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Establishing Shared Values and Ethics

May 11, 2012 2:38 PM, By Bradley A. Malone, PMP


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We’ve all heard how different generations of people (baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y) work and live differently. This sometimes causes frustration for those of one generation who must interact with those of another generation whom they deem not to be acting correctly. It’s the same type of challenge we occasionally face when working with people from different cultures—their motivations often don’t match our own.

Yet, what is the definition of acting “correctly” and who determined it? Why is it even important? It’s important because people feel comfortable and perform more effectively with others who share a common belief system. What I’ve found in my consulting and teaching experience is that there is a lack of structured training and communication on the establishment of shared values and ethics. And it’s that lack of a foundational understanding or cohesiveness that causes many of the organization’s performance issues—impacting client relations, morale, quality work, etc., at most audiovisual integration companies (and organizations in general).

Values

We all value certain beliefs. Things like, “hard work will get you ahead,” and “always tell the truth, no matter what.” These often become unconscious beliefs during the socialization process of our formative years. But at a company, which is made up of multiple people from different cultures and beliefs, the question we need to ask is, “Are we creating and communicating those values that are truly important to us, and are we measuring and rewarding those who are operating in alignment with those values?” In other words, do we talk the talk, but walk a very different walk? Here are two lists of words and values that could describe a successful AV company. Which do you espouse and which do you follow?

List 1:

· Openness/transparency

· Merit/education/talent

· Quality (right thing, done right)

· Collaboration/sharing

· Holding one another accountable

· Initiative/performance

List 2:

· Guarded/only a few need to know

· Who you know/where you’re from

· Looking good enough to get by

· Competitiveness/withholding

· Rules apply only to certain people

· Seniority/longevity

Neither list is intrinsically good or bad. The key here is to be responsible for practicing what you preach and owning the results. What I find at a lot of companies is that values from the first list are preached, but it’s the values from the second list that are practiced. This leads to a slow death, especially when it comes to the morale or spirit of a company. Nothing destroys an employee’s passion more than hypocrisy by people in leadership positions.

Ethics

Now let’s move to ethics, which encompass a “code of morality; a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for a person or group,” according to the Encarta World English Dictionary. Based on the years of research I’ve conducted on values and ethics, I’ve found that this code of morality actually has three constructs that resonate with people—usually with varying levels of importance. The first is a purely moral construct: right vs. wrong. Theologian Hans Küng has examined what the world’s great religions have in common and found five basic commands in all of them: Do not kill; do not lie; do not steal; do not practice immorality; respect parents and love children.

The second moral construct has to do with alignment. The word most often associated with this construct is “integrity,” defined as a consistency of actions to values and ethics. In other words, are your thoughts, words, and actions in alignment? Do you walk the talk?

Over the last 10 years, integrity has gotten mixed up with morality, to the point where only moral people can have integrity. I happen to believe that many people who do not share my morals and values still exhibit great integrity: They will predictably do what they say, which is what they also believe.

The third construct has to do with loyalty—having allegiance to a belief, person, or entity (family, company, country, etc.). The loyalty ethic can be thought of as commitment or mutual protection.

The challenge in dealing with these three morality constructs, in so much as they define a company’s ethics, is that they can be in conflict with one another. For example, I’m loyal to my best friend whom I’ve known all my life. But he just told the boss that a project is going fine, even though it’s way behind and over budget. What do I do? Am I supposed to be loyal to my friend, my company, or myself (my own morality)?

Most people want to work in a company where they feel trusted and they can trust others; a place where the values and ethics are known, shared, and followed. They want to be where a sense of belonging and pride permeate the culture—a tangible esprit de corps.

What are you doing to create that company?

To read this article in its entirety, visit infocomm.org.

Bradley A. Malone, PMP, is an InfoComm instructor and president of Twin Star Consulting, a project management and corporate transformation consulting company. He holds the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is one of PMI’s highest-rated instructors. Please share your thoughts with him at brad@twinstarconsulting.com.



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