In the past, businesspeople built relationships of value by being consistent, reliable, and by delivering on what was promised–and then some. In return, companies and the people in them had a sense of building momentum: with each other, with suppliers, with customers, with shareholders.


Since the late 80’s M&A explosion and the relentless pursuit of shareholder value, business relationships have changed greatly. While everyone talks about excellent client service, valuing their employees, and yes, providing shareholder returns, the rise of interactions that are primarily, if not solely, technology based (email, social media, texts) has changed the very nature of relationships in business and has made all of them much more “transactional.” And for most decision makers the focus has become all about the profits.


With this single-minded concentration on the bottom line, humanity has been removed from the equation, and what we used refer to as “loyalty” often seems an outdated concept. Employees no longer expect to stay at their employers for longer than a few years, if that, because they’ve come to expect to be treated as expendable if the company needs to cut expenses. Likewise, companies are spending exorbitant amounts of money on replacing good people who move around looking for a better deal. Customers only stick with a brand for as long as they are getting discernable value—there’s always another option for them to try if they sense something else might be cooler, faster, less expensive.


So, with this as the backdrop, what is working for CEOs that want to earn trust: from their employees, customers, and other stakeholders? Three things:


  • Accept that business has become much more transactional in nature and that means everyone is looking for measurements to justify their next moves. Once you accept this you can focus on…
  • New Mission, New Values. Redefine and re-align what your company’s mission and core values are in light of the current reality. Do they still work? Do they need some adjusting? Are they attainable? Are they important to the stakeholders that comprise your organization today? Will they apply tomorrow?
  • In light of your goals, mission, values, and stakeholders, what do you need to do to succeed? Is that old focus on just the financial bottom line the be all end all, or, like many business leaders, are you seeing the inherent value of moving beyond one bottom line and measuring for the “New 4”: people, planet, purpose, and yes, financial profit too?

CEOs that take these three steps are taking their organizations into the future. By accepting the transactional reality, redefining what success is and what it looks like for each stakeholder group, and then recalibrating how to get there with the New Four, these leaders are bridging from the reality of today to the desired future for tomorrow and earning trust for themselves and their organizations in the process.

Written for The Positive Business ( May 30, 2018