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The Ingredients of Decency

The Ingredients of Decency

Authors, Steve Harrison and Jim Lukaszewski, explain the importance of being decent to one another and how it will lead to doing better in our life’s work.

We’d like to spend the next 985 words, 5 ½ minutes, visiting with you about a serious, growing and relentless problem in our culture and the cultures of many nations: the continuing incremental loss of decency. In the U.S. we see evidence of this loss every day in most facets of our lives, the gridlock in our politics, outrageous behavior in every manner of organization and activity, churches, factories, businesses of all sizes, schools, colleges and universities, in virtually every walk of life.

The Decency Code, The Leaders Path to Integrity and Trust is a business book which is appropriate because business in America is very close to the center of our culture. We live in an economic democracy one which increasingly ignores and often devalues decencies in all its activities. For America, the troubling question is:” Why is it that America has learned-better than any country or culture in the world how to build great companies and great leaders to lead them, yet many of the same leaders seemingly look the other way as their companies and collies sink into ethical mischief and outright criminality?” Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, Nissan, Equifax have become familiar examples of American business seeking greatness but forgetting, ignoring, or avoiding goodness.

The book contends that the priority of rushing to greatness too often produces temporary perceptions of success and misguided leadership. All too often these great companies fail to be good companies first and their highly publicized and highly compensated leaders turn out to be compromised.

Our prescription is that the reporting of public companies as well as larger private companies need to incorporate palpable evidence of their intentional ethic: developing and maintaining a civil culture; designing programs to promote the workplace as an ethical, desirable environment; regarding values-based behavior, honesty, and integrity as much as profitability. In other words, organizations and leadership that can demonstrate that they are good companies with values that are so simple, sensible, constructive, helpful and positive that only the critics, naysayers, and bellyachers will be opposed. After all, leadership is what drives decency, civility, integrity, and associated pathways that make up The Decency Code, including: Accountability, Civility, Compassion, Empathy, Honesty, Humility, And Principle.

The vacuum caused by the absence of decency creates fear that grows when there is a trust deficit. We maintain that institutionalized decency is a success factor that helps guide leaders as they move through turbulent economic times toward a more genuine greatness. Clearly, something more than increasing regulation, jail terms, compliance training, hot lines, and values that statements is needed.

A business decency is a thoughtful, meaningful gesture offered that in ways small and large can change a corporate culture for the better. The more humanely we treat one another, the better we will be as people and the better we will be in doing our life’s work.

We are colleagues who want to make a positive difference in another person’s day. Out of such actions, multiplied dozens of times, corporate cultures are enriched, and ethical behavior reinforced. Widely accepted and adopted, decencies become a force multiplier for employee engagement.

Great stories of small decencies emerge from values based behavior. Gestures by leaders that are tangible, replicable and sustainable create stories that travel:

  • Praising people in public and correcting in private
  • Greeting visitors promptly and enthusiastically
  • Valuing receptionists-they are our directors of first impressions
  • Rejecting executive pomposity
  • Promoting trust through accessibility, transparency, and candor
  • Institutionalizing civility
  • Intentionally making a difference

Decency is about choices. We believe that all irresponsible behavior, improper actions, incivility, unconscionable behavior, immoral, irregular, unethical behaviors are intentional, adults making conscious choices. We also believe that decency, civility, honesty, openness, moral and ethical, honest and legal behaviors are also choices. These choices are very clear but up to each of us individually.

Decency starts with a commitment to verbal and written communication that carries messages that are sensible, constructive, positive, helpful, empathetic, ethical and benefit the recipient of the message more than the sender. Jim Lukaszewski refers to these as The Ingredients of Leadership.

Decency often prevents leaders in crisis from making the worst possible mistake: the cover-up. Decency reminds leaders that, in the end, it’s not what you do that matters most, but what you do about what you did.

Decency is about extending ourselves for the sake of decency. Decency nourishes what is best in our organizations. It’s good on individual, team and organizational levels. Decency promotes a culture that reinforces core values and helps inoculate the organization from misbehavior.

One of the most important topics, issues and challenges in business today is employee engagement.

There exists a fundamental dichotomy between how business leaders and employees define employee engagement. This dichotomy is an extraordinary barrier to achieving the engagement that both manager and employee are seeking. From management perspective they view employee engagement as achieving more productivity in the workday.

The employee’s perspective on engagement is viewed through the prism of their home and community life. They work to live. This is also true in the early years of a manager’s career. But as managers progress into business leaders they redefine most aspects of their life through the prism of getting the job done. The leader who creates engagement understands the home and family orientation of most employees.

The engaging leader listens, is accessible and helps engaged employees better understand how to explain over the supper table how their work relates to their aspirations, family and home life. We know that people who love their jobs have a sense of purpose supported by those they care about. These employees become forces and advocates for the goals they are asked to achieve. They trust. People who trust will follow those they trust to lead them.

The organization whose culture works to overcome the barriers to decency and aligns more and more with The Decency Code is a culture where people want to work.

To read more, check out their book The Decency Code.
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The Ingredients of Decency

Stephen Harrison is Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison, the world’s largest most respected global career management and talent development company. He is the author of The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies.

Jim Lukaszewski known as America’s Crisis Guru® has guided nearly 300 American and international companies through more than 400 reputation redefining crises, over 40 years. Lukaszewski On Crisis Communication, his thirteenth book (2013) is considered by many to be the CEO’s survival guide for reputation risk and crisis management problems.