In this day and age, people demand the highest standards of integrity from businesses. We’re not only out to turn a profit. We need to do so without the risk of a reputational backlash.
So, how will businesses fare during the Trump administration where decency has become a heated topic of discussion?
In his book, The Dividends of Decency, Donald Lee Sheppard outlines the ethical and moral challenges that business leaders will need to address in light of recent political developments.
So, how can businesses act with integrity considering that the country is led by a highly unpredictable administration?
For Sheppard, decency plays a big role in shaping a business. It creates trust and goodwill among customers and the workplace. When people know you’re doing the right thing every time, they are more likely to engage you. On the other hand, aligning yourself with beliefs outside the expectations of your audience incites conflict, as with the case of several businesses that agreed with the Trump administration’s policies.
Sheppard cites New Balance’s gaffe as the first example. The footwear company publicly stated that it supported Donald Trump and, presumably, his plan to rescind the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The consequences proved to be dire for the company, and despite its damage control efforts, it suffered dismal sales figures in many Blue States, including New York, California, and Orgeon.
What does this tell us about how business leaders should think and act?
Shappard makes it a point for business leaders to practice values-based leadership. It’s possible to strike a balance between securing the bottom line and demonstrating ethical behavior. And that’s because these two aspects are somehow intertwined. Decency creates long-term dividends which can be in the form of loyal customers and stronger business relationships.
Businesses that want to underscore growth will have to invest in aligning their objectives with moral principles. The first thing in mind is to pick a positive influence. Supporting questionable values and belief systems will only alienate your business from its audience and affect its ability to scale. Just like what happened to New Balance.
But it’s not only through supporting politicians that we demonstrate integrity. Clients are more interested in the actions you take in order to drive relationships based on decency and trust.
Accountability, responsibility, and transparency are crucial to maintaining your reputation and attract more business. Honesty is still the most important part of doing business, so make sure you live by your organization’s ethical code. Sheppard suggests that you should try to be a good role model for your customers as well as your employees.
Also, you should be able to reflect back on ethically important decisions that proved to be inimical to your business. Rather than defeed such decisions, you should take responsibility for them considering how they impact the relationships you share with shareholders and community at large.
Paving the way to a more ethical future
I should say this is one of the most insightful boooks I’ve ever laid my hands on. It really sets the tone for how businesses should behave regardless of who gets to be the Commander-in-Chief.
Presidents may come and go, but the need for businesses to act ethically will always remain.
Want to read the book? Get your copy here.
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