Trusted Executive Foundation Interview with Dave Shemmans, CEO of Ricardo plc

Dave Shemmans is the CEO of Ricardo plc, the global engineering and project management organisation focused on technology, innovation and sustainability.  Dave is also a Non-Executive Director of Sutton and East Surrey Water. In this interview, Dave highlights the critical importance of trust in underpinning all of the company values, and in supporting Ricardo to continue its engineering and technical excellence in an ethical and sustainable way.

On the importance of trust:

‘As a UK plc, trust needs to be extremely high across all levels of the organisation. Our investors need to have a high trust in what we say we are going to deliver. In turn, I have to trust my divisional heads to deliver on their promises and, again, they must trust their people to deliver also. It all starts with trust and doing the right things so there are no surprises at any point, or at any time.’

On building a high trust culture:

‘The Ricardo core values of passion, innovation, ethics and respect are at the core of establishing trust, especially the last two. You cannot run a decentralised, global business without trust and it can only come on a personal level. You cannot trust the organisation per se, you must trust the people within the organisation, it is an interpersonal thing.

‘It is also important to ensure that all communications within the organisation are consistent, honest and open.  As a leadership team, it is important that we are seen to “do what we say we are going to do” and this consistency engenders trust across the business.’

‘In my experience, everyone starts off with an expectation of trust and then watches closely to see if this is borne out in practice. It doesn’t take long for trust to be lost but it takes a long time for it to be regained. This loss can be a result of missing a performance number on a repeated basis, lack of consistency, or any other behavioural issue.’

On the challenges of building trust:

‘It is interesting to note the differences across generations in terms of trust, my generation automatically confers trust onto the leader in a hierarchical position and respects their position. I am seeing a change in younger generations that are much more open and willing to speak directly and air their views irrespective of perceived status or power. This is a good thing and at one of our forthcoming events we are inviting a number of ‘millennials’ to take to the floor to discuss their views.’

The Nine Habits of Trust:

The Nine Habits of Trust Model

What comes across from the interview with Dave is that Ricardo plc is strong on the habits of delivering, being consistent and having a coaching mind set. The latter is especially true when new engineers come into the business and the more experienced engineers enjoy supporting and coaching their development (Habit No.2 – choosing to coach).

What is also noticeable is that there is precision and purity with engineers and scientists, there is always a right way and a wrong way. In Ricardo plc’s case, this delivers consistently excellent results (Habit No.1 – choosing to deliver, and Habit No.3 – choosing to be consistent) and cutting edge technological breakthroughs which  are a credit to their 3,000 plus people.

Dave sees his role as CEO to build upon this pragmatic excellence and evangelize about the power of the company’s expertise (Habit No.7 – choosing to evangelize). The result of bringing passion and emotion to the scientific process inspires people to join the company and motivates their people. That passion leads to innovation.

Our thanks to Dave for his time and for allowing us to share his insights from the interview. For more information on the Trusted Executive Foundation please refer to this short introductory video.

[ First posted on ]