Do you do much thinking about the ethics and values of your company on a daily basis? Do you talk about it with your employees? Most people don’t. They assume since it’s mentioned in the “about” page of the company website or in their marketing materials, that it’s something people know about them — that it’s a “given.”
That’s wrong for two reasons… first, we should never “assume” anything when it comes to people and knowledge. Assumptions always lead to miscommunication down the line. Second, your company’s ethics and values are something that must be lived by everyone in your company on a daily basis before they can be experienced by your customers, vendors and partners. Therefore, you and your employees (all of them) need to be crystal clear about what those values are and how they apply to every business practice. Why? Because the outside world looks at the way the people in your organization behave and makes judgements about your company’s worthiness based on what they see and experience for themselves. When there’s a disconnect between what you say, you believe and what you actually put into practice, things start to fall apart.
I read something the other day on LinkedIn by Christopher Bauer on company ethics that really brings home this point.
“It is not your claims about ethics and values that will differentiate you. Rather, it is the uniqueness, clarity, and influence of your values on the way in which you run your department, division, or entire organization that will differentiate you so powerfully.”
He’s absolutely right. When those values become ingrained in the culture of your company and everyone does their work through that lens, your values become transparent to everyone who comes in contact with your people. Those behaviors are the building blocks of trust — and the reverse is also true.
How many times have we seen evidence of this in the digital space? You see it every day with political figures who say they stand for something and then behave in a totally different manner. Airlines are another example. When what the public experiences is something contrary to their mission statement, that experience gets shared and trust disappears quickly.
Let me emphasize the words “shared” and “experience” here. Digital communication has lightning-speed effect on your brand reputation, good or bad, because people are going to share their experiences with others. There’s no getting around it. All companies live in glass houses today. So why not influence those experiences at a grass-roots level?
Ensure that everyone in your company knows how to conduct their work with your ethics and values uppermost in mind. Write it down. Talk it out. Train them constantly, so those values become habit. Sure, some people will make mistakes. We’re all human, but it’s how the public sees you deal with those mistakes that makes the difference (because that’s transparent too).
Listen. People are going to make judgements about your company. That’s a given. However, you have the power to influence those judgements by changing the way you do business. When everyone walks the talk in your company, from the TOP down, you won’t have to worry about your reputation in the marketplace. Your values will shine through your people.
A “Brand” is what a business does… a “Reputation” is what people remember and share.