At a time where business is tough, everyone is feeling the post lockdown pinch and we are all seeking that quick boost to finish the year with a high. I ask Do Ethics Matter?
Well, as our own company strap-line is the UK’s Leading Ethical Coaching Company,
I’m often asked what does that actually mean?
Yet to answer that, perhaps we ought to start by agreeing on:
What are Ethics?
At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society, which can often also be described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
What are Business Ethics?
By definition, business ethics are the moral principles that act as guidelines for the way a business conducts itself and its transactions. In many ways, the same guidelines that individuals use to conduct themselves in an acceptable way, in personal and professional settings; apply to businesses as well.
Acting ethically ultimately means determining what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Basic standards exist around the world that dictate what is wrong or unethical in terms of business practices. For example, unsafe working conditions are generally considered unethical because they put workers in danger. An example of this is a crowded work floor with only one means of exit. In the event of an emergency (such as fire) workers could become trapped or might be trampled on as everyone heads for the only means of escape.
Likewise, knowingly defrauding employees of entitlement, owing to either lack of education of sharing of information would also constitute poor ethical judgement.
While some unethical business practices are obvious, around the world they do still occur as peoples perception of what is acceptable differ widely.
Determining what practices are ethical or not is more difficult to determine if they exist in a grey area where the lines between ethical and unethical can become blurred or undetermined by best business practice, and what is considered ‘acceptable’.
For example, a company that exploits their marketing prowess across social media to capture data with the sole intent to manipulate peoples thinking (or voting patterns in the case of Cambridge Analytica) was determined that whilst no CRIME had been committed in doing so, the impact of such resulted in the first ever time a company has been tried in a court of law where this was considered ‘psychological warfare!’.
The THREE parts to Understanding Business Ethics
To truly break down business ethics, it’s important to understand the three basic components that the term can be dissected into.
The first part is the history. While the idea of business ethics came into existence along with the creation of the first companies or organisations, what is most often referred to by the term is its recent history since the early 1970s. This was when the term became commonly used the world over. The main principles of business ethics are based in academia and on academic writings on proper business operations. Basic ethical practices have been gleaned through research and practical study of how businesses function, and how they operate, both independently and with one another. In this sense, the considerations and theories are based around the aspects of ‘fair play’ and what is considered the ‘norm’ on how companies operate.
The second major meaning behind the term is derived from its close relationship and usage when scandals occur. Companies selling goods that were created using child labour or poor working conditions is one such scandalous occurrence which has led to being labelled as poor ethical standards. Likewise, the exploitation of people because of their colour, creed, sexuality, religion are now considered either illegal or at least poor ethical standards.
Other examples of this, are where a business professes to support one thing, whilst clearly practicing something else.
Such as businesses that claim to have environmentally friendly products/services/practices, whilst knowingly shipping their waste to other parts of the world to create the mass landfill mountains we now see many living on within places like India and China.
Perhaps the most recent and continually developing aspect of ethics is the third piece – the idea that companies are building business ethics into the core of their companies, making them a standard part of their operational blueprint.
As the world continues to grow more political (and more politically correct) an increased focus on the width and depth of business ethics and strong adherence to them become ever more scrutinised.
Business ethics are important for every company. They keep workers safe, help trade and interactions between companies remain honest and fair, and generally make for better goods and services. Distinguishing what a company will and won’t stand for is not always the same for each organisations, but knowing basic ethical guidelines is a key component of company management.
I firmly believe these are the 7 key principles of ethics in business
- Honesty: The willingness and openness to remain honest.
- Integrity: Doing what is ‘right’ not just what is ‘expected’.
- Promise-Keeping & Trustworthiness: Setting and living up to expectation
- Loyalty: Remaining true to People not just Profit
- Fairness: Demonstrating a ‘live and let live’ culture, not winner takes all
- Concern/Respect for Others: Recognising impact and supporting communities
- Law Abiding: Both Criminal, Civil and Moral!
Within My TrueNORTH, we firmly believe The following principles will help any leader grow their business impact far beyond that of a happy share holder!
Practice taking the Second Step
Go a little further. Always do more than anticipated and expected. Surprise others by paying attention to the little things that others don’t. Be different.
A principle that is helpful in building a business is the principle of going the second mile. Good companies develop a second-mile mentality. In business, we need to separate ourselves so that others can see our business more clearly.
Too many companies expect second-mile results without giving second-mile effort. It is always a good idea to do more than expected.
The Golden rule works, If you work it
Make People First Things. Think of others first. Treat others like you want to be treated. Practice thoughtfulness. When you think of the customers, they will think of you.
Many great businesses use this principle as the foundation for their business. The concept is to consider others first. The wise business leader and business will always treat others as they would like to be treated. – Companies that don’t think of their customers will not be thought of by their customers.
Focus on profit with a Purpose
Know your priorities. Live life and run your business with purpose and vision. Profit is powerful. Profit used well can lead to both success and significance. Attract others to your Mission and your Dream. Always Explain your Why.
