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A Leader’s Pledge

by | Oct 29, 2015

When Doug took the reins of Campbell Soup Company in 2001, the company was clearly very troubled. There were a lot of challenges facing this struggling but iconic enterprise. To elicit meaningful change, Doug knew he would have to find powerful ways to earn the trust of the people within the organization. Most of the employees had become skeptical and weary due to years of struggle in the workplace and poor performance in the marketplace. Doug knew that it was simply unrealistic to expect extraordinary effort and performance without creating an environment in which people felt extraordinarily valued. He would have to demonstrate that he deeply valued their agenda before he could ever hope for them to value his agenda and vision for the company.

Doug knew he would have to find powerful ways to earn trust.

To kick-start the long journey of earning trust and cultivating the conditions for superior performance, Doug decided to make an unmistakable commitment to everybody in the organization. His first day at the company, he made a point to say he was dedicated to tangibly demonstrating that he valued each employee’s personal agenda, and he trusted that each employee would grow to value the company agenda over time. This declaration became known as the “Campbell Promise” which simply stated — Campbell Valuing People, People Valuing Campbell. Shortly thereafter, he supported that statement of intent with a 10-point pledge which laid out clear and succinct vows for how he planned to lead. At the heart of the pledge was his guarantee that he would conduct himself in an integrity-laden way. And that he intended to influence people with honor and respect.

Doug shared the pledge with the top 350 leaders at their very first global leadership meeting a few months later. These statements were a visible way to demonstrate that he planned to lead with character and competence — and to introduce a focus on high performance. Declaring himself with this pledge was an integral step on the road to being consistently crystal clear about his intentions. This oath was essentially a trust litmus test for his constituents: “Here are the words you can measure my behavior against.” He then had to follow up these promises with action — to build, earn, and keep their trust by delivering strong results in a quality fashion. It worked. Over the course of Doug’s leadership tenure at Campbell the company delivered cumulative shareholder returns in the top tier of the global food industry as well as producing best-in-class employee engagement. And it all started with a simple promise.

Here are the words you can measure my behavior against.

Are you faced with a big challenge that requires you to earn people’s trust? A good way to approach a tough obstacle that requires buy-in from many different people is to make an authentic leadership pledge. How do you plan to conduct yourself? How will you treat other people? What is the tone you want to set for your organization or community? Spell it out. Clearly. This is your chance to show people what you are about, and what you expect from others, in a tangible way. Then, people can begin to measure your actions against your words. When your actions support your pledge, you earn trust. When your actions betray your pledge, you lose trust. It’s that’s simple. And it’s a practical way to engineer real accountability for yourself as you tackle hard challenges.

Doug’s pledge follows below. What would your pledge say? What promises can you make that are anchored in your beliefs about how people should be treated? Share in the comments.


  1. We will treat you with respect and dignity.

  2. We will create a high-performance, high-trust culture that is open, honest and committed to excellence.

  3. We will work to develop a good understanding of your work situation and your career aspirations.

  4. We will endeavor to help you learn, grow and realize your career ambitions.

  5. We will work to clarify organizational expectations of you and to responsibly ensure that you have the resources necessary to do your job.

  6. We will reward your performance with recognition and a competitive compensation program.

  7. In a tangible fashion, we will work to continuously upgrade the environment in which you operate.

  8. To the degree possible, we will share our assessment of our current circumstances and future potential with you, solicit your input and support, and responsibly empower you to act.

  9. We will work vigilantly to keep our commitments to you. We will act with integrity. We will endeavor to do everything we say we are going to do.

  10. If we fall short of a commitment, we will openly and honestly acknowledge our shortcoming and conscientiously work to remedy the situation.

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Doug Conant is remarkable—and so is this work.
– Stephen M. R. Covey
Author of The Speed of Trust

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