Developing a Culture of Honesty and Integrity…its Not Easy!

RW Associates

EthicsPoint sponsored and presented a webinar from Bob Phillips of RW & Associates, Inc. on Developing a Culture of Honesty and Integrity…its Not Easy! These are my notes.

Bob started with a quote from Stephen Covey: “The leader of the future, of the next millennium, will be one who creates a culture or value system centered upon principles.”

Bob moved on to “organizational culture” and focused first on culture. “Culture is the social and political environment in which people get their work done.”  He considers the elements of the culture as

  • Common behavior patters, consistency in behavior that builds trust
  • Understood and practices consistent behaviors that supports organizational goals and objectives
  • Integrated personal and organizational beliefs and behaviors

A starting point is whether you and your leaders openly model and support honest and open interpersonal interactions that is designed to build trust. He finds the receptionist is a great barometer of an organization. Can they pass the test of what the organization is like? Another barometer is to build trust by giving employees the information they need to do their jobs.

  • Can employees be honest and direct with their opinions and ideas?
  • Can they speak up and disagree without fear of retributions?
  • Are organizational messages that may be critical to employee’s jobs communicated quickly and directly to all employees?

Inconsistent leadership creates an environment of fear and the “foxhole” mentality.

On the other side, open cultures have a direct connection between organizational vision, values, and behavior. The leader should be able to translate the values hanging on the wall or the code of conduct on their bookshelf into action. Show your employees that you are committed to them and they will be committed to you.

He attached monetary gain to have a great place to work.  If you invested in the Fortune’s Best 100 Places to Work, you would have a better return than the broader stock market. From 1998 to 2006, the average annual return achieved by the S & P 500 was 5.97%, while the Russell 3000 achieved an average of 6.34% per year. By comparison, if you had bought shares in the 1998 ‘100 Best’ and simply held on to them until end 2006, you would have achieved average annual growth of 10.65%. If you had reset your portfolio each year on publication of that year’s ‘100 Best’ list, you would have achieved 14.16% annual growth. There is a dollar value to building a great place to work.

Leaders need to show consistent behavior to build trust, show a passion for the values, demonstrate ethics, and model the honest and open behavior. That also means accountability and consequences for meeting or failing to meet the values.

The keys to success start with an open and listening leadership. The culture needs to accept multiple points of view, but be committed to one course of action. You need to engage your workforce to let them know that they are being heard.

There is also a need to reconcile personal beliefs with your organization’s belief structure. You may get an employee who works in less ethical culture. There are multiple elements to a platform of integrity. Employees need to understand how they are expected to perform their work. They need to know that the organization’s principles are in place to ensure the organization meets their business and financial goals.

Honesty starts with individuals, but it is leadership and the organization that provide the environment to make it work. But in the end, it is the individuals within the organization that must be accountable. An organization cannot have a culture of honesty and integrity if leadership does not create an environment that accepts and models open and honest communication.

See also: