None of us are perfect, that is certain. But that said, I’d propose that long-term performance is tied, inextricably, to ethics and culture.
So what can we do to build a business that flourishes, that is valued, and that endures?
Perhaps the place to start is to contemplate how deeply we should adhere to the maxim that the values that we model are the values that are embraced by those who work with us. People listen to what we say in the boardroom or the classroom, and then they watch how we behave in the hallways and at the curbside. If our behaviour is inconsistent, others are confused at best—or worse, they write us off completely. In particular, they are watching us intently at inflection points: times of error and of challenge. Do we obfuscate or do we address the issue plainly and openly? If there is compensation to be made for an error, do we deal with it forthrightly or do we try to negotiate the least we can get away with? The bottom line is that opacity might work for a while, but generally not for long—so why not be a model of generosity.
When we are about to respond to a difficult issue, my advice is to go and stand about a half-year down the road from what we are about to say or write, and see if it still feels like the right thing to do or say. We are remembered most for how we behave in times of challenge; as an old proverb states, ‘anyone can sail the ship when the sea is calm.’
Finally, let me offer that everyone of us has an opportunity to build a nation—the triple bottom line is how we build a nation: we make a decent profit, we engage in the development of our community, and we consider how we can provide work for others that not only gives them an appropriate wage, but allows them dignity and the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
And guess what? We will be remembered for our work, long after we have finished working.