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.





The Trust Roadmap

While trust is an issue that never goes away, the last couple years have been seen a collapse in the trust that the public, employees and even companies have for corporations and many other organizations. Many organizations recognize that without trust from their key stakeholders, they can’t operate properly.

However, once the leadership recognizes a problem, the next step is often to measure it. And trust is notoriously difficult to measure.

So, here at Trusted Advisor Associates, we’ve been analyzing, well, how to analyze trust. Today we’d like to talk about what we’ve come up with and are planning to introduce in the next few weeks: The Trust Roadmap.

Trustworthiness at the Organizational Level

I’ve been writing recently about a comprehensive approach to thinking about trust. Think of it as a two by three matrix.

On one axis, we have those who trust and those who are trusted; trusting, and being trustworthy. See for example Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness.

On the other axis is “where” we find trust: interpersonal, organizational/institutional, and social.

We’ve talked a lot about being trustworthiness interpersonally. For example, if you haven’t done so already, click to find your Trust Quotient™, your TQ™.

But how can we trust a business? What can an organization do to be trusted? To regain trust? And so forth. What’s needed is the organizational equivalent of the TQ quiz: what’s needed is a Trust Roadmap. And it’s finally just about here.

For some time, Trusted Advisor Associates have been developing a tool aimed at assessing trustworthiness at the organizational level. We’re announcing it now, even though it’ll be a few weeks before it’s website-deployed and open for business.

Introducing the Trust Roadmap

The purpose of the Trust Audit is to allow a company to take a systematic, high level look at its trustworthiness. More organizationally savvy than a financial audit; more market-focused than an employee engagement survey; and more culture-focused than a reputation survey.

The Trust Roadmap is not:
a. a longitudinal survey purporting to track trust over time
b. a public database
c. a best practices database

It is none of those things because we believe trust is situational, for organizations as well as for individuals. We are interested not in academic research per se, but in teeing up meaningful issues in a meaningful way for our clients.

What is the Trust Roadmap? The Trust Roadmap is private; results are known only to the company contracting for it. The Trust Roadmap is aimed at leadership teams, top management teams and Boards who are interested in taking a serious, objective look at how trustworthy they are seen to be, and at what they can do to improve.

The end result “deliverable” of the Trust Roadmap is a survey-based discussion around a Heat Map—a map of where the organization’s biggest trust threats and trust opportunities lie.

Conceptually, The Trust Roadmap is built from the four Trust Principles (client focus, transparency, medium-to-long term focus, and collaboration), and from a modification of Weisbord’s model of organizations – external relationships, leadership, structure, rewards, processes. Think a 4×5 matrix (come on you, you knew we’re ex-consultants, you knew what to expect).

Mechanically, the Trust Roadmap starts with an online survey—20 questions, just like the TQ, one for each cell in the matrix. Respondents will come from external (customers, suppliers) and from internal (employees, leaders). There is no set number of respondents.

From the survey, the Heat Map is generated, and richer discussions (we have up to five areas to explore in each of the 20 cells) are held around the opportunities indicated.

If you’re interested in learning more, stay tuned to this station, and/or contact Sandy Styer at [email protected]