Today it is my turn to write a blog and I said I would write one about ethics without really thinking about it. So I thought about ethics and decided that, from a management and leadership point of view, any talk of ethics has to be put into the context of the framework of a whole organisation. This took me back to ideas of values and culture and then back to concepts of mission and vision.
In my view, the mission of an organisation is statement of what it aims to do and what it was set up to do. Once you have a mission then you can have a vision. Where do you want to be in five year’s time? What would you like your organisation to look like in five year’s time? And wouldn’t it be good to have a vision that has more than just about profit but has also an element of social responsibility?
One thing certain is that you won’t achieve your vision without having in place solid foundations. Solid foundations should include mission and vision but also values which are promoted, understood and shared. Values are core principles on which your company will operate e.g. honesty, reliability, respect for the environment, making a difference in the community, looking after our stakeholders. I would hope that values are about having principles that are good and beneficial to others.
Culture refers to the way things are done in an organisation and if there are shared values then there is more likely to be a culture that is ‘good’ and one in which people behave in the way you want them to behave . This brings me back to ethics.
Ethics, in my view, refers to ethical behaviour based on values that are seen to be ‘right’. I suggest that as mangers, we would like to have a culture that is based on values in which people behave in an ethical way and that, no matter whatever the level of management we are at, we make sure that we act as role models, that those we manage understand the values of the organisation and understand what is expected of them in terms of ethical behaviour. Senior managers have the responsibility for establishing values and associated ethical behaviour.
We might not be able to change people’s attitudes but we can certainly influence behaviour and ensure that ethical behaviour is paramount.