May 3, 2012
Excerpt from "A World Class Future Built on Trust" by Steve Wray:
This year’s Leadership Exchange took place in the shadow of distrust – cast not by participants, but by the thousands of Americans gathering under the banner of Occupy Wall Street. Even as we rode the elevators to the conference rooms atop Three Logan Square, protesters in cities large and small were preparing to spend another day delivering a message: “We don’t trust our leaders anymore.”
So it was no surprise that an attendee asked Doug Conant what he thought of the Occupy movement. The man who saved the Campbell Soup Company replied that there’s only one way to restore trust: earn it.
“There’s a lot of stress, and it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of civil unrest,” said Conant, who in the space of three days of speaking visits was confronted by Occupy Washington, Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Philadelphia. “The corporate world’s story is probably not as well told as it needs to be. But that’s a cop-out. We have to do better. It has to be unmistakable. Our commitment to the community has to overwhelm the populace. What we’re doing is insufficient.”
It was a response that fit directly with his keynote speech to the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange that morning. To turn Campbell Soup around – to make it a world class company, delivering a world class product on a world class timetable – Conant had to start by winning the trust of his employees. He had to prove that he was as committed to them and their communities as he was to the health of the company. He had to demonstrate his will to hold every worker – from executives to labor, from top to bottom -- to the same high standard, while treating each person with an equal level of compassion.
The result was a major shakeup and world class results. The company is healthy. The bonds between the workforce, management, and the community are strong. Stakeholders and employees have found common purpose, and Conant feels his strategy has been validated.
“We want to win in the workplace,” Conant explained. “We want to create a workplace where people are highly engaged in the work. As they lean into their work, we find we’re able to win in the marketplace. As we win in the marketplace, we find we’re able to contribute more to our communities.”
So what’s the lesson for Greater Philadelphia’s leaders?
The lesson is to embrace this cycle: world class results depend on collaboration; collaboration depends on trust; trust is built when we commit to, and deliver, results that matter to our partners.