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Episode #207
Sandra Sucher

The Science of Building Trust with Clients for Consultants

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Trust is the foundation of any relationship. This is exceptionally true when it comes to business. You need to establish trust within your team, clients, and customers to grow. So how do you build that trust? Sandra Sucher is a Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School and an internationally known researcher on trust. She recently co-authored The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It. In this episode, she joins host Michael Zipursky to share essential insights from her book on how businesses can build, lose, and recover trust. Join in on their discussion and get valuable business advice on leadership, relationships, and more!

I’m excited to have Sandra Sucher joining us. Welcome.

Thanks so much, Michael.

Sandra, you are a Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. I think everyone will be familiar with Harvard but prior to joining Harvard Business School, you are a Senior Executive at Fidelity Investments. You are known internationally as a researcher in the area of trust and you co-authored a new book, which I’ll pull up here called The Power of Trust. I enjoyed talking about how the companies can build it, lose it, retain it and you also write for well-known publications, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Business Insider and a whole bunch of others.

I’m excited to have you on. We can dig deep into trust and how consultants can leverage this idea of trust amongst their clients, the marketplace and their teams. I thought where we can maybe start off is we hear a lot about leadership but you write more specifically around this concept of moral leadership. What does moral leadership mean? Can you make that distinction between typical leadership and what moral leadership is all about?

Pay attention to the consequences of your actions for other people who are impacted by them. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for having me on. When I saw the description of your show, I said, “I am down with living a life of true freedom, flexibility and long-term success.” If I can get some of that out of this show, I will be a happy person. It’s a remarkable ambition for you to have. Moral leadership is taking into account decisions where moral issues are at stake. There are tons of decisions that you need to make as a leader and a whole lot of them are not in the moral domain. “What market to go after, what product do I serve into that market?” Even at times, “Who’s my team? How do I think about that?” There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t involve this moral domain but there are a whole lot of things that do.

We’re always running into situations, usually in business, what you would call a right versus right dilemma. Usually, when we think about morality, we think of it as right versus wrong. The number of times that that comes up in most businesses is small. You know it when you’re looking at it. You may decide one way or the other but at least you know, “Something’s up here.” Most of the time in business, the moral challenge is two competing stakeholder interests, where each of them is right. I want to do well about my clients and I’ve got a team I’m to protect.

How do I think about that and compare them but I owe to each of them? The other thing I’d say about moral leadership is that while it sounds and is quite aspirational, says, I” want to be a moral leader and I teach a course by that name.” I never teach that as a goal because of that notion of, “I’m a moral leader of 7/24, Mahatma Gandhi, that I am Mother Teresa.” That’s not it. It’s as if you’re talking about acts of moral leadership, when the moment to exercise moral leadership comes upon you and giving a way to think about what happens when you’re in that moment so that you can be somewhat more intentional about what’s going on. I look at it as more of a day in life than this is who you are forever.

How critical is that? You mentioned right versus right. Most people are clear when it’s right versus wrong. They can feel that they can sense that inside. When making a decision whether it’s right for the client, for the team, the business and your lifestyle, how would you counsel someone on starting to think about that or explore that? Are there certain exercises or frameworks? How can someone start to try to really understand how to make better decisions that are going to be a win-win for everybody involved?

CSP 207 | Science Of Building Trust


You could start with a couple of forms of moral reasoning. There are different ways to reason morally, the most common is consequences. “What will happen to the people who are involved in this decision if I do action X?” That’s teaching you to pay attention to the consequences of your actions for other people who are impacted by it and we make consequential based thinking that is business thinking. “I do X then Y happens.” That’s the most familiar one. There are ways of thinking about, “Do I have duties, moral responsibilities in this situation?” COVID is a great example, where all of a sudden, all businesses that have face-to-face contact face the fact that now they’re responsible for other people’s health.

That’s a moral responsibility to see that other people don’t get harmed as a result of the actions you can take. Some people then can say that you look at the fact that other people have rights that you need to protect. There’s this big debate about whether or not you can have mandates in a business and that’s asking you to balance this question of, “What duties do I have and consequences that I worry about versus other people’s rights to remain free to make their own decisions?” I’ve been thinking about this for a while. This is a classic moral dilemma. The question is, “How much do you privilege the rights of versus the responsibilities and consequences you’re worried about?” That’s part of it.

