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Resident's book looks at trust, leadership in business world

By Betsy Levinson / Staff Writer
Thursday, February 6, 2003

This article first appeared in The Concord Journal

Even before the horrors of Sept. 11, followed by the fallout from the Enron executive scandal, Concord's Rob Galford was working on a book about trust in the marketplace.

Called "The Trusted Leader," Galford's new book, co-authored with Anne Seibold Drapeau, just hit bookstores and is doing well, he said. He is managing partner of the Center for Executive Development in Boston, and a former teacher and author of "The Trusted Advisor." Drapeau works at Digitas in Boston and has had management positions at Pepsi, J. P. Morgan and FTD, the floral delivery business.

Galford said the new book is an outgrowth of "The Trusted Advisor."

"The topic of trust within all levels of a corporation developed as we researched trust among those at the top level," said Galford from his Concord office.

"It was very much on our plate" in the weeks and months after Sept. 11 and the ensuing spotlight on CEO greed demonstrated at corporations including Enron and Tyco.

"We wanted to look at trust inside an organization at all levels rather than among top executives," he said.

Galford said he was struck by the widespread lack of trust inside the corporate world.

"There was less trust among business partners than we would have hoped," he said, "and that sense permeated down through the lower layers of the organization."

Galford and Drapeau set out to define how business leaders can develop trust between their peers and within their organizations. Their research took them to board rooms and businesses in major U.S. cities where, while talking to CEOs, they discovered what made a trusted leader.

He found out, to his relief, that trusted leaders are made, not born.

"There is a set of formulae that we developed that can be analyzed," said Galford.

The authors use anecdotes throughout the book that illustrate the elements that define a trusted person, including two examples from Concord.

One example he used in a chapter about cultivating organizational trust is about the sexton and curator at the First Parish Church in Concord, Doug Baker.

Baker is a jack-of-all-trades with a graduate degree in art history, in addition to his ability to fix any building problem with the perfect tool. Baker knows about bonsai, herb gardening and Buddhism, "but if the historic clock in the steeple is broken, Doug is the one to call to figure out that if you just bend that little piece of wire that much, it will work again."

Galford said every company needs "its Doug Baker," and the worthy CEO will discover him or her. "Doug Baker, in other words, allows First Parish to do its work uninterrupted and unencumbered by the challenges and digressions of day-to-day operations."

He said Concord is "rich with people in the business world" who provide examples of trusted leaders.

Another example, according to Galford's book, is embodied by Maynard Forbes, owner of the West Concord 5 & 10. Galford said Forbes can suggest the perfect tool for any job, not necessarily the one a customer comes in asking for.

"If you go in to buy something and you explain to Maynard Forbes, the owner, what it is you're trying to do, he won't hesitate to talk you out of your intended purchase to say, 'you don't need that, but you will need this.'"

Galford said trusted leaders are not clinical about their management skills, and not self-conscious or cynical to achieve an end. According to Galford and Drapeau, there are three kinds of trust: strategic, organizational and personal.

Galford is surprised at "how resonant a topic trust is." He heard over and over that companies felt there "wasn't enough trust" within organizations. He said it was pure luck, not smarts, that enabled him to write the book at a time when Americans are so hungry for trust in their leaders.

"But I never felt depressed," he said. "There are good people out there. Not as many as we would like to see, but in the ebb and flow of time, they are there."

He said trusted leaders are not clumped in one profession or echelon, but "as broad as humanity itself, which is what you want."

Interestingly, Galford's research showed that while American workers he surveyed did not like the idea of the CEO, they were less critical of their own company head.

"The American CEO is the least envied person of all, yet at the same time, people don't feel that way about their own," He said the same thing is true of Congress. His respondents seemed to be critical of Congress as a body, but the reelection rate for incumbents is approximately 95 percent.

Up next for Galford? He is already working on a third book tentatively titled "The Leadership Legacy," which, not surprisingly, grew out of "The Trusted Leader."

In the new book, Galford is finding out that one's core attributes, or set of principles, need to be shared with close family and associates, so that one's legacy isn't first mentioned in the obituary.

"Every time you leave a job, you leave a legacy, or reputation," said Galford. "It's not enough just to lead a worthwhile life, you need to talk about your principles and be conscious of what you are leaving behind."


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