David Palmer Jones is the CEO of Suez UK Ltd who were placed in the Sunday Times “Best Big Companies to Work For” for the first time in 2017. Suez UK Ltd is in the waste management, recycling and energy recovery business and has over 5500 employees, 3500 of whom are manual employees. In this interview, David’s twin themes of structure and the personal, human touch shine out.
On the importance of trust:
“The more I think about it, the more I realise that trust is fundamental; to all relationships. We can’t have successful relationships without trust. From simple e-commerce transactions to complex business partnerships which last over long periods of time within 25 to 30 year contracts”
“Trust is massively important in our waste management and recycling industry. Public exposure to our business has intensified over recent years as lots more waste and recycling facilities have come closer to people. With that has come renewed scrutiny of our operations, and greater awareness through the media of the need to look after our environment with David Attenborough in particular doing a wonderful job of that.”
On the role of trust with different stakeholders:
“Our Customers put their faith and trust in us to advise them in a positive, regulatory compliant manner. We place a great deal of trust in our employees to do the right thing by our customers and the environment. The Public puts its faith in us and people expect ethical conduct from our business. The Government agencies expect a level of compliance and professionalism to award the permits for us to work.”
On building a high trust culture:
“No 1, it’s about building the culture, building it with structure. This helps frame the relationships and gives context to the contribution that people make that builds the trust. 10 years ago when I took over we started with three words, “No more waste”. This was our focus, and with clear vision, purpose and values we built a framework that has helped us to embed a culture of high trust. We spend a lot of time talking to our employees to communicate the importance of what we do and our critical success factors of safety, environment, sustainable and profitable business, data accuracy, engaging people, and customer loyalty.”
“No. 2, it’s about trust earned through the actions and behaviours of its people, led from the top. Everything comes from the top. We judge ourselves and people permanently on our adherence to the manner in which we want to work. This has been a massive effort over many years. We have been consistent in our message from the beginning. Telling people with our values what we expect of them. Being reliable in what we do. Having personal integrity. Being honest, telling the truth. Being real and authentic as leaders to create a closeness with people. This year we are celebrating our 100th monthly lunch with 25 of our people to help create the honesty, integrity, and closeness that holds us together as a team. This represents 8 years of being consistent in who we are and what we do. 8 years of determination and courage to succeed.”
The Nine Habits
Throughout our interview, David stressed the importance of being consistent in building trust. This is habit no.3 in our trust model and a key component of the pillar of ability. Nothing destroys trust as quickly as unpredictability. Consistency at Suez UK is demonstrated via a simple, clear vision that has remained a guiding light over a ten-year period. Furthermore, the vision is communicated consistently with the monthly CEO lunches providing a face to face forum to ‘walk the talk’ of that vision. Setting an example from the top of a consistent monthly routine which is prioritised above all other commitments shows great role-modelling of the consistency habit.
Our thanks are extended to David for allowing us to share his insights from the interview with you.
For more information on the Trusted Executive Foundation please refer to this short introductory video