It pays to be good

To a man, we have decried the bankers, financiers and law makers, and many
CEOs for their ‘fat cat’ payouts, excessive profits and bonuses, lack of being
in-touch with reality – but have we spotted what these financial rewards are
really payment for?

Values such as integrity, honesty, selflessness and responsibility seem to
have disappeared from our vernacular as we greedily try to imitate Mr Matthew’s
self-basting turkeys for self-aggrandisement. It is that greed that appears to
have clouded the moral fibre of us all.

Observing these extraordinary times where the banks’ lack of regulation and
rigour have created a house of cards, or our politicians’ lack of ownership for
the errors in their expense claims, one question we should ask ourselves is: how
righteous can we and our organisations be? Now that pressure is on to stay
afloat in any way possible, there is even greater pressure and temptation to
cross the moral line.

What distinguishes one business or culture from another is how it chooses to
behave – the respect offered to, and received from it, and the code by which
people manage and regulate themselves. To minimise risk of offenders, as a
minimum, each board should:

  • Review any existing value statements or core values;
  • Assess the risk of failing to meet these moral standards, via regulation,
    compliance, professional indemnity insurances, damaged client relationships or
    lost suppliers;
  • How are these values communicated and understood across the firm?;
  • Reinforce outcomes through objectives, sales targets and strategies, KPIs
    and disciplinary processes;
  • Ensure corporate governance is rigorously applied and adhered to through
    regular scrutiny;
  • Foster a culture of openness, shift the concept of whistleblowing to one of
    ‘moral compass reminding’.

Leadership is at the heart of the passion and determination to get this one
right. Neither deceit nor fraud are acceptable responses to ailing profits. Only
those who are incapable would now need to stoop this low in their desperation.

It is a sad day for the UK when we have organisations willingly stepping into
this mire – the braver ones seek help from their staff to build a truly robust
and overt culture: and so, in the long run will be the true winners!

Patricia Wheatley Burt is a motivational speaker, author and consultant
for Trafalgar

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