An Open Letter to Timothy Ryan, PwC’s US Chairman Re: Oscars and Trust

Mr. Ryan,

Some days as Chairman must be fun. Others, like the Oscars the other night – not so much.

I recognize you, in fact, know a lot about trust.  There are probably particular circumstances that make the Oscar boo-boo a unique event. You may also have taken some steps like those I suggest below.

But this is such a teachable moment for the area of trust recovery that I hope you’ll forgive my suggesting Three Steps that someone in your position should consider – on principle – taking.


Step One. Offer to resign the Academy account. Do so unreservedly and genuinely.

  • If they accept your resignation (they probably won’t), it looks better than being fired; and hey, it did happen.
  • If they reject your resignation, you will look gracious. (And why should they let you resign – look at all they just invested in training you!)

Step Two. Tell the Academy precisely what went wrong, and precisely what you’re going to do to ensure nothing of that type, flavor or category will ever happen again.

  • Then fund somebody to start writing a paper on what implications this event has for improving audit industry practices at large.

Step Three. If anyone dares to suggest firing the poor gentleman at the heart of this most unfortunate event, tell them what the Academy will hopefully tell you: “Why would we ever let go someone in whom we just invested so much in training?” He just became one of your most valuable future cautionary story-tellers.

One of the many paradoxes about trust is that trust recovered can often end up stronger than trust unchallenged.

I’m rooting for you.





2 replies
  1. Richard Moroney
    Richard Moroney says:

    Nice one, Charlie. I like the first point especially as it can feel so counter-intuitive but works in either situation. Of course you don’t want to lose the client, but if you don’t make the offer that outcome is actually more likely.

    If they have decided “you have to go” then offering to resign helps them complete that process cleanly and quickly. Their acceptance indicates you really couldn’t do anything anyway, saved you both time and heartburn, and makes it more likely you will be allowed to re-engage with this account at some future date.

    If they want you to stay (love the “training” line!) then clearly this is an established relationship with a reasonable balance in the “emotional bank account”. Your next two steps help continue to build the relationship going forward.

    I think we missed a third option here, though. What if their response is something in between, like “really, is that all you have to say for yourself?” Your step 2 is critical here, of course, but in this case needs to be just the start of a more involved learning conversation about where the client is and what is necessary, needed, desired and wanted for them to move forward together with you. As long as you can keep the dialog open and constructive there is a chance to improve trust within the relationship.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Charles H Green
      Charles H Green says:

      Richard, Well said, and I completely agree. Using the “awkward moment” to spur substantive, ongoing, even-deeper value creation discussion is totally the right way to take it.


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