How could we use these examples of effective trust repair to restore trust in government and business? In the case of the government they need to enhance their ability to end gridlock. Find common ground to solve the problems of jobs, climate change, health care and the budget deficit. If this means outsourcing governance to commissions whose judgments must be accepted or there will be automatic action, like the debt reduction committee now deliberating – so be it. The debate must change from big vs. small government to effective vs. ineffective government. Concerning benevolence the government must arrive at an operational definition of fairness and begin to govern on this basis. There can also be no trust without addressing the legal corruption of campaign finance and lobbying. As far as integrity we citizens need to force government officials replace self-interested spin with more truth telling. We will need an aggressive media to hold them accountable.
Concerning trust in business, the solution is more complicated. If we just take Wall Street, from an ability standpoint these firms need to rethink their business models and how they add value and make money. How can they make money for themselves and provide a valuable service to society?
Many community banks did this before and after the financial crisis. Their business model cannot be divorced from the society as a whole. While right about many things, Milton Friedman was wrong about corporate social responsibility.
Doing business while ignoring social context is not sustainable - it is bad business. With regard to benevolence, Wall Street firms along with other businesses need to adopt a wider stakeholder perspective and learn to fairly represent more of these interests in decisions. Serving senior management or shareholders’ interests at the expense of employees and communities will never lead to perceptions of justice and benevolence. Benevolent concern must also be directed at future generations and reflect care for the natural environment. Finally concerning integrity we need to put an end to lying or deception to gain advantage. We need to get back to a time where people would honor their word.
As Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers started to fail, senior management deliberately misled employees and shareholders. In too many places the operating assumption buyer beware. The use of guile and deception is part of the winning strategy. Due to some reinvigorated regulators of distrust, at the SEC and the Justice Department, some of these “winners” are now facing jail time.
Restoring trust will not be easy but not because we do not know how. There is a roadmap. It just requires great commitment and perseverance to make the journey. We had better start now. Our quality of life will depend on it.
Dr. Robert F. Hurley is an award-winning Professor at Fordham University and President of Hurley Associates. He has been a core faculty member in Columbia Business School's Leading and Managing People Program for the past 15 years. He has consulted for such organizations as NASA, Avon Products, IBM, Mercedes Benz, State Farm Insurance, Kraft Foods, and Kinkos. His book
The Decision To Trust: How Leaders Create High-Trust Organizations
was published last month. For more, please visit
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