Building a successful business, Anthony Randall says, means building trust.
As a pastor, ethicist and U.S. Army chaplain, Randall should know.
He shared what he knows as the featured speaker in the Russell A. Blanchard Distinguished Lecturer Series, presented Wednesday by Augusta University’s Hull College of Business.
Digging back to the philosopher Aristotle and sharing his own personal experiences, Randall explained how trusted leaders develop, and how those leaders develop trust within their organizations.
“I think as we develop leaders of trust, it comes down to three simple questions if you want to boil ethics down,” he said.
The three questions:
• Who are you?
“What causes me to trust you? What would cause you to trust me?” Randall said. “Many times that goes back to some sort of virtues or values or principles that we hold dear.”
• Who are we?
“People of trust typically are drawn toward trusted organizations,” Randall said. “And when we gravitate toward trusted organizations, we begin to feel a trusted culture.”
• Who benefits?
This is “the linchpin question that pulls everything together,” he said. “How many times have you been in a situation when no one else is looking and you think, ‘Will someone benefit from what I’m about to do?’”
Randall said his parents posted a motto on the family refrigerator decades ago, and it’s still there. It reads: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
As for trust, “I believe it starts in our homes, it starts in our families,” he said. “It goes out to our businesses and the organizations were in. then it goes out to our communities.
Randall shared a story from his first duty assignment in the Army that changed the way he looked at values and ethics.
Three weeks into the deployment, a few other officers in his unit asked Randall if he played cards – specifically poker. Wanting to be accepted into the group, he replied, “Well, a little bit.”
What he didn’t share was that, during his basic course as a young lieutenant, he honed his skills with his pals at his post, and at nearby riverboat casinos in St. Louis, to become an expert poker player.
After a few hours’ play, those other officers owed Randall “a great deal of money.”
“I wanted to be part of that group so badly,” he said.
At Randall’s unit’s meeting the next morning, the senior officers chided the younger ones for getting snookered by “the new guy.”
Then the leader of the group, a retired four-star general, walked in and put the situation into an entirely different perspective.
To the young officers, he said, “Shame on you. You got exactly what you deserved.”
To Randall, he said, “Lt. Randall: That’s not what we do.”
“In five words, in one sentence, a trusted professional, a leader of character, reset the entire cultural dynamic of that organization,” Randall said. “It put me on a whole different glide path. No longer were virtues and values and principles something that’s on a wall or something you learn in the past. It’s something you continue to develop each and every day, and continue to apply.”
A business can suffer if it loses trust. Randall gave examples such as Wells Fargo, the banking giant that for several years had been creating millions of fraudulent accounts on behalf of customers without their consent. He also mentioned automaker Volkswagen, which admitted in 2015 to rigging vehicles to cheat U.S. emission tests.
But other companies build success based on trust. Netflix, for example, skyrocketed to success on a business model that trusted customers to mail back DVDs when they’re done renting them.
Another organization Randall described has about 500,000 employees, yet less than 23 percent of the U.S. workforce meets its qualifications. Its strong organizational values and professional ethics develop strong character traits among its participants.
That organization is the U.S. Army.
“In building a culture of trust, you’ve got to follow certain ethics and certain constructs and certain structures that define who we are,” Randall said.
Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.