Dr. Mary Donohue: [Full interview transcript]

, , Leave a comment

Dr. Mary Donohue writes and lectures on ethical leadership, mentoring, and managing corporate culture. She writes a column for the National Post and has published three books. Read Dr. Donohue’s full bio here…

Click here to view Mary’s full interview, “The Value of Trust.”

Mary: Trust has become a form of currency because it’s the only thing that people can’t, and don’t, have. You can’t buy trust. Think about that for a second. You can buy anything else on this planet – most likely on eBay – but you can’t buy trust. Trust is something that’s created between two human beings. So in terms of currency, we’ve done everything we possibly could in the past 12 years to rid ourselves of trust between people. So corporations that have it, or people that have trust, are a very valued institution.

I was working with a large firm – who will remain anonymous – that wanted to do an environmental project. They wanted to have, I’ll make this up, clean water. They wanted to say they were the cleanest water corporation on the West Coast. So we said, “Sure.” And we went away, and we started thinking about this, and so we started doing research. I, at the time, had a brilliant assistant, and he really quickly started looking at these things. He went down one more layer, and down one more layer, and down one more layer, and he found out, through the Internet, that that same company that was talking about beautiful, clean water and everything on the West Coast and wearing Birkenstocks and cool clothes and playing Ping-Pong on a table, was very, very busy on the East Coast taking all the crap from its foundry or factory – I can’t remember exactly what they called it – and putting it into the ocean down there and polluting! So within three hours on the Internet he had found all of this stuff that they had hoped would never come out.

That’s a whole different ball of wax in terms of building trust for a corporation. For people that are running for politics, for actors, for actresses – that whole world is beginning to shift. We’ve gone as bad as we can possibly go. Leaders have lied, they’ve cheated, they’ve stolen. They’ve said, “I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve stolen,” and no one’s put them in jail! Oh, okay, so where are we going to go, what are you going to do to make yourself new and interesting in this economy? You actually have to do something good.

The roots of big change

Mary: I came to the conclusion through my research on leadership that we were moving into a new leadership paradigm. How were we going to be able to do that, and why, became the new question. So, in a nutshell, we were changing from a traditional, old way of leading, to this whole new way of communicating with people versus telling people what to do.

Trust “training”

Mary: In terms of being a leader, in terms of being a corporation, when you feel good about exactly what it is you’re doing and you’re communicating and you understand your role and you trust the leaders in your organization, you’re a hell of a lot more productive. We don’t have that trust currently, and that’s where mentoring came in. Mentoring enables people to rebuild the bonds of trust.

Investing in each other

Mary: We spend a lot of time investing in technology, and maybe we’ll train people how to use technology, but technology is nothing without somebody using it, without that person using it. No matter how big you are as a corporation, your weakest link could be the most junior receptionist. Because somebody could catch her on a bad day and say, “Hey, what do you think of this company?”

Just a nice, ordinary, everyday person coming up to a receptionist, and they have their little iPhone there, and this receptionist can go, “Actually, I hate them. We just let 32 people go, they didn’t give them anything, blah blah blah…” and all of us have done this. We’ve all sat in a receptionist’s office with a very young receptionist who is maybe kind of bored, or doesn’t know what her job is, and just talked to her. Technology gives us the ability to record it, post it, get it out there and tell the truth about the company.


  • Trust is the one thing people, or corporations, can’t buy
  • Leadership by two-way communication rather than giving orders or instructions
  • Mentoring to improve trust can increase productivity
  • Investment in HR development just as crucial as technological investment

Read more about Mary on her website.



Leave a Reply