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Elevator Speech: Part 8 of 9: Being Ethical…

January 31, 2012

Like “having fun” I also borrowed this part of my elevator speech from a CEO I had worked with at a previous company by the name of John Cimral.  It was part of John’s mantra “Make Money, Have Fun, Be Ethical” (and yes, I know his is much more concise and to the point than my own and actually follows the rule of “three things and only three things”).  Those who have been to his office will see a framed sign on his bookcase with these words on it.

I remember a discussion that occurred one night at a dinner when a board member of a former company started talking about a CEO who had been caught backdating options for himself and other employees several years ago (forty-nine times no less).  John was appalled when this board member went on to share his opinion that “The only thing [this CEO] did wrong was get caught.”  The logic was that “everybody” was doing it and there was no harm done.  Not only did John see the actions of this CEO as unethical, but the tolerance this board member showed for it was just as damning as the acts themselves.

For John, currently the Chief Information Officer for Cambia Health Solutions, being ethical runs core to the very fabric of his existence.  It started early in life for him when he was at West Point and instructed on the first day that “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those that do.”  To hear John describe it the Cadet Honor Code was owned and enforced by the cadets and it had teeth; it was essential in a profession where lives are at stake and you must rely on the people around you to “do the right thing.”  This greatly influenced John and he continues to pass his own ethos on to those he manages and leads today.

For myself I was surprised and amazed how deep being ethical permeated everything while with Thomson Reuters while I was there.  I was with a company that was acquired by Thomson Reuters and I found early on that it lies at the heart of their company and can be traced back to the original Reuters news division.  Thomson Reuters puts this out there as their corporate responsibility for all to see:

“DOING THE RIGHT THINGS FOR THE RIGHT REASONS:  …[W]e all have a shared responsibility to do business in ways that respect, protect and benefit our customers, our employees, our communities, and our environment. This responsibility informs everything we do, both as a company and as individuals.”
Thomson Reuters website

Okay, I’ll admit slogans are one thing and actions are another; you may be wondering how this translates in to culture.  Imagine working for a company where employees in one of the divisions die and are even murdered throughout the world each and every year because they believe in doing the right thing for the right reasons?  This knowledge and burden drives a powerful ethos and responsibility to all 50,000+ employees, regardless of the division they work in; the company honors the integrity of the history of the news division as well as those who have given their lives for it by treating being ethical almost as though it were a religion.

Over the years I’ve also had the luxury of working with ethics knowledge and compliance software services companies such as Compli and EthicsPoint.  In both cases the companies were focused on helping others to do the right thing and the employees were often working there for that very reason.  At other companies I’ve had the benefit of working with both employees and leaders who simply would not blink when it comes to ethics and ethical issues.

Here at Cambia, what we call The Cause is very similar and it is one of the reasons I decided to come on board as it directly touched and spoke very clearly to this part of my elevator speech.    The Cause focuses on doing the right things by people who often need us at their most challenging and even desperate times.  It’s in the very fabric of our employees’ core beliefs:  do the right things for the right reasons.

So, what does this all mean?  This rambling blog entry illustrates that I’m at a loss in terms of trying to share my thoughts about this in a clear and concise way.  What I do know is one often learns from examples and by emulating those they admire.  It seems to be one of those things that you pay forward and others embrace.  Personally I’ve tried to be ethical in all that I’ve done.  I’ve been quick to question and even report ethics issues when I’ve seen what I believe to be violations.  It is part of my own personal code and important enough to me to be part of my own elevator speech.

Are you confronted by an ethics issue or have witnessed what you believe is one?  Ask yourself what it would mean to do the right thing and for the right reason.  Seek council of a supervisor or trusted leader.  Reach out to your ethics hotline if one is available.  Worst case, if you find that being ethical is not part of the culture and you cannot fix it, then leave as life is too short and not being ethical is a stain that just doesn’t wash out in the laundry…


About this series:  In my very first post I started out by sharing what I call my “elevator speech”.  It is the gestalt of what makes me and the organizations that I have gone on to lead tick:

Deliver high quality solutions on time that are innovative, delight customers, win reviews, and disrupt competitors; all while having fun, being ethical and transforming the business.

My first post in this series dissected “deliver high quality solutions… It covered deliver, high quality, and solutionsMy second went on about a topic that many development managers and teams hate to talk about and that is delivering “on time… The third in the series talked about solutions “that are innovative…” The forth covered one of my favorite components of the above statement and that is to “delight customers…”  This was followed by “that win reviews…”, “disrupt competitors…“, and then by “having fun…”  The next installment will be “while transforming the business…”


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