40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Last week I blogged about 40 Ethical Culture Gaps to Avoid. This week, I’m sharing a ‘What To Do” list of 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture. This list includes many ways to incorporate ethical values into daily organizational leadership. 

Each one of these 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture can improve an organization. Leaders paying attention to all of these factors will reap rewards that include improved employee engagement, better financial performance, increased productivity and job satisfaction, improved competitive position and more.

Use this “ethical to do list” to assess your culture. Put a check mark beside the positive ethical actions that you have observed in your organization. Any that you leave unchecked are opportunities for improvement.

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture

  1. ___Avoid Harm To a Wide Variety of Constituents
  2. ___Balance Ethics With Profitability and Results
  3. ___Carefully Build and Protect Trust
  4. ___Choose the Ethical Path, Even if Competitors Aren’t
  5. ___Clarify What “Ethical” Means in the Organization
  6. ___Clear Code of Ethics
  7. ___Clear Messages About Ethics and Values
  8. ___Commitment to Protecting the Planet
  9. ___Consistently Demonstrate Care and Respect for People
  10. ___Decision-Making Carefully Incorporates Ethics
  11. ___Develop Leaders in How To Implement Proactive Ethical Leadership
  12. ___Do Business Sustainably
  13. ___Enforce Ethical Expectations
  14. ___Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility
  15. ___Engaging and Relevant Ethics Training and Messages (Not The Same Old Boring Stuff)
  16. ___Ethical Actions Match Ethical Marketing
  17. ___Frequent Conversations About Ethics (That Honor Work Complexity)
  18. ___Full Accountability for Ethics At Every Level Including the C-Suite
  19. ___High Degree of Transparency
  20. ___Leaders Aware of Increasing Ethical Expectations
  21. ___Leaders Stay Competent as Times Change
  22. ___Open Leadership Communication and Invitation to Participate in Decisions
  23. ___Open, Supportive Leadership
  24. ___Performance Guidelines and Boundaries For Behavior
  25. ___Performance System Fully Integrated With Ethical Expectations
  26. ___Positive Ethical Role Models
  27. ___Recognize and Praise Ethical Actions
  28. ___Recognize and Punish Unethical Actions
  29. ___Safe Space to Discuss Ethical Grey Areas
  30. ___Set Ethical Boundaries
  31. ___Strong Commitment to Improving Leadership and Culture
  32. ___Take Broad Responsibility For Actions
  33. ___Think Long Term About Our Impact
  34. ___Treat Ethics as an Ongoing Priority
  35. ___Treat People With Care
  36. ___Use the Precautionary Principle
  37. ___Use Systems Thinking to See the Big Picture
  38. ___Values Mindset (Not A Compliance Mindset)
  39. ___Welcome and Act on Feedback From Constituents
  40. ___Willing to Do What it Takes to Become an Ethical Organization

When ethical culture is carefully tended, we are poised to meet the increasing expectations of our many stakeholders. Use this checklist of 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture to identify your organization’s current strengths and opportunities for improvement.

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

6 Responses to 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

  1. Thanks so much for your feedback, Niccole. I’m delighted that you’re finding the checklist helpful!

  2. Niccole Henderson says:

    Niccole Henderson says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    June 12, 2015 at 2:24 am

    HI Linda,

    This is a fantastic detailed list of positive ethical ways to enhance our overall ethical culture. As our society is increasingly becoming more technologically advanced we are losing our ethical standpoints in many areas of our lives. We need more organizational leadership through out our organizations. With organizational leadership the right set of ethical standards would naturally be promoted and companies would began to learn that employee retention, tasks, and overall performance would increase. As humans we thrive off of praise and support more so than negative demands and threats. Aristotle’s viewpoint “The ethics of communication are judged by the interrelated criteria of (1) communicator intent, (2) nature if the means employed, and (3) accompanying circumstances, as these three factors combine to enhance or undermine human rationality and choice-making ability” (Johannesen & Valde, 2008). From these three, employees would decide if their managers are portraying the positive ethical image that they deserve. Many organizations need to learn the leadership ways and discard all the managerial micro-managing ways. Great post and will take this checklist to my own work to encourage positive ethically ways.

    Niccole Henderson
    Drury University

    References:

    Johannesen, R., & Valde, K. (2008). Ethics in human communication (6th ed.). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press.

  3. Niccole Henderson says:

    HI Linda,

    This is a fantastic detailed list of positive ethical ways to enhance our overall ethical culture. As our society is increasingly becoming more technologically advanced we are losing our ethical standpoints in many areas of our lives. We need more organizational leadership through out our organizations. With organizational leadership the right set of ethical standards would naturally be promoted and companies would began to learn that employee retention, tasks, and overall performance would increase. As humans we thrive off of praise and support more so than negative demands and threats. Aristotle’s viewpoint “The ethics of communication are judged by the interrelated criteria of (1) communicator intent, (2) nature if the means employed, and (3) accompanying circumstances, as these three factors combine to enhance or undermine human rationality and choice-making ability” (Johannesen & Valde, 2008). From these three, employees would decide if their managers are portraying the positive ethical image that they deserve. Many organizations need to learn the leadership ways and discard all the managerial micro-managing ways. Great post and will take this checklist to my own work to encourage positive ethically ways.

    References:

    Johannesen, R., & Valde, K. (2008). Ethics in human communication (6th ed.). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press.

  4. Pingback: 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture | Corporate...

  5. Pingback: 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List) | HENRY KOTULA

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