There’s another form of moral reasoning. You may regret asking this question if that has to do with, “What are your role responsibilities?” This is important for consultants. They are supposed to play a certain role. I’m supposed to give objective advice. I’m not supposed to have conflicts of interest. I’m supposed to look out for the interests of my client over my own. That comes with the territory. Some of the moral reasoning is, “As a consultant, what are the ethics that I feel I should hold myself to and what’s my aspiration there?”

Any examples come to mind for you throughout your own career or consultants that you’ve worked with or come in and contact you where maybe you’ve seen the morals gone straight and it turns into a negative outcome versus those who make this a priority? How it maybe help them to grow their business, to increase their trust or to turn a client relationship into a long-term client relationship?

It’s easier to find negative examples. If you think about Arthur Andersen, why did he have to go out of business? It’s because it’s a lousy job as Enron’s auditor. That’s a good example of the honestly, death-defying aspects of not being good at your job. People came and found the people at Arthur Andersen. They said you were the person who was supposed to be giving objective advice, pointing out things that they were doing that were sketching and questionable. Where were you on this? That’s an example of the way that it shows up. It’s pretty direct, particularly for people in advisory roles because they do have this responsibility to protect the interest of the party who it is that they’re advising.

Now your question about, “Have I seen it play out in a positive sense in this particular domain?” I’m going to have to give a pass at this point because I don’t want to give you a half-baked example. I’d rather give you no example but say that I’m sure that there are examples of it that if we were meeting with the people on the call that they would say, “I had this moment where I had to decide.” One classic problem for consultants is, “Is this a client I want to do business with? Have I seen things here that give me pause or is this a client that I am going to get behind and try to help them?”

That question about, “Is this the right person?” There’s also, “Is this the right project? Do I know enough about this to be valuable? Is it that I’m taking advantage of the fact that we have a great relationship to build my business but someone else might be better positioned to do this?” Is there a point where you say, “This is a real problem. You’ve got it. I need to help you find who would be better at it than I would be?”

How do you suggest somebody go about being that open? This is probably a challenge that many consultants do wrestle with, where they may be overstepping. They stay too long at a client’s place or they charge more. They’ll do something that they’re not doing to intentionally harm or hurt the client but they’re walking a fine line between what is necessary and what is not. How would you suggest to somebody think about that and how would you maybe try and encourage them to go one way or the other on that?

Step outside your own perspective and see your actions through the lens of somebody else. Click To Tweet

There are some classic tests that you do in the face of a moral challenge. There’s the classic newspaper test.

Tell me more about that.

That test is if I read my actions on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and it was an article about it, how would I feel about that? It’s a way of getting you to step outside your own perspective and see your actions through the lens of somebody else. That’s a helpful way to be second-guessing. There’s also the partner/mother/good friend test, which lots of people use. I’m thinking of doing this or I’m worried about that and what do you think? I’m trying to let someone in your network help you figure it out. That takes a lot of time and effort on their part to be useful but both of those are ways that you can start to if you have a sense that that’s what’s going on. The real question in that situation you described is, “How do you know you’re there?”

It’s less hard to figure out what do you do when you are there than to have the insight. That has to do more with some accumulation of knowledge and experience about the things that you want to be in business for. There’s this classic question about why are you here when you’re trying to make it happen in this business? The more thoughtful you can be about that, it’ll make you somewhat more alert to the fact that inherent in consulting is this problem of staying on too long or over-committing.

I’d love for you to elaborate on that concept of why are you here because, in your book, you talk about the Japanese company, Recruit and how their managers would say to their employees often, like, “Why are you here?” Could you provide a little bit of context on that to readers and to everybody with us in terms of what happened there? Why is that such a powerful question? My goal with this is that everybody reading who has team members or clients could maybe make good use of and benefit from asking that question.

