Business leaders will remember 2002 as the Year of the Ethical Meltdown. Will 2003 be any different? Are you prepared to make some ethical business resolutions as we move into the new year? We make personal resolutions we plan to carry out, but what about resolutions surrounding the way we do business?
Business ethics issues have been around long before the crises of Enron, ImClone, Vivendi, and other large and small enterprises. But in this past year, business leaders, managers, employees, and politicians all confronted the results of ethical lapses in the previous decade. Greed and the lust for unchecked power finally played out in indictments, terminations, and disciplinary actions.
We’re not going to be able to practice “business as usual” if these excesses ever were usual, in the near term. Authorities, stakeholders, and stockholders are going to face tremendous scrutiny over business practices. What about you and me? How will we change the way we do business in 2003—and beyond?
Try these resolutions and see if they’re a good fit for your enterprise.
- Resolution No. 1: Our enterprise will publicly present a clear and concise values statement—and live by it. Has your company or business ever really clarified the values by which it strives to operate? Do you know the values by which your enterprise really operates?
If you think this is a waste of time and has nothing to do with operations, think again. Your employees, vendors, customers, and leaders in the community have a very good idea of your values—which is why they may decide they no longer want to work at, patronize, or sell to your business. Check out the values by which you want to operate with how you really operate, and grow from there. Well-thought-out values statements add value to the bottom line.
- Resolution No. 2: Our enterprise will treat employees and associates as essential partners in creating value. Maybe this will be the year you no longer say, “Well, they’re just our employees….” They’re partners who can advocate for the enterprise in the community—or “assets” who simply put in their time and discourage potential employees or customers from associating with your business.
Partners can be trusted with information to do their work more effectively. Show them true and heartfelt appreciation for the contribution they make to the value of your enterprise. Correct them when they get off course and offer opportunities for retraining and redirection. Encourage their input, inventiveness, and initiative.
- Resolution No. 3: Our enterprise will communicate information honestly and as rapidly as possible. Let employees and key stakeholders know what’s going on in the enterprise: what’s going well, where there are challenges, even where mistakes have been made. Get past the attitude of “Don’t tell them too much.” The only way to build lasting trust and deep loyalty is to share as much knowledge and information as possible with employees, and open the channel for as much knowledge and information as they can give you.
One of the most important motivators for employee performance is a feeling of being in on things. This can be the year when the rumor mill in your enterprise can shut down because of lack of business. Empower employees with information so they can be your spokespersons and your advocates.
- Resolution No. 4: Our enterprise will contribute to the quality of life here in central Illinois—and wherever we operate. Sometimes managers and executives say, “We provide jobs. What more do you want?” No question about it—jobs are essential to a region’s economic vitality. But there’s much more. How do you share a portion of what the community adds to your enterprise’s economic value through purchases and investment?
How do you release your employees to give of their time and talent to help those who are disadvantaged, to strengthen the infrastructure, or add to the beauty of the area? How do managers and executives take a leadership role to address critical regional, social, cultural, and economic issues? What more can you contribute to the quality of life in central Illinois in 2003?
Perhaps these resolutions will inspire other resolutions in your business as you enter the new year. Perhaps the resolutions suggested here will suffice. In 2003, it’s important to pay attention to the bottom line. But it’s even more important to pay attention to the ethical bottom line for your business to prosper not only in this year, but for years to come. IBI