#6: Principles and values must guide all decisions

Principles are the bottom line. They are meant to be ends in and of themselves, not techniques to create value for shareholders or to reach other financial goals. They should be a significant part of an organization’s definition of success. Principles should drive and shape the business regardless of its size, complexity, or age.

Principles mean something only when they affect everything we do, every day of the week. If values and principles are to set the tone for organizations and guide their decisions, they must become part of every task, plan, discussion, and operation. We should attempt to live according to a set of unchanging shared ethical principles, because it is the right way to live--not because it works.

Don't be tempted to follow the principles in order to improve your bottom line. There are three things you need to know:

First, living by shared values and principles does not automatically lead to financial success or make a “great” company.

Second, linking values and principles to economic success will most likely lead to eventual rejection of these same values and principles by board members and other leaders of the organization.

Third, linking principles and the bottom line diminishes the company in the eyes of its employees.

We all know the principle of basic logic that says: If A, then B. If not B, then not A. If A (certain principles and values), then B (financial success). If not B (financial success), then not A (it’s time to junk principles and values). In other words, if a company links values to high profits and share price, it should logically reject these values when the stock price or profits fall. Because all companies experience financial fluctuations, this logic would require them to adjust their values and principles every time they experienced a downturn. As I said above, principles should be your bottom line.

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