Let me give two minutes of background as to why the question came up for Recruit. It is a Japanese human services company, at this point own Indeed and Glassdoor and a $20 billion revenue company, 50,000 employees worldwide. You would not know that they would get there if you knew that they had a scandal in the late 1980s, that was great that the Prime Minister of Japan and his entire cabinet had to resign as a result of actions that they got involved with. Recruit is a poster child for can lost trust be regained? The answer, yes, it can. It’s not like game over but they did some pretty amazing things. I will say a few of them and then I’ll get to answer your question.

One thing that they do, which is important if something bad has happened is that they apologize. As business people, we have an allergy when it seems like it’s time for us to apologize but in fact, if your goal is to restore trust, people expect you to be sorry for the harm that you’ve caused. That’s where the lawyers have to take a back seat because they have one goal to limit your liability. This is a separate goal possibly related but maybe not, which is how do I restore trust with this client.

You can still read the story of the scandal on Recruit’s website. That’s how seriously they took what they did. They wanted the story told and it’s there forever. They then held someone accountable and in their case, you could call it lucky because it was their CEO who created this scandal. He went to jail. People could say, “Is Recruit a bad company?” They had this bad CEO.

There is this notion of trying to hold people accountable. The question of, “Why are you here?” came up in the third step of the process, which is where you have to think about, “What are the root causes here? What do I need to be paying attention to?” Quite often, some of these problems are an opportunity. In Recruit’s case, what happened was at that moment, they had not much cash coming in. While customers still liked them, they couldn’t do the things that a Japanese company normally does like give you lifetime employment. They didn’t know if they were going to be around too much longer and they couldn’t attract on that basis.

They always had this notion that people do better work if they think their work has a purpose. In particular, if it connects to things that matter to them personally and also matter to society, this is from the 1980s and ‘70s that they were thinking about this. The way before the rest of us has caught up. The “Why are you here?” question is a way of getting people to focus on some essential notions about what is it that they’re trying to accomplish? Their performance appraisals, they take a look at you. They ask you to take a look, 6 months out and 3 years out. That’s why are you here writ large. It’s saying that we and you have a stake in building your career here or building a piece of it. They want you to think broadly about where it is you think you’re headed.

They also have a practice of giving as much responsibility as they can junior into the organization. They do that because their essential promise is they try to be a good place to be from. Most companies try to say, “I’m going to be the great place and you stay there forever.” No one stays forever, except maybe the Founder at this point. The question is, “How can you be a place where people go?” I learned great stuff while I was there.

If your goal is to restore trust, people expect you to be sorry for the harm that you’ve caused. Click To Tweet

It’s a mark of distinction to have that company’s name on my resume. That’s what Recruit eventually went after, was the experience that they could give people, that would allow them to be from Recruit and to have people say, “You must know a lot.” If you worked in a place where people talk to you and ask, “Why are you here?” they got some good training.

I think about many of the conversations and work that we’ve been doing internally with our team members as well and trying to create the right culture, getting everybody aligned around the values. While I’ve never necessarily asked the question directly, why are you here, to team members. I can attach from my own experience of having that conversation or like, “What’s meaningful for you? What do you want to create? How can we support you more?” We’ve seen the benefits of having that conversation and using that type of language.

For anybody who’s reading now, who has a team and even if it’s contractors, you want to work with longer-term or full-time team members, this conversation is incredibly powerful. Letting people know that you care about them and that you want to help them to grow and to improve and if that can be within your organization long-term, fantastic. Also, if it sets them up, as you’re saying to do something in the future then at least that’s a positive thing that you can feel good about rather than trying to ignore that and hope that things work out.

CSP 207 | Science Of Building Trust


It also is a good example of one of the things we found in our trust research, which is the trust is built from the inside out. If you want to be trusted by people outside your organization, the people inside have to feel that they’re trusted because they are the ones who are doing the work and engaging with the clients. That’s why this connection between how they feel, how inspired they are and the thing that’s different about why are you here is it’s not, “I want you to buy into my vision.” It’s, “What is your vision.”

