Edelman Trust Barometer 2020: CEOs can seize the day

When the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos, the first thing I look out for is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Now in its 20th year, the PR agency Edelman has been measuring public trust in people and institutions.

And this year, this stuck out particularly for me:

  • Business is seen as the most competent of institutions, inching ahead even of NGOs. And it is seen as competent, even if seen as too self-centered by most respondents.

Time for CEOs to step up!

The survey shows that people have a high expectation that their company’s CEO takes the lead in speaking out on important issues – from climate change, diversity or jobs of the future. A whopping seventy-five percent (75%) believe CEOs should lead the way to change, almost that it is imperative for them to speak out and not wait for politics and government to step in.

Larry Fink only last week spoke out on jobs lost to automation and the need for ESG-only investments. Microsoft taking more carbon out of its operations. Steps in the right direction. But the level of consciousness needs to be raised! Just think to Siemens who recently have been criticized around their decision to invest in coal mining in Australia despite the recent environmental (fire) crisis.

More needs to be done and being a change enabler should move to the top of any CEO’s agenda in 2020.

Technology is a worry

83% of respondents said they were concerned also about losing their jobs for various reasons like a weak economy, lack of job security, automation, or a lack of skills. Meanwhile, 62% feel work technology is “out of control,” and technological change is happening too quickly. Yikes.

Therefore CEOs will need to make real investment efforts in the coming years in people, not just technology. Why? Because we need a perfect balance of the two!

Mastering challenges collectively

But also engaging stakeholders across the board will be a key opportunities for businesses and CEOs alike. 87% say that customers, employees and communities are more important to a company’s long-term success than shareholders alone.

Maybe we have already seeing a shift when looking at the announcement by The Business Roundtable Group of CEOs who said that we should start to move away from a sole focus on shareholders to a more balances purpose centred on all stakeholders.

My encouraging question to all CEOs out there: How will you use your opportunity to own the narrative and to drive change to build trust in the coming years?

Where has my day gone?

Not sure how often you and I have thought or expressed this frustration. While we are all given the same amount of time each day, it often seems there are not enough hours in a day to set out all we want to accomplish and we are left dissatisfied and feel a self-imposed pressure of “doing more”.

Sometimes I wonder if this self-proclaimed problem is due to modern life and technology. But reading Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” (written already some time around 49 AD!), it becomes clear that we were already struggling with how to effectively allocate our time way back then. Thankfully, Seneca reminds us “life is long if you know how to use it.”

So why are we connected on 24/7 basis almost by default? Why is there this expectation that we need to be reachable at all times? That we constantly need to be busy and productive?

Maybe we need to step off that treadmill of engaging in activity for the sake of activity, being mindlessly busy. Maybe we need to remove the things that are keeping us busy but are not achieving useful results. Maybe we need to stop constantly obsessing over time management in order to maximize every second of our day. What if we started giving ourselves the permission to obsess over something else, namely the quality of our attention? The quality of attention we give to ourselves and to the people and issues that matter most to us. Because attention does more than enable us to achieve. It enables us to connect and engage.

When we wish for a “long life”, we wish for a sense of satisfaction, for a life well lived. So next time when you will feel rushed, remember that life can be fulfilling if you invest your time in the right things, the right people and the right experiences.

2020: The Human Decade

The end of the year always brings about many reflections for me, especially as we are about to step into a new decade, still in the middle of our global technology revolution.

And even though we only hear terms like tech or digital, we need to remember that this revolution is first and foremost a cultural transformation with humans in the driver’s seat.

For business leaders it is imperative in the coming decade to truly put humans at the center of their organizations. It’s all about creating positive employee experiences to make employees feel valued, appreciated, safe and energized to bring their best to work.

We need to take a close and hard look at how we define leadership, work and collaboration, saying goodbye to the old normal of “business as usual”. This may be painful but it will be an amazing window of opportunity.

We need to provide a “north star” that brings a sense of meaning and direction, showing us what place our organization and therefore also us as humans have in the world. We need to create a space for everyone where we can share knowledge and experience, continue to learn and have the time for critical and creative thinking. We need to ask ourselves how can we create more connection, kindness, wellness, diversity, inclusion and happiness even amid the crazy pace of technological change that we are feeling.

After all, humans have always been the driving force behind every innovation and will continue to be so.

Leaders who understand how to meaningfully invest in others will have a critical competitive advantage in the coming decade. Maybe we are already seeing a shift when looking at the announcement by The Business Roundtable Group of CEOs who said that we should start to move away from a sole focus on shareholders to a more balances purpose centred on all stakeholders.

I am excited and am looking forward to working with leaders as we move into the new decade to support you in seizing the vast opportunities to advance the work you do and the people you do it with in truly transformative ways with a focus on the humans inside your companies.