Business Ethics Drive Success

Business Ethics Drive Success

Ethics are moral guidelines which govern good behavior, and are reflected in values such as honesty, responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, confidentiality, fair treatment, and integrity.

Ethical principles play a key role in business success. Doing the right thing is more important than doing the most profitable thing. This is true not just for owners or top executives, but for every member of staff. Your clients have a choice and most often they will choose the organization, company or service provider that is guided by solid ethical principles.

I want to share a real-life example of how ethics play a role in business. Recently a client called to tell me how one of their managers had lied about how a job was completed. This manager had cut corners on a job, skipped a step in the process, and when the worked “failed” as a result, he denied having done so. The employee had not only cost the business its profit but had broken the company Code of Ethics. He did not act responsibly with his client, and he was likewise dishonest with his employer. All were lapses in judgment that cost the employee (employer’s trust, docked wages, and promotion) and the business (profit, reputation and repeat business from that client). The situation created a distraction that set the company back days and, in terms of the overall year’s performance, may have also cost them the production goal they were striving for. Now it was the owner’s responsibility to confront the manager and address his behavior.

So, how do business owners ensure that employees, managers, directors, and officers act in ways that reflect the ethics and integrity of the company? I’ll share with you the same set of guidelines I offered the business owner above:

Recognize integrity as the key ethical ingredient and hire accordingly. Integrity is the act of adhering firmly to an ethical set of behavioral guidelines. Those with integrity know what is right and act accordingly, even when no one is watching.

In traditional hiring practices we tend to focus on skill, experience, and education, without adequately screening candidates for the indicators of integrity. While I don’t know of an assessment tool to measure integrity, there are reliable ways to test for this quality. For example, by taking the time to carefully and thoroughly checking references for your candidate, you’ll undoubtedly learn something about the candidate’s ethical tendencies.  Listen carefully for the candidate’s response to ethical questions during the interview process. Finally, pay careful attention to your own intuition. We all have a sixth sense about integrity.

Create a clear Code of Ethics for your business. Every business, no matter how large or small, should have clearly articulated ethical policies that include specific guidelines for:

  • Individual responsibility
  • Social responsibility
  • Dealings with customers, vendors and others
  • Business environment policies
  • Behaviors and actions
  • Rules for personal and corporate integrity

Set expectations for adherence to the code. The code is not effective until it is fully implemented. As in the case noted above where I described my client’s employee, there must be consequences when the ethical code of the company is not upheld.

Model the behavior you expect.  A company’s code of ethics provides the guidelines by which everyone – from the owners to the manager to the employee – is bound.  Employees naturally model the behavior of their leader; therefore, the ethical value of a company begins at the top.  If a “little white lie” or cutting corners is acceptable for the business owner,   employees will naturally reflect the same tendency. As the business owner, your actions – and your ethics – are always on display for your employees and your clients to see.

Living in integrity is, of course, its own reward. When ethics becomes your business focus, you will enjoy a host of other benefits, such as:

  • More satisfied clients
  • Fewer complaints from clients and employees
  • Better client retention
  • Fewer work (performance) issues
  • Lower operational costs
  • A happier workplace
  • Lower employee turnover

At the end of the day, your reputation in business is a clear reflection of your own ethical values as a person. Be the kind of person you want to attract.

Coaches Challenge:  1) Examine your moral compass and be sure that it is in alignment with the ethical code you have for your company. 2) Be sure your company Code of Ethics is in writing and each member of your team has been given a copy. 3) Make ethical behavior one of the key measurements in your performance management program.

Sherry B. Jordan, Business Coach and Consultant

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