Why integrity is key to high performance and lasting success
- Dominik Heil and Louise Whittaker
Companies need to escape the circle of having PR campaigns prop up their image until people have an exaggerated expectation of their ethical performance.
The pages of this newspaper give ample reason to see that corporate SA, and corporations globally, face a significant challenge in the area of ethics. This is despite a regulatory framework of governance and ethics codes that should, in theory, guide managers in avoiding unethical practices.
Such frameworks are proving ineffective, not just because they are routinely ignored but because ethics as a constraint of business does not work; managers will work around constraints or ignore them altogether.
The orientation of private business is to be productive and profitable to the largest degree possible. Therefore, imposing ethics in the form of rules with a threat of punishment will always be only of limited success.
Ethics are about action and the production of good outcomes, and good ethics ought to inspire good action and the production of good outcomes. We should pass judgement on any approach to business ethics not by whether it is agreeable to our convictions, but by its ability to inspire constructive action.
Rarely have ethics been recognised as the key factor of high performance and sustainable success. Rather than constrain, ethics and integrity when properly understood will liberate people and organisations to make extraordinary contributions to shareholders and a variety of stakeholders.
Most of us associate ethics with guilt and shame and a constraint on productivity. We cut corners only to then spend lots of time in a bid not to get caught or managing a crisis when our carefully crafted cover is blown.