Restoring trust when your brand is tarnished

July 20, 2018 12:55 pm

A recent global risk survey ranked ‘reputational damage’ as the number one risk for any global company. The speed with which issues are identified and how they are handled holds the key to your organisation’s long-term success when things go wrong; especially in the age of social media.

As more instances of misconduct, unfair practices and inappropriate behaviour are revealed through the ‘Royal Commission into Banking, Superannuation and Financial Service Industry’, Australian customers are losing faith in their financial service companies doing the right thing. Their trust and their belief that they will be treated fairly by their financial service providers have been tarnished.

Regulators know that public trust is the foundation of the economy. Likewise, directors and executives recognise they need to restore customers’ faith in their brands. But how do you get traction quickly and at the same time, embed sustainable change?

The expected pivot towards regulation and the intensified use of monitoring technology is not sufficient to create lasting change. Sure, calls for increased ‘corporate morality’, signing a ‘Banking and Finance Oath’ and cultural change programs that put the customer ‘first’ is a step in the right direction, but they’re not enough to create the type of deep, sustainable change that the public is rightly demanding from the sector.

What’s most important in this situation is to shift the way your people think. This is crucial to creating a sustainable cultural shift.

While a willingness to change is a critical prerequisite, it’s not enough. Leaders and employees also need the brain skills and right mindset to navigate the complexity of a fast-paced, uncertain, information-overloaded and rapidly changing work environment. Most importantly, they need to be confident that doing the right thing will be rewarded.

Perception of fairness and trust can only be restored by transforming not only the way we work but also the way that we think.

Here are three key steps in that process.

1.  Recognising your blind spots

A key first step is accurate self-awareness. Knowing your biases when under pressure and having accurate insight into how you are likely to react, enables you to make conscious choices about how to respond in the moment.

People at all levels of the organisation need to fine-tune their powers of perception to detect inappropriate behaviour and discern the conditions that may inadvertently lead to an unintended consequence for a customer.

These thinking skills are not only learnable but require focused attention and practice.

A clear understanding of your personal biases and a keen understanding of your unique constellation of character, skills and experience increases the probability of achieving a positive outcome to meet the needs of a range of diverse stakeholders.

2. Developing emotional acumen, not just financial acumen

Leaders and employees require high levels of empathy, interpersonal skill and political savvy to influence ethical thinking within a diverse group of stakeholders.

In a dynamic environment, people’s needs and concerns are nuanced and can change quickly, requiring in-the-moment assessment of emotion and precise recalibration of your influence strategy.

Leaders need the ability to predict how different stakeholders will perceive a particular decision or course of action. Likewise, they need to recognise the impact of context and how other people’s perspective might change over time.

It is possible to develop emotional acumen, but it requires a personalised approach and customised plan that takes into account an individual’s current level of expertise/skill at influencing people, their role and other resources. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

3. Paying attention to the obvious

Critical thinking, sound judgement and the brain’s ability to accurately process information are significantly impacted by the work environment. While individual resilience and robustness of character are important, failing to create the right conditions for strong thinking is a mistake when your business depends on people making good decisions in a complex environment.

Leaders must pay attention to time pressures, information overload, social threat and other competing priorities. This is made all the more challenging because the way things are isn’t set in stone.

Today’s leaders have become conditioned to skimming the surface to get through the sheer volume of information they are expected to process.

Moreover, increased dependency on systems and technology to monitor and signal concerns can create a sense of threat as well as a diffusion of responsibility.

Leaders need to remain conscious that these ‘normal’ ways of working can create unintended impacts and take steps to identify and shift any aspects of culture that do not foster the level of thinking necessary to perform the job.

Restoring customer trust is not going to be as simple as increasing regulation, providing a bit of training or willing your employees to do the right thing.  It is going to require a transformation that focuses on human nature and the realities of the often complex environment that your people work in.

Dr Connie Henson is author of BrainWise Leadership. Her company, Learning Quest, designs change leadership programs, informed by the latest neuroscience research, that help people become stronger through change.  For more information, email or visit 

Get in contact to learn about ACUITY our newest leader-led culture program to restore customer trust.

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