7 Questions For Ethical Culture Building

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We create organizational culture through strategic choices and daily actions. If we imagine building our culture as creating an elaborate painting, what will we depict on the canvas? Will we work together to carefully paint a background theme of positive values, or will we just give everyone brushes and “see where it goes?”

122314PerfSysGrphcThe graphic shows ethical leadership as a human performance system. At the center of the system are Positive Ethical Values and Trust. The arrows show a perpetual process of communicating and reinforcing values and ethical choices.

Having seen this model, ask yourself these questions to assess how well ethical values are “painted” onto your cultural canvas:


1. If a group of strangers walked into our organization for the first time and spent the day with us, what would they say is on our cultural canvas? What values would they see in action?

2. What positive ethical values do we make the focal point of our culture?

3. How will we “paint” those values in a lasting way onto the canvas of our culture?

4. How will we build the deep level of trust that is necessary for open conversation?

5. How will we align all of our messages and reward systems to aim directly toward the ethical values we say are important?

6. How will we prepare leaders to paint ethical values onto our cultural canvas through their daily leadership?

7. How will we know when everyone in the organization is committed to our values? What will we see happening?

When we communicate clear values and make trust a priority, we are creating positive conditions for:

  • making a lasting difference
  • bringing out the best in the organization
  • protecting our ethics

When our cultural canvas is clearly painted with ethical values and trust, the result may be a true masterpiece – an ethical organization.


  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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  1. Excellent visual aid that clearly shows ethical leadership is a continuum. The questions are great examples of real targets to be aimed for in an organization that focuses on being ethical. Very thought provoking!


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