A word from Vlerick

Professor Ralf Wetzel: How do you repair public trustworthiness and even increase momentum when the ‘public face’ of a whole industry is broken? KBC shows an intriguing way forward.

You don’t re-establish customer trust with a shiny rebranding campaign when the whole industry’s brand has gone. And you can’t stop the old scepticism of corporate anonymity by restructurings, when there have been endless programmes already. Instead, KBC relied upon something else: most notably the authenticity of the people who make and who are the company. That’s risky you think? Well, if employees can’t transmit the message of living the company, of trusting in the company and their products, for sure no one else can. And that’s what KBC did. They called the employees in, and challenged and relied upon their knowledge and energy instead of even more anonymous outsiders. The result? A stronger level of trust within the company.

A people-confident management increased the employees’ trust in their own energy, and strengthened the credibility of the management at the same time. In this way, overall insecurity could be turned into pragmatic but fast decision-making and into a quest for on-going learning. Consequently, the KBC story provides two key lessons.

First: you never get a trusting customer if you don’t trust yourself. Second: you only can enjoy change, when you provide space in the driving seat for others.

Giving away power is a precondition to taking advantage of the intelligence present in a crowd. Admittedly, that’s a tough job for alpha animals and it sometimes feels like falling backwards from a bridge. However, with a resilient tie between management and employees and with the managerial will to carefully let go, an expected risk can turn the whole endeavour into a thrilling bungee-jumping experience.

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