- Corporate Culture
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Crisis Management
- Diversity and Inclusion in Business
Audience & Industry
- Board Meetings and Executive Briefings
- Senior Management Groups
- The Professional Services Industry
- Women's Events
Fiercely optimistic and unrelenting in her mission to unleash the potential of organizations, Frances Frei is the corporate trailblazer’s secret weapon in the battle for advantage and momentum.
Ivy League professor Frances Frei is teaching Fortune 500 CEOs how to lead.
A global thought leader on diversity, strategy, and culture, the Harvard Business School professor and corporate advisor-of-choice has made a career for herself changing organizational behavior.
From initiating a gender makeover at her school’s MBA program to acting as a personal advisor to the world’s most effective executives, Frei is answering her deepest calling – to help leaders create impact.
When companies seek her direct counsel, it’s often at a point of reckoning, when a shift of mindset and attention is needed to drive real transformation. That’s when Frei gets to metaphorically bust down doors, surfacing internal barriers and biases from the top down.
Her work as a culture coach, though challenging, is done with fierce and refreshing optimism. Frei is a big believer in the concept of redemption and second chances – insisting no company's culture is beyond repair.
In June 2017, Uber brought in Frei as its first SVP of leadership and strategy, to implement her prescription for radical change. Following a tumultuous string of bad publicity and scandal, the organization looked to Frei to help instill something that she says the company had lost: trust.
After nine months working with its over 15,000 employees, Frei departed the ride-hailing company to work on a new leadership acceleration program for companies – aimed at women and underrepresented minorities – before returning to her home at Harvard Business School.
In her TED Talk How to Build (and Rebuild) Trust, Frei gives audiences an inside look at her time with Uber, and how she diagnoses and cures a fractured culture. With quick wit and a compassionate approach, she reveals to listeners the three critical conditions people need at work in order to thrive.
Trust lives at the core of all positive, enduring human relationships, believes Frei. It creates the emotional framework for our collective human progress. And it isn’t limited to our personal lives, she says. Trust is at the absolute center of all business relationships and is necessary to drive organizational success. “When we think about business, trust isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind,” Frei says. “But it should be.”
When it comes to building and rebuilding trust, says Frei, the most common place we wobble is empathy. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she adds. People don’t believe we are in it for them – and without revealing empathy, everything gets harder. Look at the people in front of you, Frei advises. Listen to them and deeply immerse yourself in their perspective.
“Authenticity is vexing,” says Frei. Humans can sniff out in a moment if someone isn’t being their true self. Be you, she counsels, and resist the temptation to mute who you are in the world. For leaders, Frei adds, they have an obligation to create an environment where it’s safe, welcome, and celebrated for people to be their authentic selves. It’s the key to achieving greater excellence than we’ve ever known, Frei believes.
“There is a better version of us around every corner,” believes Frei. Having seen firsthand how organizations, people, and communities can change at breathtaking speed, she knows that with a fierce commitment and planned prescription for change, organizations and people can work to rebuild and repair broken relationships.
Frances Frei at Women's Leadership Day - Making the World Better for Women and for All
How to Build (and Rebuild) Trust
The Mandate to Build Trust
Leadership in Diversity
Building (and Rebuilding) Trust
Trust is the foundation for everything we do, says Harvard Business School’s Frances Frei. “If we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress,” she says. But what do we do when trust is broken? At companies, there are many reasons why the foundation of trust ruptures – a data breach, a CEO caught publicly disparaging an employee, a culture of bias and discrimination, and even a technological error that costs a human life. All of these things were happening at Uber, when Frei was brought on to its leadership team to help. In her talk on the art of building (and rebuilding) trust, Frei gives audiences a positive and practical breakdown of the steps companies and leaders need to take in order to be successful – using her time at the ride-hailing company as a critical example. But before you can solve the problem of broken trust, Frei says, you must first understand how trust works and which components you need to work on – be it logic, empathy, or authenticity.
Frances Frei believes everyone has a superpower that can be used for good. That is, when it’s harnessed correctly. In Frei’s work with numerous organizations, covering various industries, one very clear pattern has emerged. Change makers, organization builders, and corporate fire starters are unintentionally limiting themselves in their efforts to become exceptional leaders. As a result, companies aren’t getting the best from their people. Frei wants top-level executives – and their teams – to stop holding themselves back. Leaders too many times try to go it alone. But, leadership is a team sport, says Frei. To have real and lasting influence, you need to work tirelessly to create the conditions for everyone to thrive. Frei shares with audiences her high-impact guidance for how best to lead – not just manage – in order to help others unlock the greatness in themselves.
The primary driver of our economy is no longer what we make, but how we serve each other, says Frances Frei. But most companies treat service as a low-priority business operation, keeping it out of the spotlight until a customer complains. In her book, "Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business," Frei argues that – despite the fact that we are all born with an innate desire to help each other – it’s not enough for companies to simply demand service excellence from employees. Service needs to be tightly weaved into corporate culture, organizational design, and every core decision that’s made. With audiences, Frei makes a powerful case for rethinking the organizational approach to the service – using it as a competitive weapon, instead of a damage-control function, to ultimately increase profitability, satisfaction, and strategic differentiation.
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Organizational Psychologist, The Wharton School of Business; Best-Selling Author; Host: WorkLife, a TED original podcast