I’ve been a co-owner of a small business for close to 16 years, and the topic of how to engrain ethical practices into everything we do is something I’ve pondered since our firm’s inception. We are a professional consulting firm, providing architectural services throughout the United States and abroad. We have a small (but robust) staff of 14 professionals.
In a nutshell, I believe it comes down to modeling the right behavior. To dig a little deeper, I think aligning our behavior with “The Golden Rule” (treat others the way you want to be treated) is at the core of building a successful organization of any kind. Also, abiding by Howard Schultz’s (Starbucks Chairman) axiom that ‘everything matters”, is sound advice as well.
Striving to keep things simple is a good first step. In his book Insanely Simple, Ken Segall reveals through his relationship with Steve Jobs (Ken was responsible for the Apple ad campaigns throughout the years), the obsession Jobs had with achieving simplicity in every aspect of their business. Although one might dispute the methods Steve Jobs used occasionally to achieve certain results, you cannot deny his passion for simplicity.
True simplicity does not guarantee ethical behavior, but it does create a certain clarity in the workplace that allows you to see through practices that could otherwise mask unethical tendencies.
You can articulate your ethics throughout your written mission, vision and value statements, but until they are put into action, they remain just words. It’s true– expressing your ideology in writing is an appropriate and meaningful first step, but concepts come alive when carried out in our daily behavior.
For example, our guiding principles are:
Help our clients achieve their vision and enrich people’s lives, through our ideas, our proficiency and our passion.
We value innovative thinking, resourcefulness and an obsession for doing the right thing. Each person is empowered individually to make decisions based on these guiding priorities:
1. Will it benefit our client and help gain their trust?2. Can we accomplish it with excellence and integrity?3. Will we serve them with enthusiasm and a servant attitude (treat others the way you want to be treated)?4. Can we be profitable?
Having this framework to refer to serves as an ongoing reminder of the expectations that can help shape our conduct. The hope is that after a while, it starts to become who we are.
I frequently remind myself and our co-workers that if we can start by simply doing what we say we will do for the people we interact with each day, we will be way ahead of the curve. Although sometimes easier said than done, I believe keeping things simple, treating people the way we would like to be treated and following through will go a long way toward molding ethical results.
By: Greg Finkle, Co-Owner