Every successful business creates profits. It is often quoted in business circles that you don’t have a business until you have a profit. Every company has been established and designed to create a profit. However, Ethical Business leaders understand that the wrong profit can be damaging. There is little point in owning all the wealth in the world, if nobody is willing to accept your coin. Therefore, whilst profit is Good, Profit used for Good is Better
Know you’re Yeses and Your No’s.
Be decisive and make great decisions. Make decisions based on values. Know You “No’s.” Say Yes to those things that will make you and organisation better. Live up to your Word. Make your signature mean something. Fulfil your commitments.
Great Decisiveness is a key to influential leadership. People cannot follow a person that doesn’t know where they are going or why they are going in that direction. The power to say yes or no quickly means that you know where you are going and what you are trying to accomplish. Make your words mean something. Develop and build trust relationships by conveying to others that they can count on you and your commitments.
Many leaders lose their influence with others because they commit to aspirational yeses. Leaders must know their “no’s” and be quick to say yes or no definitively with purpose, consistence and in line with the values of the business.
Make the move From Owner to Overseer
Practice steward leadership. Use the resources wisely. An essential shift for Ethical business leaders is moving from ownership to stewardship. True success comes not from what you achieve, but in the legacy, you leave behind to others. It should be the desire of every Ethical business owner to be recognised not for what they own, but what they helped others to achieve.
Trust the law of sowing and reaping
Sow liberally. Be generous with your seeds. Plant daily. Be constantly trying new things. Don’t be afraid to start small. Practice patience.
Laws of life can be trusted because they have been proven through time. Successful businesses know and trust the law of sowing and reaping. Remember, a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” Don’t be afraid of starting with a small seed. The harvest you are reaping today is from the seeds that you planted yesterday.
Believe and ask for the Impossible
Dream Big Impossible Dreams. Set big goals. Stretch yourself and your team. Find new ways to look at old problems. Embrace belief. Everything great starts with a dream. The world is better when people dream big and believe that impossible things can happen. Challenge yourself to ask “what if” questions and use your imagination to see the world in new and different ways. People desires to be with leaders and organisations who have big visions. to A big vision inspires and attracts. Supersize your thoughts and your beliefs. What seems impossible to one, is possible with many.
Build to the 3rd or 4th Generation
Work on big projects, not for now, but for the future. Always do the right thing. Know your core values and beliefs. Be forward thinking. Make decisions with tomorrow in mind. Prepare for the future by making the right decision today.
Don’t waste time building things that won’t last the test of time. Building on the right foundation will help your business stand through the storms of market changes. A key to building a great business is to act with integrity in all situations. Integrity means doing the right thing in all situations at all times. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that “The time
is always right to do what is right.” Businesses that are built on a solid foundation are built to last generations. Companies that lack a solid foundation are built on slippery ground that can crumble at any time. – Our destiny unfolds in the future, but it is shaped by the decisions that we make today.
Know the order of things and Work the Order
Strive for clarity. Know your priorities. Order is important. When a leader understands the order of things, things become easier to understand. A great principle to practice in business is to focus on first things. When a leader understands the order of things, things can become easier to understand. A leader must be clear and push for clarity in all things.
Improve your Team to improve your Organisation
Find the right and best people to bring around you. Make people your top priority. Learn from everyone. Spend time with a wise team of mentors. Learn faster by learning from others. Ask questions and listen. Seek counsel. Help people to discover their gifts and talents. Find passionate and reliable people.
Great leaders learn from others to learn faster. You need a team around you to inspire you and help you build something bigger than you can build alone. No great leader ever led alone. Find your passion and add passionate people to your team. A passionate person is worth four regular people. Passionate people perform better. In fact, not only have they formed with a purpose, every person on their team has been formed with a purpose. When a company finds the gifts and passions of their people and discern how to release those passions then higher productivity is enjoyed by the person and the company. Passionate people are reliable people. The wisdom of others can be powerful. Every great leader has at least one advisor. However, many business leaders try to do things all on their own. In fact, it is often said that it is lonely at the top. It is only lonely at the top if you are trying to lead alone. Steward leaders believe in the power of others. – When your people get better your organisation gets better.
Do things today that will impact today AND tomorrow
Invest wisely. Don’t forget to invest in yourself. Make the right investments to help the business to grow. Invest in your people. Invest to grow your commitment and your passion.
Leaders are called to lead with passion or all of their heart. Therefore, a leader must make investments wisely.
Leaders in businesses are called upon to make many investments. A leader must make use of the resources of the company to make the right investments in the business, people, and infrastructure. When businesses are invested in wisely, the business will grow. Good investments set the direction and the path of a business to ensure its growth and development. When a business is neglected, it is doomed to shrink and die.
Work to Well Done
Excellent work is worthy work. Do everything for a bigger purpose and a noble cause. Innovate. Always improve and strive to make products and service better. Always Upgrade and Improve. Think long term. Show Your Value Through Products and Services that are of High Quality.
Building a business on these principles requires a change of perspective. One attitude that is essential for Ethical Leaders is to practice excellence at all times and in all situations. When you work towards excellence in everything you are on your way to hearing the “well done” from your employees, your customers, and all who are impacted by it.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this, and whether you think ethics really are the very heart of every thriving business?
You might also like: