misplaced.
The very few sad experiences that I had were with managers who,
essentially, betrayed trust : they dropped the ball because their lives,
aspirations, statements (choose which matters most to you personally...)
became complicated and convoluted. To put it in a nutshell, you couldn't
(I couldn't anyway) trust them any longer. This destroys shared
objectives, the process, commitment,ultimately results themselves.
Relationships disappear.

The same thing then happened, again, in the US. In a highly successful,
recovery situation, my only problem was when a key manager in the team who
was very high on expertise, got himself into a position where, through
personal insecurity, arising whence I know not, started to "aim off" in
his judgements, expressions, statements so that I was no longer able to
rely on him. Trust was broken.

The majority of the internal relationships which were crucial to shared
commitment, and the achievement of agreed goals in Lever US, worked fine,
even with a team which was by no means the professional equal of the
adversary (P&G, Cincinatti) whom we were confronting. The Chief Executive
was a man with who I had little personal sympathy, or any shared style :
but because we both knew where we were coming from, because trust existed
alongside hostility, we were able to work together to build a successful
Lever business, which trebled sales in five years - after twenty years of
no profits and no growth.

Long winded personal apologia pro vita mea.

I endorse Bouwe's point of view (on "religious trust") with little
reservation and from experience. Recognition of what he is saying may be
fundamental to a restoration of western business success, and perhaps,
also, to long term brand coherence. How can you frame really strategic
objectives, over, say, a five year period, if trust and honesty are absent

Can the team trust each other may seem a pretty wet and wimpish
requirement. I think it's probably the key rule of the road for
businesses that want to win.

At their best (Kao, Honda) the Eastern companies have appreciated this
truth. So have the very best US companies - HP, Motorola, Milliken seem
to me to be possible examples. I have to admit that thirty years of
competing with P&G, secretive and paranoid as they may on occasions have
seemed, convinced me we were battling against a clear, Christian (in their
case Mid Western) ethic. Smale, Harness, and now Pepper are all of this
kind. It's one of the reasons they have done so well especially in the
US, since 1828. It's also, at its best, why the Unilever values of
humanity, tolerance, open mindedness worked so well for so long. It's no
accident that these two colossi have achieved so much for so long. Their
human values have been based essentially on a Christian ethic, which they
have abandoned, at their peril.

Isn't it strange that in a hugely competitive world, this remains true
today? Maybe it isn't and maybe it's because only the really
philosophical enterprises understand this that they are successful ?"

(Andrew Seth at an e-mail summit sponsored by Addison-Wesley as publishers
of Brand Chartering Handbook by Chris Macrae)

Chris Macrae
e-mail wcbn007@easynet.co.uk;
editor of MELNET www.brad.ac.uk/branding/


wcbn007@easynet.co.uk (chris macrae)

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