That’s powerful because then you’re aligning everything that you’re doing with that person on the company to support what their vision is, where they want to go and how they want to be? What I’d love to do, Sandra, is because there are different elements going on through the conversation. I’d love to know from your research and all the work that you’ve done and have been doing to cover three things with you. Number one is what can consultants and people, in general, do to build trust? What are maybe some of the most common mistakes you see people making where they go and lose trust?

Finally, you touched on this but what are the steps people can take? What are the best practices to regain trust? Let’s say if you’ve lost trust with a supplier, a vendor, a client, whatever it might be. If we start off with the top there is like, how to build trust. What are a couple of or few best practices that people can take to build trust in the marketplace and especially with clients and team members?

Two things are important at the start. The first is, how do you define trust? We describe our work as putting a spine on trust. No one is going to say, “It’s not important to be trusted.” The question is that when we poked at it, it was like, “We didn’t know.” “Why do people trust? I’m a business, what should I do about that? How can I approach that?” Briefly, I’m going to ask people to think about their experience getting a COVID vaccination. Think about what you were feeling? What you were thinking? That helps you to understand that trust is vulnerability. It’s vulnerability to other people’s actions and intentions.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I was pretty nervous about getting my vaccine. I knew I needed it and all that stuff but I hope that the people at Pfizer were on their game when they were doing it. Does this thing go to work? Does it prevent me from getting a bad case of COVID if I do happen to get it? That’s what trust is. It is when your clients are vulnerable to actions that you take as a company. It always starts with the perspective of the other person. We’re not talking about how do you feel trusting, it’s more, do they trust you?

What we found is that I’ll try to do this relatively briefly that people trust based on four dimensions. Let me spell them out using Uber as an example. The first dimension is competence. If you’re not good at delivering the service that you say you’re going to do as a consultant, you are not going to be in business very long. Competence is the foundation of trust.

It’s funny because you don’t think about it that way but why would you do business with anybody who wasn’t good at what they did? That’s where trust starts. Uber gets us from point A to point B. They change ride-hailing, as we know it, super competent. On the other hand, there are lots of people who have qualms about using an Uber. That says, “Competence isn’t enough.”

If competence were all it took then I would happily get into an Uber any old time. It turns out I’m one of those people that have some second thoughts. There was even a hashtag at one point at #DeleteUber, from people who got annoyed about the company. The other things that matter quickly are the first one is what are their motive. Can I trust that they’re going to protect my interest as well as their own?

Trust is built from the inside out. If you want to be trusted by people outside, the people inside have to feel that they’re trusted. Click To Tweet

I was going to jump in to clarify a little bit. Would that mean as a company sharing your values, talking more about what you believe in, would that go in your research to help and having people feel more comfortable that there’s the alignment there?

Yes. You can tell people stuff and that’s important. They’re going to judge you by whose interests you? They see you protecting.

Are there any best practices that you’ve seen or examples of companies that have taken these concepts and run with them well? Maybe you want to continue on the Uber path but I’m wondering for the consultants that are reading now, what steps might they be able to take that can be more tangible, that tried and true that they could use to build more trust?

In order, this research is relatively new. I also studied layoffs. People have been studying layoffs since the 1990s. There’s a robust, interesting literature on wide officer difficult as they are for organizations, individuals. Trust research is pretty new. There’s not the same body of knowledge that you would want to have about what’s tried and true when you say, “I can tell you inductively working with examples and companies.” Here’s an example of someone who had to balance interests in a way that showed that he had good motives.

The person in question is Dave Cote, CEO of Honeywell. It’s 2008 and he knows he’s going to need to do something to reduce costs because of the great recession. He knows it involves his employees and he has to figure out what to do? The way he reasoned his way through it is something like this, “There is no business if we don’t pay attention to customers.”

Customers are the first group whose interests we need to protect. After that, we need to then balance the interests of employees and shareholders. Employees would assume we forget about profit during the recession. Keep everyone on board, keep it all the pay the same. We probably can’t do that. Shareholders would assume that we take a quick layoff. Twenty thousand people go away all of a sudden we’ve saved some money but we didn’t do that either.

