If recent history teaches us anything is that ethics and character count, especially in business. Huge organizations like Enron, Arthur Andersen and Health South have been destroyed and others were seriously damaged (AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) by executives with massive ambition and intelligence but no moral compass. In today’s ultra competitive, high tech, interdependent business world, charisma without conscience and cleverness without character are a recipe for economic and personal failure of epic proportions. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “To educate the mind without the morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Examples of Core Values
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. There are many different types of core values and many different examples of core values depending upon the context.
Corporate Core Values
Companies can have core values as well. These are the guiding principles that help to define how the corporation would behave. They are usually expressed in the corporation’s mission statement.
Some examples of core values for a company might include:
- A commitment to sustainability and to acting in an environmentally friendly way. Companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s have environmental sustainability as a core value.
- A commitment to innovation and excellence. Apple Computer is perhaps best known for having a commitment to innovation as a core value. This is embodied by their “Think Different” motto.
- A commitment to doing good for the whole. Google, for example, believes in making a great search engine and building a great company without being evil.
As you can see, many of the core values that companies have are similar to those that individuals might choose as guiding principles as well.
Companies may also have negative core values as well. Companies that are solely motivated by profit, such as tobacco companies who lied to their customers about the dangers of smoking, may have been driven by core values of self-interest and an overly strong profit motive.
Competitiveness, ambition and innovation will always be important to success but they must be regulated by core ethical principles like the ones described below.
Let’s start with a basic definition: ethical principles are universal standards of right and wrong prescribing the kind of behavior an ethical company or person should and should not engage in. These principles provide a guide to making decisions but they also establish the criteria by which your decisions will be judged by others.
In business, how people judge your character is critical to sustainable success because it is the basis of trust and credibility. Both of these essential assets can be destroyed by actions which are, or are perceived to be unethical. Thus, successful executives must be concerned with both their character and their reputation.
Abraham Lincoln described character as the tree and reputation as the shadow. Your character is what you really are; your reputation is what people think of you. Thus, your reputation is purely a function of perceptions (i.e., do people think your intentions and actions are honorable and ethical) .while your character is determined and defined by your actions (i.e., whether your actions are honorable and ethical according to the 12 ethical principles:
1. HONESTY. Be honest in all communications and actions. Ethical executives are, above all, worthy of trust and honesty is the cornerstone of trust. They are not only truthful, they are candid and forthright. Ethical executives do not deliberately mislead or deceive others by misrepresentations, overstatements, partial truths, selective omissions, or any other means and when trust requires it they supply relevant information and correct misapprehensions of fact.
2. INTEGRITY. Maintain personal integrity. Ethical executives earn the trust of others through personal integrity. Integrity refers to a wholeness of character demonstrated by consistency between thoughts, words and actions. Maintaining integrity often requires moral courage, the inner strength to do the right thing even when it may cost more than they want to pay. The live by ethical principles despite great pressure to do otherwise. Ethical executives are principled, honorable, upright and scrupulous. They fight for their beliefs and do not sacrifice principle for expediency.
3. PROMISE-KEEPING. Keep promises and fulfill commitments. Ethical executives can be trusted because they make every reasonable effort to fulfill the letter and spirit of their promises and commitments. They do not interpret agreements in an unreasonably technical or legalistic manner in order to rationalize non-compliance or create justifications for escaping their commitments.
4. LOYALTY. Be loyal within the framework of other ethical principles. Ethical executives justify trust by being loyal to their organization and the people they work with. Ethical executives place a high value on protecting and advancing the lawful and legitimate interests of their companies and their colleagues. They do not, however, put their loyalty above other ethical principles or use loyalty to others as an excuse for unprincipled conduct. Ethical executives demonstrate loyalty by safeguarding their ability to make independent professional judgments. They avoid conflicts of interest and they do not use or disclose information learned in confidence for personal advantage. If they decide to accept other employment, ethical executives provide reasonable notice, respect the proprietary information of their former employer, and refuse to engage in any activities that take undue advantage of their previous positions.
