Ethics and Executives

Perhaps because integrity and honesty are high values for me, I was intrigued by the 2009 National Business Ethics Survey: Ethics in the Recession. Because of my personal branding work, this statement encouraged me to keep reading. 

“Transparency and accountability, intertwined, signal the trustworthiness of an institution and its leaders. When stakeholders are given information, governance improves.”

Evidence of transparency inside an organization is reflected by leaders who … 

–provide employees access to information that is relevant to the strategic direction and performance of the company;

–keep their promises and commitments;

–make decisions more openly;

–accept responsibility for wrongdoing; and

–reward performance that supports a transparent way of doing business.

When there are chinks in the leadership armor … inauthenticity around who you want people to believe you are and who you actually are … trust is quickly eroded.

There was an interesting correlation between employees who feel their workplace was open and informative (71%) and how they felt about senior executive compensation … 62% said compensation was appropriate, a 4% increase over 2007.

The survey went on to suggest that if senior leadership did not make corporate culture a priority, it risked long-term business challenges, with not having an ethical culture the single biggest factor for determining the amount of future misconduct. 

“Poor decisions made by even a small number of employees can substantially damage not only a business, but the industry in which it operates.” The data suggests that when the economy rights itself and business challenges ease, misconduct is likely to rise without a strong ethical culture in place. To overlook this, is to put your company at risk.  

As CFOs and strategic finance leaders, how and where can you more positively impact ethics within the culture of your organization and your immediate team? What you do and how it makes a difference are great stories for your career and your resume. Those actions may even impact your future compensation.