What he ended up doing was a furlough between 1 and 5 weeks, depending on which division you were in. That allowed the company to save money and allowed him to have an intact workforce to meet the needs of customers, which in turn allowed shareholders to have a remarkable return at the end of the recession because he kept people on board. What happened before is that they ended up being in a position to meet customers’ needs better than their competitors and their stock price showed that.

This is how trust works. It’s always this question about, “Who are my stakeholders?” It’s always interest balancing and trying to figure out what your priorities are? The world gets a little bit easier. Perhaps I might ask you if you’re a consultant. I’ve got me, I’ve got the client and I’ve got my team. Does that strike you as hard a trade-off as the kind he had to make?

I’m sure for some people, it might feel as hard but it certainly, for most consultants, has a lot fewer moving parts compared to the complexity. In reality, it would be less but somebody who’s dealing with that challenge now would still feel acute. They would feel like the world might be ending. One thing that you mentioned, Sandra, that resonates with me and it is a powerful framework or concept is about slowing things down and asking yourself, “Who are the players? Who is involved in this and how can I structure a win-win for all parties?” The reality is that not everybody necessarily can get 100% of what they want but if you’re clear on what the priorities are, what you want to achieve and thinking not short-term but also longer-term, that can then help influence and allow you to make a better decision.

That’s perfect and that it is exactly that way of thinking about these things that will help people because regardless if you’re not Dave Cote. He runs a certain scale business but your business matters to you. That notion of both slowing things down and, in particular, getting clear on, “Who’s involved here? What are their interests and what am I going to do about that?” That’s exactly right.

We cover a little bit of how to build trust and, of course, people who want to go deeper should pick up a copy of your book, check your work because there’s a lot more detail there than we can cover in the show. I do want to have you speak a little bit more about this idea of how do people lose trust? What are the most common ways that you see or you feel in your experience that people in professional services, consultants, companies, in general, can lose the trust of the marketplace, their team members or their clients?

One of the other dimensions of trust that is important is, what is the actual impact of the work that you do? For consultants, that sometimes is hard. You get brought in. I’ve got this problem. You seem to be a problem solver. The question is, “At the end of your engagement with me, what will be indisputable? We can all see it and I can judge it for myself as to what the impact of your work has been.”

What I can tell you is that people, when they evaluate whether or not an organization is trustworthy, that’s one of the first things they look at. You say you want to be good for the environment but you’re lobbying against any regulation that would allow that to take place. It’s this discrepancy that people are looking for. Most of it is that, if you’re in the Boeing business, an airplane falls out of the sky.

I don’t care what you tell me if you’re a Dennis Muilenburg. I am going to hold Boeing responsible and the impact 346 people die. That’s what I’m going to remember about this company. I asserted and I don’t know if this is true, I don’t know from my own internal consulting that sometimes getting a handle on what was that concrete thing that came out of the work that we did together. Sometimes that’s hard and in particular, how can you understand what that looks like from the client’s point of view? You know what you were trying to accomplish but the question is at the end, “What do they see? How did they feel about what they see?”

CSP 207 | Science Of Building Trust


Working through this with you collaboratively for a consultant, it sounds like what you’re saying in your experience, it’s important to get clear and create alignment with the client in terms of what does success looks like for this project? Therefore allows you to make sure that when the project is done or as you’re working through it, that you don’t find yourself doing work that the client doesn’t want or you haven’t gone down a different path because that would then start to you lose trust.

If you’re the client, you’re paying for somebody to help you with something and you’re finding you’re not getting the result that you want or that they’re working on stuff but it’s not aligned with the outcome that you desire, that would cause a loss of trust in that person to be able to deliver. Getting alignment early on and then probably having contact throughout checking in to make sure that you’re still on the right path would be a great way to keep the trust going if we could say that. Does that resonate and align with you?

Yes. There’s also a backend thing to pay attention to, are there unintended consequences of the work that you’ve done?

Can you give an example of that or what you mean?

Competence is the foundation of trust. Click To Tweet

If I put in place a new compensation system on the basis of which people will either make more or less pay and it’s a variable compensation system where depending on how good your business unit is doing, you’ll make more money. If you’re in a business unit where things are not so great, you don’t have access to as much as a set of pay. On the one hand, this is fair because the people who have this opportunity to make more money are able to do it and it’s unfair because you’ve got a whole lot of people saying, “What’s up with this compensation system where it depends on what unit I’m in as to whether or not I make money?” That’s an example of unintended consequences.

