The issue of ethics in business has become of increasing concern to investors, customers, employees and many others who believe that a free enterprise economy works in our collective interest. It is clear that some business leaders cannot be trusted. Some believe that most enterprises cannot be trusted. This is the climate in which we now do business. This should be a matter of interest and concern for every CEO.
We change the way we do business every day. We do it to meet changing demands and expectations and because we are interested in improving our performance and becoming more successful.
The opportunity for business owners, CEO’s and company directors is to learn how to change the way we do business to operate beyond integrity. Operating with integrity is a virtue and builds trust. Operating beyond integrity builds relationships.
Operating with integrity is being honest, fair and doing what is expected. Operating beyond integrity is being perceived as honest and fair and doing more than expected.
Operating with integrity is doing things right. Operating beyond integrity is doing the right things.
Operating with integrity is caring about the interests of others. Operating beyond integrity is demonstrating that we care.
Why operate beyond integrity
To create a successful enterprise we must build successful relationships. Without relationships there is no enterprise. We rely upon our relationships for our success. Our relationships are our resources.
To build successful relationships we must understand the nature of relationships. Relationships are created when we pursue our personal interests by serving the personal interests of others and when we pursue a common interest with others. Relationships are created through communications. Successful relationships are based on trust and caring. Operating beyond integrity helps build strong and lasting relationships.
What can we do
What do we change? How do we change? What do we change to? The answers to these questions are constantly changing. The question to ask is what do we hold constant? The answer is our word and our integrity.
Our word is our story. Our story is the articulation of our interests as an enterprise and the interests we serve as an enterprise. It is the story of what we do, how we do it and why people should do business with us. It is our value proposition. It defines our enterprise and guides our decisions and actions. If it is clear and compelling, it will attract employees, customers, investors and others whose interests could be served by our enterprise. If we change our story we change the nature of our enterprise. Our integrity is our commitment to our story.
We communicate by what we say and how we say it, and by what we do and how we do it. This is how we create relationships. The quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications and how well the relationship serves the interests of the people with whom we do business.
Our story is the foundation for our communications. Our story is our commitment. If operating beyond integrity is our interest, we want to communicate our commitment in everything we say and do.
Our commitment is demonstrated by everyone who contributes to the story. What we change and how we change to demonstrate our commitment is a dynamic and collaborative process.
How can we change
There are only two things we can change, what we do and how we do it. We change what we do and how we do it when we believe it is in our interest and when it fits our belief system. We change what others choose to do by influencing what they think, how they think, and how they feel. If we want to influence what others choose to do, we do it through conversation.
We change what we do as an enterprise by engaging people in conversation about what we do and how we do it and by encouraging them to take personal leadership.
Understanding is critical for personal leadership. To take personal leadership, we must be able to tell our story in conversation. We must understand how we contribute to the story and how contributing to the story serves our personal interests and the interests of the enterprise. In addition, since our story is about operating beyond integrity, we must understand how to operate beyond integrity with our clients.
We take personal leadership by demonstrating our interest in the interests of others and by changing what we do and how we do it within the framework of our story as we learn.
We learn by observing on what we are doing and what is happening, by constantly asking “How well are we doing?” and How well is it working?” and by using our observations in collaboration with the observations and ideas of others to determine what to do more of, what to do differently and what different to do.
When customers, investors and employees as contributors to the enterprise see their interests being served with integrity, they begin to trust the enterprise. When they see that members of the enterprise care about their interests, they care about the enterprise. Operating beyond integrity builds trust and increases the value of our relationships and our resources.
Improving our ability to operate beyond integrity is becoming a requirement for sustainable enterprise. Putting a process in place to continually improve our ability is the foundation for future success.
Roger Chilton and Jim Randall