5. FAIRNESS. Strive to be fair and just in all dealings. Ethical executives are fundamentally committed to fairness. They do not exercise power arbitrarily nor do they use overreaching or indecent means to gain or maintain any advantage nor take undue advantage of another’s mistakes or difficulties. Ethical executives manifest a commitment to justice, the equal treatment of individuals, tolerance for and acceptance of diversity. They are open-minded; willing to admit they are wrong and, where appropriate, they change their positions and beliefs.
6. CARING. Demonstrate compassion and a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Ethical executives are caring, compassionate, benevolent and kind. They understand the concept of stakeholders (those who have a stake in a decision because they are affected by it) and they always consider the business, financial and emotional consequences of their actions on all stakeholders. Ethical executives seek to accomplish their business objectives in a manner that causes the least harm and the greatest positive good.
7. RESPECT FOR OTHERS. Treat everyone with respect. Ethical executives demonstrate respect for the human dignity, autonomy, privacy, rights, and interests of all those who have a stake in their decisions; they are courteous and treat all people with equal respect and dignity regardless of sex, race or national origin. Ethical executives adhere to the Golden Rule, striving to treat others the way they would like to be treated.
8. LAW ABIDING. Obey the law. Ethical executives abide by laws, rules and regulations relating to their business activities.
9. COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. Pursue excellence all the time in all things. Ethical executives pursue excellence in performing their duties, are well-informed and prepared, and constantly endeavor to increase their proficiency in all areas of responsibility.
10. LEADERSHIP. Exemplify honor and ethics. Ethical executives are conscious of the responsibilities and opportunities of their position of leadership and seek to be positive ethical role models by their own conduct and by helping to create an environment in which principled reasoning and ethical decision making are highly prized.
11. REPUTATION AND MORALE. Build and protect and build the company’s good reputation and the morale of it’s employees. Ethical executives understand the importance of their own and their company’s reputation as well as the importance of the pride and good morale of employees. Thus, they avoid words or actions that that might undermine respect and they take affirmative steps to correct or prevent inappropriate conduct of others.
12. ACCOUNTABILITY. Be accountable. Ethical executives acknowledge and accept personal accountability for the ethical quality of their decisions and omissions to themselves, their colleagues, their companies, and their communities.
Employees key attributes
For example Google are:
- The ability to learn and pull together disparate pieces of information on the fly
- Emergent leadership skills, in which employees take leadership roles in a team when appropriate and then step back and let someone else lead
- Ownership of work and projects
- The humility to accept the better ideas of others and to take a strong position but then change in the face of new facts
- Last, and least, is expertise, because the answers may be obvious to an intelligent person and habitual practice might skip useful new answers
Some Types of Core Values
There are countless types of core values, as you can see, so you will need to choose the ones that are right for you or your organization.
Here are some examples of core values from which you may wish to choose:
Identifying Core Values
While some people or companies might expressly publish their core values, often the best way to identify these values is to which how they act and behave. A core value is only a true core value if it has an active influence and if the people or company manage to live by it, at least most of the time.
Core Values About Life
Often, when you hear someone discuss why they fell in love with a spouse, they will mention that they have the same values. In this case, they are often talking about core values, or internal beliefs that dictate how life is to be lived.
Some examples of core values people might have about life include:
- A belief, or lack thereof, in God and/or an affiliation with a religious institution
- A belief in being a good steward of resources and in exercising frugality
- A belief that family is of fundamental importance
- A belief that honesty is always the best policy and that trust has to be earned
- A belief in maintaining a healthy work/life balance
Parents also try to instill these types of positive core values in children.
Of course, core values don’t always have to be positive. Some people may be driven by self-interest or greed, and these are core values too if they dictate the way the people live their lives.
Article Sources: yourdictionary.com