How To You Move Ethical Values Down Through Your Company?

by Thomas Fox
Contact

What do employees want most in their company’s values? That is a question that has plagued companies for many, many years. I would argue that one of the concepts which should be in the conversation is respect for a company’s ethical values. One of the tasks in any company is to get senior and middle management to respect the stated ethics and values of a company, because if they do so, this will be communicated down through the organization. This topic was explored in a recent article, entitled “If the Supervisors Respect Values, So Will Everyone Else”, in the Corner Office section of the New York Times (NYT), when reporter Adam Bryant interviewed Victoria Ransom, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Wildfire, a company which provides social media marketing software.

Company Values

Ransom spoke about the role of senior management in communicating ethical values when she said “Another lesson I’ve learned as the company grows is that you’re only as good as the leaders you have underneath you. And that was sometimes a painful lesson. You might think that because you’re projecting our values, then the rest of the company is experiencing the values.” These senior managers communicate what the company’s ethics and values are to middle management. So while tone at the top is certainly important in setting a standard, she came to appreciate that it must move downward through the entire organization. Ransom came to realize “that the direct supervisors become the most important influence on people in the company. Therefore, a big part of leading becomes your ability to pick and guide the right people.”

Ransom said that when the company was young and small they tried to codify their company values but they did not get far in the process “because it felt forced.” As the company grew she realized that their values needed to be formalized and stated for a couple of reasons. The first was because they wanted to make it clear what was expected of everyone and “particularly because you want the new people who are also hiring to really know the values.” Another important reason was that they had to terminate “a few people because they didn’t live up to the values. If we’re going to be doing that, it’s really important to be clear about what the values are. I think that some of the biggest ways we showed that we lived up to our values were when we made tough decisions about people, especially when it was a high performer who somehow really violated our values, and we took action.” These actions to terminate had a very large effect on the workforce. Ransom said that “it made employees feel like, “Yeah, this company actually puts its money where its mouth is.””

Ransom wanted to make clear to everyone what senior management considered when determining whether employees “are living up to the company culture.” The process started when she and her co-founder spent a weekend writing down what they believed the company’s values were. Then they sat down with the employees in small groups to elicit feedback. Her approach was to look for what they wanted in their employees. They came up with five.

  • Passion: Do you really have a thirst and appetite for your work?
  • Humility and Integrity: Treat your co-workers with respect and dignity.
  • Courage: Speak up – if you have a great idea, tell us, and if you disagree with people in the room, speak up.
  • Curiosity: They wanted folks who would constantly question and learn, not only about the company but about the industry.
  • Impact: Are you having an impact at the company?
  • Be outward-looking: Do good and do right by each other.

Leadership

Ransom came to realize that as her company’s leader, more was expected from her. Her employees listened to what she said. This is one of the best descriptions of ‘tone at the top’ that I’ve seen. Ransom “started to realize how what you say can have such an influence. You can’t just say things off the cuff anymore, because people take it so much more seriously than you ever meant it. And that can be good and bad. The bad is that you might say something sort of flippant, or you’re trying to be really transparent and honest with the team about the challenges we may have. But that can get passed on down the line and repeated until there’s a panic.”

But equally important was what she does not say. This is because she learned “how comforting what I say can be to the team, even if I’m not giving the answers. I thought at first that I always needed to be able to give them the solution, but I realized that actually that wasn’t needed at all. All that was needed was acknowledging the challenges, and showing that we’re on top of it and we get it.”

Ransom had an equally valuable insight when she talked about senior management and ethical values. She believes that “the best way to undermine a company’s values is to put people in leadership positions who are not adhering to the values. Then it completely starts to fall flat until you take action and move those people out, and then everyone gets faith in the values again. It can be restored so quickly. You just see that people are happier.”

I found the Ransom interview to be quite useful to the compliance practitioner. She makes clear that ‘tone at the top’ is only one key to instituting ethical values throughout your organization. It also means ‘tone in the middle’ and ‘tone at the bottom’. But she points out not only how to establish that tone but more importantly how to walk the walk of ethics and compliance. Her interview also showed the importance of establishing the values that you want in your company. By doing more than simply writing and then announcing them, through her work with small employee groups she was able to get buy-in from everyone. This was more than communication, this was collaboration. If you make your employees feel that they are a part of the process you will have greater success in your mission to bring ethical values to your organization.

============================================================================================

Please join Patrick Taylor, CEO of Oversight Systems and myself tomorrow afternoon for a webinar on Anti Corruption and On-going Transaction Monitoring. The webinar will be at 2 PM EST and is free. For registration and information click here.

============================================================================================

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Thomas Fox
Contact
more
less

Compliance Evangelist on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!