Major brands such as Facebook, Volkswagen and Papa John’s have endured controversies that called into question their ethical practices. This can cause an erosion in the public’s trust, which in turn eats away at the bottom line. It’s important for companies to get ahead of the curve by incorporating better ethics before damage control forces it upon them.
“Controversies and scandals in corporations have the power to shift them from moral autopilot to an energized manual control, where they are acutely aware of their actions and their impact,” says Dr. Christopher Gilbert, international ethics consultant, author and senior consultant at NobleEdge Consulting. “But it… shouldn’t require misfortune to switch things up.” Gilbert offers five steps for business leaders to help companies avoid ethical problems and elevate ethical development:
- Be your own guru. Good leaders ask questions of those they most trust. In helping shape a stronger ethical foundation, how do they view the leader’s own views of right and wrong? Every step up the moral ladder is yours—make those choices wisely, while knowing every tier of your organization will be well-supported with a well-thought-out ethical foundation.
- Practice “behindism.” Leave the old “isms” behind. Your actions, justifications, rationalizations and explanations should always be worthy of the trust of others. Concentrate on the question, “Is this action going to create more trust with the others, or erode it?”
- Pass around your decoder ring. Share your codes liberally. Let people know what you’re saying and what you mean. Be forthright and transparent. Hiding behind words or the true meaning of your words is part of an unethical action.
- Trustworthiness is as trustworthiness does. Transformation is a challenging process ensuring incredible and life-changing possibilities. The opportunities in building trust are limitless, so concentrate your actions around those that build up your trustworthiness.
- Watch what you “eat.” Gilbert calls these ethical acid tests, or EATs: Does your decision stand up to public scrutiny? What if it appeared on the cover of the local newspaper? Do you want your significant other, children, colleagues or bosses to do this same thing? Does this decision advance the long-term common good?
“What you think about ethics becomes your ethics,” Gilbert adds. “If you believe ethics are gray, you will find yourself in grayer and grayer situations where the choices get blurrier. Where you see, know and act with the assurance that ethics are there to tell us right from wrong, you will be put into more and more situations where the answer is obvious—despite the complexity of the circumstances.” iBi