Building an Ethical Culture—First Quarter 2021
Building an Ethical Culture
Neal Patel, CBA, CVA
Former NACVA Ethics Oversight Board Member
Business and team management author Patrick Lencioni states, “Core values are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions; they serve as its cultural cornerstones.” He continues, “From the first interview to the last day of work, employees should be constantly reminded that core values form the basis for every decision the company makes.” A fundamental strategy to building an ethical company culture is to live by core values that stress the components of ethics. The core values which embody the ethical environment of our valuation firm are: “Exhibit Integrity” and “Take Pride in Your Work.”
Integrity is the hallmark of a morally intelligent individual having the quality of being honest and displaying strong moral principles. Moreover, ethics are defined as moral principles that govern a person's behavior, or the conduct of an activity. It is crucial for company leadership to place emphasis on these two facets when hiring and assembling teams which represent its values. This is especially true in the business valuation industry. Beyond discussing specific instances where a member has exhibited integrity on a personal or professional level, we make it clear to our teams that we value integrity on an ongoing basis. We recognize circumstances which put integrity on full display, and acknowledge them in the moment, and again during our mid-year and year-end review process. When integrity is a component of a company’s foundation, it can stand by each of its employees, reassured that each individual is acting honestly and transparently with clients and colleagues, ‘even when no one is looking’. Therefore, exhibiting integrity is the backbone which builds trust, reliability, and a strong sustainable reputation with clients and the industry at large.
Take Pride in Your Work
Taking pride in our work is another core value in which our team is held accountable. Focusing on training and education, providing the necessary tools for employees to act ethically, and providing corrective feedback, ensures that team members can take pride in their work. This is the cornerstone to ensuring competency in one’s profession and career. The NACVA Professional Standard IIB on Professional Competence states that “A member shall only accept engagements the member can reasonably expect to complete with a high degree of professional competence.” That said, it is an ethical requirement to remain competent throughout one's valuation career, and solely through this competency, can one make sound, ethical decisions.
A leader designing an ethical culture should create contexts which place ethical principles in the forefront. Leaders should reward ethics through both formal and informal incentives and opportunities, while weaving ethics into day-to-day behavior. An emphasis on core values relevant to ethics and ensuring conversations around ethics are at the forefront of hiring, employee assessments, and employee separation encourages employees to develop a work and learning environment that is more ethically focused.When a company’s culture embodies ethics within its core values, the ability for team members to make ethical decisions becomes second nature.