Maintaining Integrity during rapid growth

What is integrity? According to dictionary.com, integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Why is it important in business? Integrity in business is important because it builds internal and external trust amongst all the people that have dealings with the company.

Effective leaders “walk the talk”; in other words they do what they say. It is imperative that during the early stages of a startup that codes of conduct be established that convey how business will be done and how employees, clients and suppliers will be treated. Companies that have great cultures are avid believers of collaboration. They encourage employees to share ideas and work together to solve problems.

“Two heads are better than one but 7 heads are even better”

When your company is impacted by rapid growth it is often found that you lose touch with your employees, reaching targets takes priority instead of optimizing client satisfaction, and company values may become diluted as employees may start to do anything necessary to keep their jobs. Effective leaders implement department headcount caps of 170 or less, discuss company values, mission and strategy daily, and have employee-centric cultures.

For example, an automotive air bag manufacturer, Takata, wanted to cut costs so they opted for a cheaper material which resulted in a mass recall. Evidently, they increased their losses by not maintaining integrity in their product. There are many other ways to cut cost but keep quality and this showed their lack of consideration for their customers. They were more concerned about their bottom line. It is going to take a long time for them to build trust with those customers that they lost because of their poor judgment and poor ethics.

Nevertheless, it is important that leaders ensure that their employees understand and never stray from the company’s core values by discussing this matter daily. Customer satisfaction, internal and external respect amongst employees, clients and suppliers, and collaboration are the key factors that make for an enduring company. When employees trust their coworkers and leaders they work together as a team and protect the company from harm.

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Lean Wednesday Tip: Client Relations

“Never let a client treat your employees badly and if such incident does occur fire the client immediately. It is of most importance that the clients you work with have cultures that naturally sync with yours. A sale is never worth the mistreatment of your employees.”

Culture Engagement Starts with Top Management

Creating a Word or PowerPoint Culture reference material and distributing to employees on on-boarding day and briefly talking about it in your Monday morning meeting because you feel your employees are not “getting it” is not going to drive any significant results. Human Resources is not the captain when it comes to engaging employees in the company’s culture. Culture is top management responsibility.

Effective leaders are known to practice and support their culture on a daily basis. They integrate visual controls and visual KPI Metrics so that quality, productivity, cost goals and objectives are visibly clear. To quote Dwight Eisenhower, “They never listen to what I said; they always watch what I do.”

For example, if a Procurement Manager sees the CEO ignoring client calls when the culture document states, “Serve the Client”, it would now seem that the culture document is void because the CEO is not practicing it. The Procurement Manager now thinks its okay to ignore vendors/clients because the CEO does.

Leaders should engage with their employees everyday instead of only appearing when there is a problem. By actively participating in all the departments of the company and listening to employees, leaders can use the Voice of the Employee to identify bottlenecks and improve overall employee satisfaction. They also include all employees in the decision-making process by making strategic plans visual and accessible to all employees; and ensure their actions correspond with the company’s written vision and mission statements.

The fault lies with leadership when the employee does not know what she/he is supposed to do, does not know what is expected of them, has no means to assess if the work is being doing properly, nor has the authority or means to correct the process when something is wrong. Effective leaders know the importance of translating the vision and mission of the company into daily activities. They set realistic goals for their employees and provide timely rewards to those who meet them. And offer educational and training opportunities to enhance their employees’ capabilities.

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