Workday Rising: The Importance of Trust

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” – Henry David Thoreau

To call Darwin John a unique human being is an understatement. After a childhood spent working the dusty Utah soil of his father′s beet farm, he went on to become CIO of both the FBI and the Church of the Latter Day Saints—where he became the customer and close friend of Workday co-founder, Dave Duffield.

John joined the Workday Rising community Wednesday evening as a long-standing friend, colleague and mentor, and also as a father. Darwin′s son, Steven, now CIO of H.B. Fuller, was in the audience as one of Workday′s earliest customers.

Speaking in the rich, resonant tones of a pastor, Darwin John managed to hush an audience of Workday Rising attendees on Wednesday by asking simple, yet profound questions such as, “Who are the three people you trust the most?”

Think about it. Who are they? (I chose my husband and my parents.) Then, he asked why did you choose them?

John′s answer is beautifully simple: because these people have built a track record with you. Then he asked this—let′s admit it—slightly unsettling question: How many people would put you on their top-three trust list? To illustrate the point, John related a story of his time on the board of directors for a large corporation, when the CEO asked his advice after a senior executive′s lapse in judgment. John asked the CEO a simple question, “can you ever trust him again.” The CEO answered no. John′s response: “Then it sounds like your decision is made.”

In a conference filled with sessions on SaaS, HR and Financial software implementations, it is easy to get so focused on the skills and knowledge aspects of doing our jobs that we forget the importance of strong values, character and trust for effective leadership, and for building successful business and IT teams.

John, who referenced the teachings of Aristotle, Socrates, and Henry David Thoreau, said there is a never-ending opportunity for learning and self-improvement.  “As leaders there is no such thing as a steady state; we′re either getting better as leaders or digressing,” he said. So look back over the past few years: “Am I a better leader? If not, what′s changed, and what can I do differently?”

Alongside Steven, Darwin is involved in a program through the Society of Information Managers that′s focused on the importance of trust as a fundamental characteristic for effective leaders.

“Consistency is important” in earning trust from your colleagues, partners and customers, John noted. And when trust is lost, earning it back is difficult, if not impossible.

As a CIO, John extended that philosophy of trust to his vendors. One reason he came to speak at Workday Rising was his longtime relationship with Dave Duffield. As CIO of the Church of Latter Day Saints, John worked with Duffield′s previous company, PeopleSoft. Their foundation of trust stemmed from Dave′s desire to listen to John, rather than just wanting to close a deal.

“I used to say I was completely accessible to a [technology] provider if they were not obsessed with selling me a box by the end of the sales quarter,” John said. “My door would be open if we could share where we′re going as provider and customer, and see the potential of where we may have a match.”

A simple concept, perhaps, but one that sits at the foundation of John′s philosophy and at the heart of Workday′s commitment to customers. A philosophy that is certainly worthy of conscious endeavor.