Paul Palmarozza, Partner -Principled Business
Let’s begin by exploring the description of a good business, one which is successfully fulfilling its role in providing useful and necessary goods and services for the benefit of society. Here are 2 quotes from spiritual leaders, offering useful guidance to business leaders. The first is from the late Pope John Paul II:
Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business.
The other is by a leader from the Indian Vedic Tradition, Sri Shantananda Saraswati:
When work is for the satisfaction of the individual and also the society-if both gain from its production and use-then it is righteous.
Two important themes are highlighted here: morality and mutually beneficial service.
THE SITUATION TODAY
My observation of business practices over my business career of 50 years is that there has been a gradual shift away from the core values of honesty, loyalty, fairness and service in favour of intense efforts directed at obtaining short term results, usually financial, usually for ‘me.’ .As standards slip more people begin to think that this is normal, this is the way things are done in business. This is the next step down the slippery slope toward a situation where corruption becomes commonplace. Here is a quote from Kofi Annan regarding the effect of corruption:
Corruption is an invidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.
It will not surprise you to hear that CEOs of FTSE 100 companies in the UK are paid 150-200 times the average annual pay of their employees and for some companies in the US that figure has risen to 3-400:1. It should also then not surprise you that the average life expectancy of a CEO’s tenure is now down to 3 years, not even long enough to see the impact of some of their decisions.
You will also have noticed the growing public frustration with business leaders which has resulted in a dramatic loss in trust. Numerous polls undertaken rate business people near the very bottom of the scale. The verdict is that they cannot be trusted.
Here is a commentary on the state of the business community by another spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama:
The corporate leader as a hero has been replaced in the mind of many Americans by a view of individuals that are immoral, incompetent and interested only in enriching themselves. Greed is addictive. Money has replaced morality.
In our modern societies all too often the key Values have become WEALTH, POWER, FAME and PLEASURE. While in the right measure these values are not bad, the problem is that they have come to dominate.
What is needed is a shift to the natural values as the predominant guides for our life. We need to shift our thoughts, words and deeds to be based upon TRUTH, LOVE, JUSTICE and FREEDOM.
There have been examples of modern gurus who have lived these natural values. Here is some guidance from two of them:
Strength does not come from physical activity, it comes from an indomitable will.- Mahatma Gandhi
The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, of humility.-Nelson Mandela
MOVEMENT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Here is a road map of what can happen when ethical values are established by the senior management of an organisation and then put into practice at every level.
It begins with an organisation that has:
1. Agreed core principles and values beginning at the highest levels of the organisation
Agreement on these principles manifests as:
2. Consistent internal policies and standards
This results in:
3. A high level of employee and management satisfaction
4. High productivity and enthusiasm
5. High quality service
The aspects of quality that become part of what is expected of everyone in the company are:
This produces quite naturally:
6. A high level of customer satisfaction
This leads to:
7. Sustainable Profits and growth
ETHICS - MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION
What is ethics exactly?
The moral principles by which a person is guided.’ Ref: Oxford English Dictionary.
Ethics is about the decisions we make. To be ethical is to:
MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION
What are some of the questions that we can ask ourselves to help determine the right decision, in any situation?
· What is my motive?
· Who benefits or is harmed by this decision?
· What are the guiding principles here-Is it honest, fair, caring, responsible?
· Is it compliant with the relevant laws?
· Would I be embarrassed if my decision were to be in the press or known by my family & friends?
What are the nature and qualities of an ethical decision?
Ethical decisions are:
· Based on principle
· Made in the present moment.
The Power of the Present Moment
There is great power in the present moment. Consider:
· The level of concentration of a sportsman
· The fine attention required by an artist
· The loving care that a mother gives her child.
Here is a suggested procedure designed to put us in the best position to make a decision that is both Ethical & Effective:
• Gather the relevant facts
• Identify those affected & those who have influence
• Assess the ethical/legal issues involved -ask ‘ What is the principle here?’
• Set out the possible alternatives
• Assess the ethics/morality/rightness of each alternative
• Quietly Reflect-in the present moment
• Decide and courageously implement the decision
The key question is: Can I work according to fine principles and values and still succeed?
Based on my own experience and the guidance of the wise I believe the answer is:
YES WE CAN.