The single most important step a company can take in reestablishing market trust is for the CEO and C-level executives to make a definitive personal and corporate commitment to integrity. This has to be a visible organizational declaration and become inherent in the corporate culture. You and your company will either have integrity and can be trusted or not.
This renewed commitment should be reinforced in mission and vision statements and even considered for goals and objectives. Repetitive corporate communications should reinforce what this renewed commitment means and what the expectations are for compliance. The desired behaviors and responses to potentially compromising situations should be clearly defined with examples of what is expected and what past behaviors, actions, and decisions are no longer going to be acceptable. Clear instructions for what individuals should do if they are aware of, are about to be a part of, or feel there is going to be a compromise to integrity. Managers and executives must be vigilant to intervene before breaches occur or have the potential to compromise trust.
Most importantly, executives and senior managers must set the example with their own behaviors, actions, and decisions. Compliance should be mandated (zero tolerance) with significant consequences including letters of reprimand in personnel files, reduced or complete denial of incentive compensation, and even loss of job depending upon the seriousness of the breach. Managers and executives should be held personally accountable (including suffering consequences) for breaches in their areas of responsibility.
Having integrity can also not be a matter of circumstance or convenience where it is expected if it doesn’t hurt the revenue, if it doesn’t impact the stock price, or if there is no potential for litigation. Integrity is expected even if it means being put at a competitive disadvantage or involves upsetting an important KOL. The industry has gotten quite good at rationalizing and finding excuses (CEO’s who claim they didn’t know what was going on?) to mitigate integrity implications of their questionable behavior and actions.
While you might think integrity should just come naturally and that compliance to the organizational expectation should just happen, in reality, it must be managed. As most good managers know, “you can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” If you don’t believe integrity needs to be managed …how many companies do you think could go a full year with no breaches in their organizational expectations for integrity?
Assuming your organization is committed to reestablishing trust with a strong culture that supports integrity, we’ll next look at marketing’s role in reestablishing trust. Stay tuned.