Sandra Sucher: The Power of Trust

Sandra Sucher is an internationally recognized trust researcher and professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. She studies how organizations build trust and the vital role leaders play in the process. Before joining Harvard, she was a business executive for 20 years, served on corporate and nonprofit boards, and has been Chair of the Better Business Bureau.

As an advisor to the Edelman Trust Barometer, her research has been featured in several national publications. She is the author with Shalene Gupta of the book, The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It*.

In this conversation, Sandra and I explore the three elements of a good apology in the professional setting. We also look at additional elements the research suggests may be useful in many places in our lives. Finally, Sandra highlights some ways we can do better on empathy in order to avoid situations where we destroy trust.

Key Points

Combine three elements for a good apology, especially in a professional setting:

Acknowledgment of responsibility: The offender makes a statement that demonstrates they understand their part in the trust betrayal.

Explanation: The offender describes the reasons for the problem.

Offer of repair: The offender offers a solution for rebuilding trust.

In addition, consider three more elements for apologies in any scenario:

Expression of regret: The offender expresses how sorry they are.

Declaration of repentance: The offender promises not to make the same mistake again.

Request for forgiveness: The offender explicitly asks for pardon.

To interrupt the reality that leaders tend to struggle with empathy:

Reflect in writing with as much detail as possible about the people and situation in question.

Ask yourself, “Am I being fair?”

Resources Mentioned

The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It* by Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta

The Power of Trust website

Interview Notes

Download my interview notes in PDF format (free membership required).

Related Episodes

Use Power for Good and Not Evil, with Dacher Keltner (episode 254)

The Choice for Compassion, with Edith Eger (episode 336)

The Way Into Difficult Conversations, with Kwame Christian (episode 497)

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