You didn’t set out to be unfair but in fact, in the end, you are unfair to the people who don’t get to benefit. This is something where you need to align carefully with the organization to see that people will be candid with you about what they’re seeing as spillover effects of the work that you’re doing. Getting them to take some responsibility, to help you understand and help them understand. Are these good things that we’re trying to do, working out the way we want them to? Are they ending up having some consequences that we couldn’t have anticipated but that we now know we need to pay attention to? Upfront aligns and later on says, “Now that we’ve done some work.”

What’s happened with that work and are there some 2nd or 3rd order effects that we need to be aware of because that’s part of what withdraws trust. You guys put it in the system but then people ended up being angry about it. I’m not sure I want to do business with you again because even though that wasn’t what we intended, this is the outcome.

Let’s use the example now where somebody has lost trust, that their client doesn’t trust them as much as they would like, something happened, whatever it was. You talked about one way to start to try and redeem that trust or get it back is to say, “I’m sorry.” What else? What are the other best practices or ideas here if somebody finds themselves in a situation where there’s been a loss of trust with our client or with a team member? What other advice would you have for them?

It turns out that apologizing is not saying, “You’re sorry.” There’s academic literature on apologies and here are the three steps of a good apology. The first is that you acknowledge responsibility for what it was that happened. This is not a mistake that was made. This is, ”I did this and I’m sorry about it.” The second thing that you do is some explanation about how it was that things ended up that way. This can’t be defensive but it has to be like, “Here’s how I understand how I ended up doing that thing.” It’s a way of helping other people say, “You’ve thought some about this and you’ve tried to understand.” The third part is an offer of repair. That’s where you have to come in and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do.”

PWC, in their Oscars, in one year they had the wrong card and they acknowledged the wrong film is having won. The next morning on their website, they had an apology that asked for forgiveness. They said, “We’re sorry about this film versus that.” They then had an explanation that said that the person who was in charge, they were on their cell phone and they were distracted. The offer of repair was that they were going into their process to try to fix it. They fixed it by telling people they’re not allowed to have cell phones when they’re on stage. They also required everybody to memorize the name of the winners. That’s what recovering trust looks like.

I love the three-part framework, the apology, the here’s how it happened, why it happened, the situation review and then here’s what we’re doing to make it right.

If you can do something like that, most people, who you have a pretty good relationship anyway with, are going to get that. It definitely helps and that’s the equivalent of what this company Recruited writ large because they’re a big organization but it’s also the thing that you would want your own consulting firm to do.

Three questions before we wrap up here that I want to go over with you. The first is if you were to pass on one habit that you feel has been beneficial to your career, to rising up through the ranks, to seeing success on the world stage, to a family member or a loved one, somebody that you care about. What would be one habit that you feel like you’ve cultivated over the years that has served you well?

Here’s a habit I work on, I don’t know how well I do this and to think of examples where I don’t do it particularly well. I’ve tried to learn how to be objective about my own performance.

Walk us through how you approach that?

If I’ve done something and I get some feedback that says, “Sandra, that was not good,” then I have to treat that as if I’m talking about like a third person, third party and dig in and try to understand what was it that was happening in me, such that I did that. All of us get feedback throughout our careers and the question is, “What do you do with that?” What I found is I was becoming so defensive. I couldn’t take anything in.

I had to learn that it’s like there’s this avatar of Sandra next to me. That Sandra, that I’m thinking about and to be objective and say, “Whoever does give me that feedback, they’re trying to help in how can I do that.” This is hard to do. I’ve had people call me out on something that I did where it didn’t go down well. I’ve had to step back and say, “That Sandra, what is she doing at that point in time, that had that happen?” That’s one thing.

Do you find that as you’re giving that consideration, you can often identify things that you also did right as well as the things that you’d want to improve? Do you focus more on what did I do wrong, how do I make it better? As you’re being objective, can you find, “I understand what they’re saying but here’s the justification for why I did that? Here’s maybe one thing that I could do differently next time and therefore improve.” How do you typically find yourself processing that?

