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11 Ways Companies Can Excel Ethically At Every Level

The more ethically a company operates, the more likely it is to gain a great reputation, happier employees and a large following of loyal clients and customers. However, while most companies strive to build a culture of trust and transparency, it can be difficult to ensure people demonstrate ethical behavior at every level of a business, internally and externally.

Regardless of role, for every employee to understand and uphold the company’s standards of conduct as they operate and represent the business, a strong sense of the company’s ethics must be baked into the culture. Here, 11 members of Forbes Coaches Council weigh in with expert advice on effective approaches to making certain those core values are clear and lived by all.

1. Use Radical Transparency

Open and honest communication about the company’s actions is the best way to make sure a company excels ethically. Anything a company is uncomfortable sharing with the masses probably lives in an ethical grey area. - Zander Fryer, High Impact Coaching

2. Choose Leaders Who Live And Work Ethically

Ethics start at the top, and leaders who live ethically and also work with ethical principles make all of the difference. Ethics should be well understood within an organization, and those who forget their ethics need to be reminded when they fall short of the mark. Lack of communication or feedback on ethical shortcomings will doom the organization. - Dan Ryan,ryan partners

3. Define What ‘Excelling At Ethics’ Means

First, define what “excelling at ethics” means. Set the boundaries around what “right” looks like, feels like and sounds like. What will we be doing, saying and hearing when we are excelling at ethics both internally and externally? The clearer you are up front and the more you document your culture playbook around ethics, the easier you can spot when something is right or goes off the rails. - Shelley Smith,Premier Rapport

4. Stay Committed To Modeling Company Values

Establish and communicate company values both inside and outside of the organization and stay committed to being accountable to those values regardless of the circumstances. This requires clear communication of expectations and visible modeling of the company values by leaders at all levels. -Kaleth Wright, Air Force Aid Society

5. Incorporate Diverse, Equitable And Inclusive Concepts

Ethical excellence is borne of active DEI. As organizations get more intentional about incorporating diverse concepts into their work culture, they start to see improvement across the board. It’s difficult to instill excellence when viewing policy and culture through a narrow lens. An inclusive approach raises questions and conversations that lead to a more ethical work environment. - Juliet Ehimuan, Beyond Limits

6. Make Ethics Part Of The Organizational Culture

On the matter of ethics, it has to be a part of the organization’s culture. This is usually driven by the leadership team and the shared values they communicate and cascade throughout the company. Once the organization’s values are clear, there are established expectations that govern its internal practices, which will undoubtedly be reflected internally and externally. -Erica McKenzie, Creative Brands & Concepts

7. Have Leaders Set The Tone At The Top Level

This is achieved by behaving ethically at all times and making certain that their employees are aware of the importance of doing so. To achieve that, each department must adopt a system of rewarding employees who behave ethically and commit to making ethical behavior a high priority. - Abraham Khoureis, Dr. Abraham Khoureis

8. Put Ethics At The Top Of Your Value System

You have to hire people who walk the talk. Let it be reflected in your rewards and recognition. Do not hesitate to take disciplinary action when needed to prove it. Training your employees to develop a common sense of understanding around what it means to be ethical in your company allows ethics to become a part of your core organizational DNA. -Agata Dulnik, Ph.D., Global Leadership Experts

9. Dig Deep Into Understanding Business Ethics

I taught university courses in business ethics for years, and there is a lot more to learn than most people would think. Reflecting deeply about ethical decision-making models and philosophies provides much more insight for workplace practices. Many managers and leaders “go from the gut” on workplace ethics instead of learning more and digging deeper. - Susan Madsen, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

10. Provide An Effective Outlet For Communication

When employees feel that they can safely report mistakes, concerns, questions and so on, they will be more likely to do so. Intervention through training, processes and early detection of errors will help ensure ethical decisions are made at every level. - Lindsay Miller, Reverie Organizational Development Specialists

11. Hold People Accountable Across The Board

No one should be shielded from scrutiny. Create mechanisms to capture data about instances that hover on or over the line and investigate them. Protect the team that is investigating. Hold people accountable across the board and show that those in power are held to a higher standard. Don’t wait until it hits the press years later that a top leader crossed the line and you did nothing about it then. - Cara

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