Trust in Action

January 24, 2015

Trust in Action

The Conference Board comes out each year with their CEO Challenge where they identify the top issues on the minds of CEOs, presidents and Chairmen. It is always interesting to see what rises and falls year over year. This year CEOs have a lot on their minds — leading the list is human capital, innovation and customer relationships. Nice to see customers rising to the top since sometimes they feel forgotten. Out of 10 challenges, trust in business ranked 10th among all those polled.That surprised me because the reputation of business leaders could use some boosting.

As I was pondering this low ranking for trust, I came across an article by Fortune’s managing editor Alan Murray reporting from Davos. Murray said that he felt something different in the air this year and he should know — he’s probably attended many. He said that he could tell that business leaders were taking their social responsibilities more seriously. He cited the example of Aetna‘s CEO Mark Bertolini who came out this past week in support of a living wage. Bertolini noticed while digging through reams of data that a proportion of his employees were just barely making a living (single moms earning $13/hr) and in fact had to resort to food stamps to support their families. He also realized that having the right talent was going to be the killer app for his business as they shift more towards consumers. So for about 12% of Aetna’s work force, Bertolini announced he is raising salaries to a floor of $16 an hour. This policy is aimed primarily at Aetna employees in customer service and billing-related jobs (WSJ). Bertolini made a monumental difference to many workers’ lives at his company and also helped to restore credibility and trust in business. He also put a lot of other companies on notice. Why? He argues that by providing a living wage, Aetna can attract and retain a better workforce and better compete for the future. This is thought leadership in action and I believe that this is a good start towards building trust in business leadership and building back reputation for our business sector. A fine leadership moment.

While I am on the subject of trust, I thought I should add that I am honored to be selected for a Lifetime Achievement Award from Trust Across America as a Thought Leader. Trust comes from building a good reputation and being mindful of it every day. Reputation is about character in action and I hope every day to make a difference in building trust in business and leadership. So I am honored and humbled and confident that the future of business leadership will be brighter for all.

Disclosure: Aetna is a client of Weber Shandwick.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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