Archive for December, 2010


A Code of Ethics Is Not Enough

December 16th, 2010
Jim Thomas

Codes of Ethics are becoming more and more conspicuous—in the corporate world, among licensed professionals and private concerns of every stripe. The so-called “Renaissance of Ethics” results from the past decade’s stream of high-profile scandals, ethical fiascoes, unchecked greed, sleaze, and moral indifference. The development is positive one, by any standard.

Simultaneously, more and more Americans believe Integrity continues to decline in the nation’s everyday life. The call for greater integrity resonates far and wide. Do Codes of Ethics address it? Are Ethics and Integrity interchangeable? One and the same?

The practical, workable answer is ‘No.” There are distinctions. Knowing them will prove invaluable in framing both Codes of Ethics and an Integrity Credo for the profession, trade, industry, calling, group, or organization.

Training in “ethics” focuses primarily on compliance. It reinforces “following the rules.” In the main, ethical behavior implies steering clear of forbidden conduct. For example, adhering to regulatory and legal-legislative mandates. We look to ethical standards for magnification of “The Thou Shall Nots,” hardcore duties for all and from every point of view.

The virtue of integrity advances a step beyond and above those ethical standards that are prohibitive in nature,. It exemplifies conduct that deepens relationships, conduct that enhances the value of good works, products, and services. Integrity entails:

  • Placing a premium on trust, respect, and reputation;
  • Keeping one’s word in matters great and small;
  • Delivering as promised, when promised, in the manner promised;
  • Doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons;
  • Holding fast to sound convictions even when it is inconvenient and unprofitable.

In essence, integrity is about making choices. One must adopt a given course and discard the others. The First Great Virtue makes no demand for the superior choice; it does demand avoidance of bad choices. We need not look far these days to see the wreckage of people and organizations, who at the inevitable hour made the wrong choices.

Commitments, Great and Small. Why Keep Them?

December 8th, 2010
Jim Thomas

Because keeping one’s word is the foundation of trust. And trust has the potential of creating success and prosperity in all endeavor. Trust affects relationships–personal and otherwise. Trust determines reliability, work in progress, business start-ups, and public perceptions of our efforts, products and services. Trust means  promises will be kept, that   services and products will be delivered as promised, when promised, and in the manner promised.

How does one achieve this priceless intangible ? through affirming and promoting and rewarding Integrity, first of the great cardinal virtues.  In its very essence, Integrity is best defined as the capacity to stand by the right ideas. It is confirmed when the deliberate choice  in conduct can withstand the light of day: when it contributes in some fashion to the greater good. Integrity does not necessarily demand the superior choice; it does demand avoidance of the bad choice. Consider this example from Winners Never Cheat, by Jon Huntsman, as quoted in The Speed of Trust  by Stephen M. R. Covey.

A contract was negotiated and  entered into.  With a simple handshake, Huntsman agreed to sell 40 percent of a division of his company to Great Lakes Chemical. The agreed upon price was $54 million. Counsel for Great Lakes went to work drafting a written sales contract. For various reasons, several months passed with no contract documents in place. In the interim,  raw material prices declined. Huntsman’s  profits tripled and margins rose significantly. Value of the division Huntsman agreed to sell for $54 million rose to an estimated $250 million.

Emerson Kampen, CEO of Great Lakes, determined that the sales price agreed upon had become grossly unfair to Huntsman. He volunteered to split the differnce in apprciated value. Huntsman declined the offer. He declared the parties negotiated in good faith and reached  agreement on price. It was a commitment he intended to keep and did. The transaction closed at the  price agreed upon of $54 million.

In recalling the episode, Huntsman had no regrets. He said,” I never had to wrestle with my conscience or look over myshoulder. My word was my bond.”  Standing by his values demonstrated Huntsman’s integrity. It also inspired trust. For he was asked to speak at Emerson Kampen’s funeral.