When customers, employees, and shareholders interact with your business, they want to know that your business is good. Not just good at making money, but actually good. Good as in virtuous. Good as in a way that makes people proud to be associated with you.
People often associate the virtue of a business with the virtue of its leaders. So business leaders’ individual virtue is a big part of how a whole company is perceived. Studies show that good leadership in business has a positive effect on the company as a whole.
Every employee also plays a role in the virtue of a company. Businesses that have a positive company culture that supports moral integrity, must be supported by the people who make up that company.
Understanding how to make your business virtuous is the key to continued growth, and has been found to lead to financial success as well . If your business can create a culture where each person is encouraged to exemplify the shared values of your business, then the practices of the organization as a whole are also more likely to be virtuous.
Based on a synthesis of research and work done by the Brigham Young University team; Creating a Virtuous Organization, here are 5 characteristics that each business should strive to consistently practice to increase both individual and business virtue: integrity, equality, responsibility, accountability and humility.
It starts with you. Integrity is a state of being morally upright and honest with ourselves and others. We as people are a product of our thoughts. What we think about ourselves, others and the world shape the way we act and treat others. Let your own personal thoughts and actions be devoted to good. If you have integrity then you can build trust with your employees and it will motivate them to work harder and to be honest.
Businesses are successful because of the collective efforts of groups of people. Whether you are a business leader in an established company or an entrepreneur starting your own business, you shape the ethical culture of the company you lead. A study suggests that businesses with high levels of trust in their leadership are more successful: They generate more profit, make more sales, and retain their employees for longer. Companies with strong cultures of integrity are also more likely to engage in successful corporate responsibility efforts. This means that valuing and really engaging the virtue of integrity can create a business culture that will help the company to thrive. Here are some things you can do at the individual level and at the organization level to help you start to build a culture of integrity today.
Creating a culture of equality means that everyone, employees, recruits, customers even stakeholders, has access to the same opportunities and fair treatment. Studies show that diversity in the workplace helps you to reach more customers and attract workers. If your job applications are open to everyone you will be able to recruit the top talent, and your business will see an increase in creativity because people with new perspectives will be contributing their ideas. There are many companies who are great examples of equality. The software company Salesforce is a great example. They make it their mission to create a safe and equal workplace for women advancing their tech careers. To see more examples of how Salesforce does what they do visit their website.
People who are responsible are dependable, keep their promises and honest. Responsible business looks the same; honors commitments and is a reliable source for customers. It is important to take responsibility and be quick to act if there are mistakes made. Inevitably people will make mistakes. You cannot perform perfectly all the time. When you falter, take responsibility and move quickly to fix the problem. Take for example Starbucks’ response to the Philadelphia incident. They responded quickly to a situation in which two black men were unlawfully arrested in one of their stores and made company wide adjustments to policies that would correct some unacceptable behaviors. When customers see these kinds of quick responses, they are more likely to return to your business and you will gain the reputation of a trustworthy organization.
To create a virtuous prosperous organization, you need more than just executive accountability, you must be socially accountable as well. Accountability is an assurance that an individual or an organization will be evaluated based on their performance or behaviors, where corporate accountability entails being answerable to shareholders and the public for actions or results. Social accountability helps keep businesses accountable to helping build a healthy future for its employees, community or the world in general.
Virtuous organizations will always acknowledge and be accountable to the potential risk of their product or service. They will actively educate their customers of those risks while working to mitigate or remove them. Businesses that do not learn, grow, adapt and change are likely to face irrelevance and obsolescence as the rapidly changing social and technological organization can learn. A good source for a self evaluation could be based on the B-corp assessment or the ESG model. You should look often and critically at your organization and find areas of improvement based on these assessments.
In business humility is not a virtue that is praised often, however, it is critical to creating a virtuous organization. Humility in business would be the ability to listen to other people and to think of yourself less; while still being able to celebrate success. It is easy to become very focused on your business and make sure it is growing and being successful. This focus could cause you to develop blinders and overtime become less likely to think of others.
Brad Owens of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University studied the power of leadership humility. In one of his published articles, Owen’s found that when leaders display humility, studies have found employees have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to be engaged. It will take courage and strength to be humble and admit faults or listen to opposing opinions, but ultimately your business will be strengthened and more profitable.
Businesses are a reflection of the people who work at them. The values of the employees become the values of a business. Businesses are an integral part of the communities they are in, meaning that company values become a reflection of community values. If entrepreneurs or executives want to create a positive culture in their community they need to start with themselves and their companies. Even a non-c-suite employee can spark positive change in the culture of a business by reflecting virtue themselves. By taking the time to self reflect and work on improving your individual virtue you will help your business and ultimately your community become better.