We hear the words “ethics” and “integrity” a lot, but what do they mean exactly with regard to how you run your business?
Ethics are a set of principles of right conduct. Integrity is the devotion to this set of principles, which doesn’t waiver depending on the circumstances. For businesses and people to operate at their fullest potential, both ethics and integrity need to be solidly in place.
“I would go so far as to predict that most new businesses and entrepreneurs who do not have a solid ethical foundation will fail within five years… Conversely, those who do behave ethically will thrive, both financially and in other ways. Every conscientious businessperson should make it a priority to explore what ethical behavior is, and how he or she can make ethical decisions,” writes Peter Koestenbaum, author of The Philosophic Consultant.
Whether you’re in a corporation or running your own business, it’s no secret that we’re all working toward achieving the same common goal and that’s to make money. But making money or motive for profit doesn’t need to overshadow the truth that, ultimately, business is about service. Service means making clients’ needs as important as the desire to increase profits.
“Ethics is empathy, which means service. It’s an attitude of love and compassion, of caring, of including people, of valuing them, of hearing them, of suffering when they suffer, and of being proud when they succeed,” writes Koestenbaum.
As a business owner and leader, understanding ethical behavior is essential—it must be expressed both in words and in behavior. Integrity is lacking if you’re saying one thing and doing another.
Ways to Embrace Ethics & Integrity in Business & Leadership
- Decide which ethics are important in your business and personal life then put them in writing or incorporate them into your mission statement if you have one. If you’re not clear on these principles, they’ll be very difficult or impossible to follow.
- Make your values a critical and integral aspect of your business plan (formal or informal).
- Don’t overemphasize profit motives at the cost of compromising integrity. Keep the focus on service.
- Practice ethical behavior. Talking and writing about ethics is not enough. If ethics aren’t practiced in action, they won’t exist in your business.
Compromising your integrity is a cost neither you nor your company can afford.