Ethics are important in any business and many companies prominently display their code of ethics in their lobby so all visitors and customers can see that the company or the institution they are dealing with is ethical.
With all the bad press corporate America has been receiving about its "greed" and "selfishness" the last few years, businesses have tried to polish their image by making sure that people understand that they do business according to what they term is "A Code of Ethics" and in some cases, companies even run full-page advertisements in prominent business publications with their "Code of Ethics" prominently recounted. I’m sure that makes management feel good about themselves, but I'm not sure that customers—or even employees—reading these code of ethics really feel they are meaningful and accurate!
According to Mr. Robert Hurley, a professor at Fordham University and author of the book
The Decision to Trust: How Leaders Can Create High Trust Companies, the real problem in business today is not a lack of beautifully written "Codes of Ethics" that are hung on walls. No, the problem with business today is absolute trust, the key that can turn the lock to success.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Hurley says, "Just because customers or employees think you are ethical (moral, honest and fair) does not mean they will or should trust you.” Hurley believes that trust comes from delivering every day what you promise—as a manager, an employee and a company. Furthermore, he states that the only way that can happen involves constant teamwork, communication and collaboration.
Unfortunately there are companies that make a big deal about how ethical they are to their customers, their employees and others, but their false promises, their lack of keeping their word and lack of caring contradicts all that they try to do while promoting themselves.
According to the article, research shows that the most trusted companies have lower employee turnover, higher revenue, profitability and shareholder returns. After all, who wants to do business with a company that doesn't provide excellent customer service by always keeping their word to their customers?
Hurley gives us a number of principles that he feels leaders can adopt to demonstrate trustworthiness and embed as principles in their own companies. I would like to share some of his thoughts here:
1. Demonstrate that your Interests are the same. He talks about the fact that we tend to question the competence of the surgeon, not his motives, because we realize that he also benefits when the surgery is successful. Hurley suggests that "leaders must clarify and align stakeholder interests, and prove they will promote those interests in a fair manner.” In other words, companies must deliver quality products at a fair price and deliver those products to the customer on time and that must be done on a regular basis.
2. Demonstrate concern for others. Employees want to feel they are working for a leader that shows caring and empathy for others by how they treat them when they need special assistance or help.
3. Deliver on your promises. This is where the rubber literally meets the road. Leaders must keep promises to employees and customers if they are going to be effective and earn the complete trust of their customer base and workforce. Be consistent and honest. Honesty is always the best policy. Always tell a customer or employee the absolute truth in all matters, which could include the reasons behind a late order or a bonus not delievered.
4. Communicate frequently, clearly and openly. In any business or enterprise, communicating with customers regularly, as well as employees, always pays off in trust. Too often customers are treated as outsiders and left out of critical matters that can have a major effect on them. The same thing too often happens to employees and the sin of not communicating with customers and employees translates eventually into loss of customers and employees.
It's that simple, yet that much of a concern. Hurley believes that restoring trust requires a lot more than ethics training. It requires leaders and organizations to earn trust by delivering on their promises and always conducting themselves in a trustworthy manner.
Healthcare leaders have to understand that healthcare is in a new era. It's going to take leaders who care deeply about mission, vision, and values, and who understand how those principles apply to healthcare. Patients especially must feel they are cared for by compassionate organizations that put patient welfare before any other perceived priority.
The same thing holds true for employees who work in healthcare institutions. Too often both patients and employees have not been communicated with properly because they are thought of as outsiders and not deserving of knowing what is going on in a the institution That arrogance and that myopic attitude will not survive in this new environment, and those leaders who refuse to change will bring calamity on both themselves and their community.
In any stressful time, communication and trust are essential for survival. Healthcare can survive and prosper in the future if leaders recognize the fundamental need for their actions to enable a foundation of trustworthiness. Only then, can they effectively step forward, step up and lead the way. I'm confident they will.