Build Trust and Stay Close to the Action

Linda Dulye's picture
It happens a lot in business: a person moves up the organizational ladder and quickly forgets the challenges and frustrations of working on the lower rungs.
That's not the case of Andrew Cosslett, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group. In a recent interview he recalled his early days as a sales person deep within the Unilever organization and shares a promise he made to himself:
The biggest thing I remember from those days, other than the utter loneliness of being a salesman with customers who abuse you all the time, was how much of what comes out of corporate offices is of absolutely no purpose, and how far removed some people are from the front line. … I remember saying that if I ever get somewhere, I will never forget how this feels and this sense of remoteness. I now routinely test myself to make sure I'm not forgetting.
To stay on top of the issues facing the front line Cosslett schedules lunches with general managers of InterContinental hotels. He encourages straight talk – and gets it:
They know me and I'm trusted, they know they can speak very straight. The culture we've built in the business is one of great trust and openness and candor. And they know that they'll only get rewarded for being open. The only people who suffer in I.H.G. are ones who don't come up and say what they think and what's on their mind.

Do you encourage straight talk from your team? Have you fostered an environment in which your staff feels comfortable speaking up?

Embracing unfiltered feedback and using it to make meaningful changes in the business can pay dividends for the organization and boost your credibility, too. 


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