Learn More About Sandra J. Sucher
Trust isn’t a feeling. It results from intentional choices, says Harvard Business School Professor of Management Practice Sandra J. Sucher (SUH-cher). By helping leaders see trust not as an aesthetic wrapper, but rather as the foundation for building relationships with stakeholders of all kinds – customers, employees, investors and the public – Sucher provides a roadmap for becoming trusted in a world where the demands on organizations, their leaders and their boards are growing all the time.
Sucher is an accomplished business executive who spent years developing and building on her commitment to moral leadership while working as a manager in the financial services, retail and nonprofit sectors. As a business process improvement specialist, she actively incorporated trust, morality and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles into workplace systems and witnessed firsthand how such a focus significantly benefited the organization and its employees. Her bestselling book, “The Power of Trust: How Companies Earn It, Lose It, Regain It” (Public Affairs, July 2021) – co-authored with colleague Shalene Gupta – summarizes her two decades of research examining the gray areas of business. The book – as well as her 2019 articles on trust, “The Trust Crisis,” “Leading with Trust” and “The Elements of a Good Company Apology,” which were featured as a “big idea” on HBR.org – serves as an essential guide for leaders interested in cultivating trust within and outside their organizations.
“Trust underpins a range of issues related to gender, corporate responsibility, race and beyond,” says Sucher, who is a member of the Edelman Trust Institute advisory board and collaborates with PwC on its Trust Leadership Trust Institute, and with Deloitte on TrustIQ™, a proprietary tool that measures key elements of trust in major corporations and public sector organizations. “We often think of trust in an ephemeral way, as a good feeling that everyone shares. But trust is actually a skill grounded in relationship management and understanding motivations. It’s a framework designed to change cultures and open the door to more effective ways of engaging with constituents.”
How to Avoid the Lasting Organizational Damage That Layoffs Cause
With news spreading much faster and corporate decision-making scrutinized more heavily than ever before, organizations are especially under the microscope when it comes to layoffs. While sometimes unavoidable workforce cuts can be done right, Sucher cautions that layoffs like the tens of thousands of job cuts since late-2022, especially in tech, often have negative impacts much greater than any cost savings. Layoffs can cause irreversible harm to an organization’s reputation, she says, and effects like damaged trust can linger in an organization while perpetuating the myth that downsizing the workforce inherently increases profitability. Sucher’s research-backed evidence offers a vivid warning to leaders that the short-term cost savings of layoffs will not equal long-term organizational success.
“We’re in a particularly bad space right now in terms of how layoffs are being managed,” explains Sucher, who followed her 2018 article, “Layoffs That Don’t Break Your Company,” which was selected as a Harvard Business Review (HBR) “must read” for its insights into how layoffs decimate trust, with a December 2022 HBR article focusing specifically on lessons from layoffs on tech, “What Companies Still Get Wrong About Layoffs.” She continues, “humans aren’t a resource in the same way that oil and gas are, so if you treat them as a resource that can be depleted or that you can discard when it no longer has value, you’re undermining the basic notion of what it means to be a person.”
With ethics at the core of her work, Sucher teaches leaders the importance of inviting diverse perspectives before making decisions, and shows leaders how to do it successfully. As a former executive, she focuses on practical lessons and tips for leaders that go beyond platitudes to actions that move the needle on trust and help organizations perform better. She also helps organizations weather disruption without harming employees.
“Many companies would try to keep their heads down till the storm passed, but to restore trust, you need to acknowledge an error,” she advises. “Acknowledging a mistake, figuring out missteps and fixing them can help any company with dedication and sincerity to restore trust.”
Sandra J. Sucher is an internationally recognized trust researcher and professor of management practice at Harvard Business School (HBS). She has worked as chair of the Better Business Bureau, a vice president at Fidelity Investments and a senior executive at Filene’s Basement, where she authored the proposal to expand from a single-unit business into a national chain. Her leadership teachings are codified in two books based on the HBS course The Moral Leader.
At HBS, Sucher studies how organizations become trusted and the vital role leaders play in the process. She has authored 110 business cases, technical notes, video interviews, teaching notes and three books. Her 2019 articles on trust were featured as a “big idea” on HBR.org. Sucher’s textbooks on ethical leadership, “The Moral Leader: Challenges, Insights, and Tools” and “Teaching The Moral Leader: A Literature-based Leadership Course” were called “a ground-breaking approach for education in business ethics.”
Sucher’s research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Quartz, Business Insider, CNBC, NPR and Marketplace, as well as internationally in Germany, Latin America and Japan.
Sandra J. Sucher is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.