The author of a recent article in Harvard Business Review suggests that we are in the midst of an “ethical revolution” in which leaders and organizations are held more accountable for their behavior.
We can all be part of this “revolution” by using some of these ideas to help make integrity more than a written code of ethics.
*Leadership, Leadership, Leadership. Nothing important happens in an organization without strong leadership. And it is needed at every level. Top leaders should role model that. However, if they don’t then that does not have to stop you from role modeling it with your team.
*Create a Unique Ethics Code. Reach out across your organization: “It is time to update our values statement and ethics code – we want everyone’s input.” Hold town halls, offer surveys, present drafts for comment. The process will be more important than the actual final statement.
*Talk About Ethics During Decision Making. People are generally pretty good at asking “Will it make money?” and even “Is it legal?” But beyond that, regularly add to the conversation “Is it the right thing to do?”
*Repetition Matters. Start with employee orientation and regularly include discussions about the importance of the organization’s values at every level. Talk about how proud you are to be an organization of integrity.
*Hold People Accountable. If people violate the code, they need to be held accountable. Otherwise, word will spread quickly that the ethics code does not really mean anything. It will lead to cynicism and your best people could end up leaving.
Customers want to be associated with companies with integrity. A few years ago, when Volkswagen was going through a scandal, I saw a VW car with a homemade bumper stick the owner put on next to the VW logo in back that read “LIARS.” I am sure it was not long before that car was sold.
Employees want to be proud of where they work – of the quality of their products/services and the ethics of their team. Use these ideas to build an organization that truly values integrity.
Ideas for this blog taken from: Chestnut, R. “How to Build a Company that (Actually) Values Integrity,” Harvard Business Review online, July 30, 2020.