Using Actions to Create Opportunities

Written by Kevin J. Kelleher

Benjamin Franklin said it well:  “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” His observation reflects not only the critical importance of trust as both a guiding and operating principle, but the reality of its fragility.

We know that trust is the fundamental ingredient that allows all relationships to begin, grow and prosper. This is no less true for organizations than individuals. Without an established, recognized and respected reputation for trust, even the most robust planning and strategic execution can be compromised or lost – cancelled out by apprehension, cynicism, and doubt by the many constituencies  an organization seeks to embrace.  Much like a pointillist painting evolves before the eyes of the viewer, trust is the product of thousands of well placed dots representing interactions and experiences. Lofty, ambitious, and aspirational in thought and promise, at its heart trust is an essential base element of the DNA of any organization and relationship.  And, just as an important property of DNA is that it can be replicated, creating identical copies of itself, trust also must be a repeatable, predictable element of one’s experience.

For those responsible for ensuring that trust is a repeatable, predictable experience in an organization, this is no easy matter.

Organizations have significant opportunities to establish trust or mistrust based upon their actions – and it’s difficult to imagine an organization that would downplay the importance of the outcome.  Getting to that outcome requires a multi-faceted, holistic commitment that fully acknowledges a fact that I have come to recognize and appreciate over time:   Organizations do not build trust – people build trust.  This is particularly true in a service organization such as Cartus. Our customers are going through what has been referred to as one of the most stressful experiences in life – relocating, in some cases to far-flung places and without family. During their move, we are one of their main, and in some cases their only,  lifeline, helping them through the multiple real estate transactions, household goods processes, settling in difficulties, language and cross-cultural barriers that can stress and unsettle even the most seasoned employee.  We are handling their most sensitive transactions and their most critical personal information and managing myriad streams of data and financial records. To do this effectively requires trust – and we have only a very short period in which to establish it.  The corporate relocation cycle for our clients’ employees is short – often weeks or even days. In that period, we must be their advocates, their advisors, their schedule-keepers, and often their confidantes.  One break in the performance chain would mean a break in trust.

So how do you hard wire an organization for the consistent behaviors, beliefs, and interactions that build and nurture trust?  Following a large acquisition we made two years ago, Cartus had the rare opportunity to recreate itself through the introduction and evolution of a new culture across our expanded organization worldwide.  We established a framework of guiding principles, reflected in the mission, vision and values of our company, that have trust as their primary focus and unending goal.  As cultural cornerstones, these elements reflect leadership’s commitment, and encourage our employees’ day-to-day behaviors. They provide an architectural framework that creates the motivation for clients, customers, and partners to select and depend on us.

Our Mission:  We come to work every day to help our customers and clients succeed, fulfilling their needs and earning the trust of those whose lives we touch.

Our Vision:  We provide trusted guidance by sharing and leveraging our vast body of knowledge and experience to create superior solutions, build relationships, and bring more value to all our stakeholders.  We will work together each day to achieve excellence in all we do, fostering trust and confirming our leadership position in the markets we serve.

Our Values : Ethical behavior; service, respect; collaboration; financial responsibility.

Together, these guiding principles create the framework in which we create and deliver superior solutions, strive to exceed expectations, deliver maximum value and maintain a culture of energy and openness that inspires, motivates and earns the trust of those who we touch each day.  We communicate these values, share them, and continually reinforce them through team exercises that celebrate values in practice, and actively demonstrate their workings in our daily lives.

It is evident to me every day the multitude of ways in which our people have embraced these guiding principles at all levels of the company.  When I visit clients and see how wholeheartedly they embrace and appreciate our cultural commitment, I am proud but not surprised.  As leaders themselves, they not only appreciate the many ways in which a unified vision contributes to supporting them and their employees – but they particularly recognize the value of this unified vision, which is uniformly dedicated to the creation of trust between our organization and theirs.

Aristotle once wrote that trust will be evaluated by the listener according to how well these three things are demonstrated:   good sense, good moral character, and goodwill.  Cartus has all the attributes to deliver:  a rich historical base of experience, leadership, reputation, and accomplishment; measurable and tested solutions; leadership that  recognizes and embraces the responsibility of earning trust. Nonetheless, the final proof of our success is found in the eyes and stated experiences of the constituencies we serve.  And those experiences depend on the behaviors and the commitment of every member of our organization.

We believe that when employees operate in an environment of trust, they embody this attribute in their interactions.  That is why we are so committed to a cultural framework that builds, earns, and nurtures the creation and preservation of trust.

Driven by a focus on thinking and planning for the future with imagination and purpose, our actions each day help us create a platform upon which trust is evident in all that we do and all that we strive to achieve.  Trusted Guidance. for every move you make!  This is our commitment, our promise, and the essence of who we are as an organization. It is our way of connecting the dots in the painting for our clients.

Mr. Kelleher is president & CEO of Cartus Corporation, a leading global provider of relocation services whose clients include over 70% of the FORTUNE 50.