Throughout each day, whether or not we realize it, we conduct our lives through an internal moral compass that guides and dictates our behavior. We make choices, use certain language and initiate actions that are in accordance with our compilation of personal values and self-defined standards.
This internal moral doctrine is called a moral code of ethics. It is self-defining and personal to each of us. We live by our moral code. Businesses, both large and small, have a code of ethics. An organization's doctrine is called a professional code of ethics. It is a written set of guidelines issued by an organization to its employees that helps everyone conduct their actions in accordance with the organization's primary values and ethical standards. This code of ethics is formally defined as internal rules of conduct that are established by beliefs, purpose, values and principles. It is the summation of the substance and integrity of the organization. Employees should follow these behavioral rules to ensure the company's values are reflected in all business dealings.
A professional code of ethics is a key element to an organization that wishes to operate on the highest ethical standards of excellence. It is at the core of the organization's success, and guides employees to uphold the best traditions of management through sound business principles.
Some components of a professional code of ethics include:
- Purpose: The mission statement, which states why the company exists.
- Values: A value is a belief that is meaningful. Organizations should identify and define a set of values that represent the ethical standards of the company. Business values are best expressed by how the company performs its daily interactions with customers, clients, employees, vendors and suppliers. Organizational values often include trust, honesty, avoidance of conflicts of interest, teamwork, customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. Beliefs that are meaningful to me are ambition, clear thinking, competence, composure, credibility, dedication, honor, integrity, prudence, persistence, resilience, righteousness, self-control, self-discipline, teamwork, understanding, wisdom, virtue and respect. Respect should be at the forefront of all interactions regardless of the circumstances.
- Principles: Guiding principles set standards for the organization that move beyond the law. Principles are defined to support the business values and may include such areas as trustworthiness, accountability, maintain clear documents, community relations, truth in advertising and balance between transparency and confidentiality. The Institute of Business Ethics found that companies displaying a "clear commitment to ethical conduct" consistently outperformed those companies that did not display ethical conduct.
- Personal responsibility: This component states how each employee shall carry personal responsibility to uphold the professional code of ethics. This may contain legal and moral consequences if an employee violates the code.
- Rules of conduct: Rules of conduct are typically subdivided. A subsection within the rules of conduct that I find especially noteworthy is a corporation's conduct toward employees and, separately, conduct expected from its employees. How we talk to and treat each other while working together can make or break a relationship. Good relationships can be broken in an instant with one slip of the tongue or one miscalculated email.
Finally, in addition to a company establishing a professional code of ethics, an organization should follow industry best practices. When industry best practices are employed with a professional code of ethics, a strong foundation will be set that fosters above-average performance and one that will attract above-average employees.
A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that method or technique is used as a benchmark. Industry best practices are described as a standard way of doing things, and they are another key element to an organization that wishes to operate on the highest ethical standards of excellence.
Good ethics and best practices are good business. Ethics programs promote teamwork and productivity. Best practices create excellence. I have found that when an individual's moral code is different than the code of their organization, the relationship will either quickly fall apart or it will have an ongoing rocky existence. One cannot be unaligned with the other.
An organization must possess the same beliefs, purpose, principles and standards by which the individual lives. The core integrity of both entities needs to be congruous.
At the end of the day, we all set the bar for ourselves. Wouldn't you rather play on the A-team rather than the C-team? If your answer is yes, then work to create a high moral code and partner yourself with a company that speaks your truths.
Surround yourself with leaders and stand true to personal and professional integrity. There will never come a day when you apologize for adhering to a sound value system. The highest standards of excellence are within all of us.
Ronna Clements is a national sales consultant with a proven industry track record. Her background includes more than 20 years in personal sales production, sales training, coaching, management and development of sales teams. With a diverse skill set, she sets the pace for revenue generation in a competitive industry. Clements' strengths include a foundation in industry best practices and professional ethics, and she is noted for her motivational personality with an informed and direct speaking style. As a living health advocate, she is dedicated to a healthy lifestyle and has a passion for optimal health. She can be reached at [email protected].