Giving Voice to Values
Creating a Values-Driven Organization
I previously blogged about what is ethics, business ethics and corporate fraud, the importance of audit committees, a strong corporate governance system and the MBA Oath. The common theme that runs through these blogs is that in order to develop an ethical environment an organization must adopt a values-driven approach to decision making. One of the best books I have read on the subject is Giving Voice to Values by Mary C. Gentile, a Babson College educator and consultant who draws on her business experiences to challenge the conventional notion of business ethics at companies and as taught in business schools. I highly recommend the book to business leaders, those who want to lead any organization in an ethical manner, and colleges and universities that are looking for ways to enhance their coverage of ethics in the curriculum. The values-driven approach nicely compliments The MBA Oath that commits signers to do their best to follow basic standards of behavior and always strive to do the right thing.
Dr. Gentile uses stories about the actions of exemplars to illustrate the kinds of values that enhance ethical behavior. Her goal is to help young people who want to stand up for their values when confronted with pressure imposed by a boss, customers, peers or shareholders to do the opposite. I have found in my own teaching and consulting that students and young employees need a frame of reference to help make ethical decisions when faced with pressures to do otherwise. I emphasize that once you deviate from your values, it's just a small step down the proverbially ethical slippery slope and it becomes very difficult to regain the high ground later on if (and when) you realize your mistake of going along with or sanctioning wrongdoing in the first place.
Gael O'Brien was one of the first to blog about the book on August 15, 2010. (http://theweekinethics.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/the-week-in-ethics-avoiding-crises-by-giving-voice-to-values/). She points out that seeking additional skill development in ethics issues can have a stigma attached to it—an admission of not being ethical enough. Quite true. The question is what to do about it. Dr. Gentile's book provides helpful advice in overcoming one's reluctance to admit they may have a problem being ethical because of their work environment and the lack of ethical leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about the Giving Voice to Values Program at Babson College I recommend you check out their website at: http://www.GivingVoiceToValues.org. Babson will also be hosting a conference on the topic at their Executive Conference Center on June 13-14, 2011.