Establishing a Foundation
Focus: Establishing a Foundation of Trust in Current Business Environment
As I started to write this column, the emphasis in many business publications focused on the various possible trust breaking activities in American businesses like Enron, Andersen Worldwide, Adelphia, Tyco International, ImClone Systems, WorldCom, Xerox. Even many people’s symbol of perfection, Martha Stewart, is accused of wrongdoing. This does not surprise me. In today’s world, the drive for success is overwhelming. In this environment of rapid change, rising complexity and rapid competition, every businessperson frequently faces tests of their ethics and integrity, which along with trust are the foundation of a successful business. These incidents remind us that success or failure of a business ultimately depends on the foundation.
Any successful business requires a foundation of integrity, ethics and trust. Integrity implies honesty, morals, values, principles, fairness, adherence to facts and sincerity. Is this your organization or does your organization practice duplicity? This is a deceptive environment where people or the organization takes actions contrary to guiding principles or values. Ethics is the discipline concerned with the good and bad in any situation. Ethics is two-faceted represented by organizational ethics and individual ethics. Organization ethics are ethical guidelines that all employees are to adhere to in the performance of their work. Does your organization have written guidelines? Do you need to review or revise organizational guidelines? Do people in the organization know guidelines exist? Individual ethics include personal rights and wrongs. These ethics are concerned with legal, moral and contractual business policies and individual dealings. Do you know organizational command media? Do you do to others’ as you would like done to you? Trust is the by-product of integrity and ethical conduct. Trust is absolutely essential in any progressive organization. Trust binds or separates an organization. Without trust, cooperation, teamwork, improvement efforts, customer satisfaction, and shareholder confidence are impossible. With trust, full participation, commitment, empowerment, and ownership are attainable.
In light of recent events and the criticality of a sturdy business foundation, every business organization should conduct an internal audit of their business for issues of ethics, integrity and trust. For a quick insight, you can look for overuse of phrases like “it’s a political decision,” “in due respect,” “let me be honest with you,” “they really don’t know,” “everyone else does it” “it’s accepted practice” and “nobody meets the industry standard”. In addition, every business leader should examine their behaviors as the example for others to follow in the organization. The leader’s characteristics, and especially the leaders behaviors, have a great impact on the organization. Leaders provide the example for others to follow. This is especially evident in organization where the leader advocates success are any cost, the organization will do anything (honest or dishonest), (legal or illegal), (moral or immoral) (right or wrong) to achieve the vision. Therefore, progressive leaders display success behaviors. They encourage trust through open and honest communication. They constantly examine their power and influence in the organization. They act to make things good, better and best. They maintain ethics and integrity. They pursue constructive relationships. They listen to others’ points of view. They encourage change, innovation and risk-taking. They ‘talk the talk,” “walk the walk,” and “walk the talk.” Finally, the organization should work to build and if necessary restore confidence in the organization and its leaders. It should pursue interventions to provide visible evidence of the seriousness of the situation and the sincerity of the organization. The intervention should provide a forum for open and honest discussion between everyone in the organization. Depending on the organization, this could be a town meeting, group, department and team activities, leader presentations, organization celebration, etc.
Many prominent people have declared these times a crisis in American business. We will come out of it the better, if American business takes a proactive position. The majority of American business is sound. Each business, business leader and worker should reaffirm their commitment to success.
1. Conduct an organization audit
2. Perform a individual assessment, especially leaders
3. Define actions for success
4. Create action plan