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  • Writer's pictureValentin Negru

It hurts a little but it's good for you

Building and maintaining trust with stakeholders should be the number 1 priority for all business leaders. While I know I'm stating the obvious here, many of us know for sure that the obvious isn't applied as often as it should be.

I've had the opportunity to work with both types of organisations, like many of you probably. I've had the satisfaction of feeling the whole organisation behind me, helping me to deliver against all odds. Fortunately, and I'll explain later why fortunately, I also experienced that gut wrenching feeling of not being able to deliver as promised, because of a "strategic link in the chain" committing to deliver and then failing to do so. I remember the conversations with the Customers, explaining why I've confirmed x days before that everything was going according to plan, but when D Day came, I couldn't deliver. Conversations that had to be driven in such a way so that the Customer shouldn't feel that somebody inside his supplier's organisation couldn't care less. Those are the moments when Trust begins to crack. Critical moments! When something built in time, with Care, is dropped on the floor without a second glance.

I said "fortunately" before because, while always customer oriented, these regrettable experiences taught me valuable things. I've learned that, if top-down, certain principles are not communicated and controlled in some way, shape or form, a lot of decision makers will prioritise how they see fit. Or if they see fit. The organisation may have some principled employees, customer-oriented by nature, that will sweeten the pill for the Customer some times, but eventually they will not be able to turnaround A CULTURE, an organisation, a company. That power stands in the hands of one guy, the CEO, the leader. He is the ship's captain and gets to decide which way that ship turns. Many focus on commercial, hard KPI's. Percentages YoY, growth vs market, new business, etc., because these are the figures mainly requested by Boards and Shareholders. There are some soft KPI's, qualitative, like Customer satisfaction, Retention, etc., but these are often looked at like "tradables", or maybe "nice to have's" and used, the same as Core values and Mission statements, as proof that "yeah, we're looking at that too, we have that". Customer centricity, while talked about in many reputable business reports for the past years, looked to them more like a theory than as something to be implemented for real.

What is funny is that markets always self-adjust, at certain points of high imbalance. We are witnessing a self-adjustment for the past couple of years regarding client expectations versus supplier offering. The new generations manage situations very abruptly when they are not getting the desired attention as customers: they leave feedback online and change venue :). Problem solved. The sandwich is not how it used to be. Bye! The delivery is late. See ya! Bad attitude? Next! Not only lost business, but also a short, stinging review. That sometimes gets viral :). A lot of businesses are learning the hard way that Culture matters, Consistency matters, Respect matters and Commitment is key. They are also taught by the market that just announcing a change process (and not manifesting that change in their visible processes) is not enough and is not convincing anybody anymore.

Trust and transparent communication have always delivered healthy growth. It's simple. You don't need a lot of books, whole change management departments or budget crushing investments. You (as a business leader) just need to be convinced that this is the way. Once this happens, the ship is already turning slowly in the right direction. Now you need a little help with the technical aspects of the change: mapping as-is versus to-be, set champions/change agents, identify and turn or eliminate detractors, etc. It hurts a little but it's good for you, as the doctor says. We can help you with that!

"The most important behaviour of all is keeping commitments. This process (...) would ideally start at the top and would be practiced within the the organisation, as well as externally with customers and other stakeholders. Executives need to model behaviour consistent with their stated values." - The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey

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