It’s the end of January and I’m still working my way through some of the various top 10/50/100 lists that proliferate at year-end. I have before me one that is a little different. Trust Across America has provided a list of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2012”.
Your first question has to be “What is Trust Across America”? Well, exploring their website, it looks to be affiliated with “Next Decade, Inc.”, which may mean they have their own agenda. However, continuing to explore the site, there seems to be some interesting work going on here about identifying businesses and operations that have a focus on “trustworthiness”. I’ll let you do your own explorations to determine if you think there is value in what they are doing. But, my first run-through indicates it is at least worth the time to explore.
But, to that top 100…
The list is an interesting collection of authors, business people, and sundry thought leaders. It provides a quick synopsis of why that individual has been included and links to affiliated web sites. It includes some well-known names (e.g., Stephen Covey and Tom Peters), heads of organizations (e.g., David DeLorenzo of Dole, Tony Hsieh of Zappo, and Indra Nooyi of Pepsi), a large number of professors, and a large number of consultants.
Going through the list and the web site, I got to thinking about two different things. The first was wondering how many of the executives in our organizations would be considered for inclusion, or would even think it was important to be included. Many organizations today pay heed to the concept of trust. In particular, it seems I am hearing this more and more about various organizations’ employees – the need to instill trust in the individuals working for the organization. But I have a feeling (no hard facts – just one of those my-gut-is-telling-me moments) that trustworthiness is not one of the big subjects in boardrooms today. Note the significant distinction here - not trust, but trustworthiness. Trust is about how people perceive you; trustworthiness is how you act. Trustworthiness is an evaluation of an organization’s activities versus expectations; Trust is PR.
The second was wondering where this fits in our audit universes/risk universes/things we worry about when we audit. I’ve got no good answer or any real evaluation on that because, to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about this aspect of an organization’s responsibilities. Yes we consider fraud risk, yes we consider reputation risk, yes we consider ethical risk. But I’ve never heard anyone specifically talk about trust. And, even though there is an aspect of it in each of the risks I just listed, I’m wondering if it doesn’t require its own consideration.
No answers here. Just a suggestion that you read through the list, maybe peruse the web site, and then let me know your thoughts. Is this a risk/consideration that auditors should be including in their risk and auditing evaluations? And what role (if any) should this whole concept have in the work we do?