That’s a great point, Michael and part of that is, “What I was intending to do was X. How can I learn how to do that thing better that I was trying to do? That’s the reason why it didn’t work well.” There are always activities that we’re better at and worse at. Having that sounds awful developmental mindset that says, “This looks like something I better put on my list and going after it.” I’m going to try to figure out how to get better at this thing because I know what drives people crazy. That’s helped when it does turn into a positive thing because eventually, you get tired of beating yourself up and you’ll come in and say, “Can I twist this around?” It becomes a goal.

It’s such a wonderful concept because often we’re all busy doing what we’re doing. We don’t usually take as much time as we should to contemplate and give consideration to why are we doing these things? How can we make them better? What went right? What went wrong? How can I improve? I’ve personally found, as I’ve tried to make more time to do that, not only are we able to get clear on our priorities, make better decisions. We’re also able to, in many cases, accelerate the results that we want to see because we’re constantly improving. That’s wonderful advice. Second question, the best book you’ve read in the last six months could be nonfiction, fiction, anything that’s you’ve enjoyed?

It’s not a book. I am a passionate fanatic about K-drama. This is Korean TV.

My time in Japan is like, “I know a lot of people who love K-drama. It’s Korean drama.” I wasn’t expecting you to say that. Tell me what’s happening in the K-drama world.

For those of you who don’t watch them, this is an art form in South Korea and what it is a long-form TV serials. When I say long-form, each episode is usually about 1 hour and 20 minutes and they’re usually 20 episodes. This is a commitment that you make but what’s great about it is, unlike our films, they are much multi-theme. A lot of them are romantic but in that, there’s always a character who’s bad and evil. Even the ones that are about good versus bad, there’s usually some romance.

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There’s always humor and it’s a fascinating exposure to a different culture where even things like what you say to people when you leave after a hard day and they say, “Fighting.” That’s their way of giving people some encouragement and you did well. You did hard work. On my author’s website, I put a guide to my twenty favorite K-dramas.

Sandra, are these historical? I remember when I was in Japan, there are a lot of these Japanese more historical, going back into history where they would also be the series. Is that what you are talking? Are you talking more modern-day?

There are three genres. One is a modern-day either action or romance. There are historical ones that have to do with Korea’s Imperial age, the Joseon Era. They do an amazing amount of stuff with high school, with young people and their challenges. Those are the three basic genres within modern times there are action and romance. There are different types and most of them, at this point, is not historical. Most of them take place in current times.

I’m certainly no K-drama expert. I’m sure I’ve watched some over the years. Just being in Japan expose me to different television films but I do love international films and programs. I find often these days, the quality coming from overseas is much better than what’s coming from North America. Where are you accessing this content? Someone who wants to maybe see these things, where would you suggest that they go to view it?

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Netflix has a surprisingly large bank of these things. If you’re starting and if you like action, the one you might want to start with is called Vincenzo. This is about a guy who is a Korean who ends up getting raised in Italy. He is consigliere to the mafia and returns to Korea to repatriate some gold. It’s all about the moral code of being a mafia member.

Some evil people in Korea who are in business, who he goes up against. It’s wonderful. It’s compelling but Netflix has lots of these. If you get committed then Viki is the Asian streaming service of Rakuten. That’s the other place where you can then see lots of them but for most people that have access to Netflix, honestly, go in and say K-drama or some version of that and then you’ll see yourself finding them.

I was not expecting that but I love that. Third and final question, where can people go to learn more about you, the book and what you’re working on?

They can go to, that’s my author’s website. They can also go to, that’s our book website or they can look me up at Harvard Business School. Go into my faculty profile and you’ll see all the links that I said. I’d love to hear from people because I care about how these things work out in real businesses with people who want to try to do something. We put on our book website a write to us form for people to tell us about trust challenges that they’re working on and what they found out. That’s how we might be able to learn more about the world of consultants and how trust plays out.

Sandra, thanks so much for coming on.

Thank you. Great interview. I appreciate it.

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