Nice guys finish better

Published by rudy Date posted on March 30, 2009

Ethical road map for business leaders: Jon Huntsman’s new book Winners Never Cheat (Even in Difficult Times).

Today’s publics are more conscious of how companies, company leaders and employees behave. And those that don’t behave in honest, truthful and socially responsible ways will increasingly risk their performance in vital aspects of operation. Those that conduct themselves well do what’s right. This is all about ethical practice, where corporate board of directors and top management integrate good governance into their organization’s plans after a careful analysis of its various stakeholders — employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, government agencies, advocacy groups, and shareholders, big or small.

Jon Huntsman, in his new book Winners Never Cheat (Even in Difficult Times), presents an ethical road map for business leaders and others based on his own experiences. Huntsman started from scratch and built a world-class business that landed him on Forbes’ list of America’s wealthiest people. He has successfully steered his petrochemical empire worth US$12 billion, guided by a strong moral compass. The book provides an uplifting and a forthright take on basic values that can guide you in every aspect of doing business, particularly in an era of spiraling financial slumps, heightening business challenges and tensions and an increasing number of business scandals. There are many lessons to be learned from Huntsman, but allow me to distill them into eight categories.

1. Vie for business intensely and reasonably without cutting in line. Driving hard bargains can put your integrity on the line by reaching a deal powerfully or ferociously seeking every legitimate advantage. As much as possible, keep away from it. Difficult negotiations, however, must be fair and honest. Honesty and audacity define your character, the foundation of life’s moral choices. If deceitfulness creeps into your system, doubt becomes the trademark of your future dealings or associations. As the author opines, “Bribes and scams may produce temporary advantages, but the practice carries an enormous price tag. It cheapens the way business is done, enriches a few corrupt individuals, and makes a mockery of the rules of play.”

Real winners never sneak to the finish lines by clandestine or compromised routes. Prefer to do your work the old-fashioned way — with talent, hard work, and honesty. Making profits and adhering to these traditional principles may be difficult to mesh, but it is achievable

2. Take risks, assume responsibilities, and be a reliable leader. In discovering leadership, courage — your ability to face danger, assume accountability and be dependable — may be the single most important factor. As a leader — whether of your family, corporation, civic group, or professional organization — always be prepared to stand against the crowd when your moral values are challenged. You must ignore censure and mockery if chasing a right and equitable track. Leadership is supposed to be off-putting.

3. Make the foundation of your life a string of F-words. Family — anchoring your strength and primary motivation in people that you dearly love and care for; faith — putting your confidence in God, country, people and yourself; fortitude — moving with guts and accepting that with guts comes glory; fairness — following the Golden Rule and believing in the Law of Karma; fidelity — developing and nurturing loyalty that will make you gain support; and friendship — bringing care, concern, and openness to others who need them or accepting the same from others when you need them.

4. Cheating and lying are not integral parts of the entrepreneurial spirit and the free market. Competition is. If the wicked nature of cheating and lying doesn’t trouble you a bit, think about this: They eventually lead to failure. As the old chant goes, winners never cheat, and cheaters never win. Truly, moral shortcuts always have a way of catching up.

5. Revenge is unhealthy and unproductive. Learn to move on. Be positive and upbeat around your competition. A “tooth for a tooth mindset can be counterproductive. When you attempt to get even or wage a campaign of nastiness, be aware that it can backfire, and the rebound can be as frequent as the number of vicious acts you have committed. As the saying goes, those who plant spiteful, implacable, and unwarranted seeds will reap what they sow. As Huntsman said, “We tend to become what we degrade. The ultimate payback is your success.”

6. The surest path to success is one where others walk with you. Plants and equipment can be replaced easily; hardworking, loyal employees are as precious as gems. Surround yourself with partners and colleagues who listen to their conscience and speak the truth to the powerful; who deal with customers, partners, employees, and competitors with respect; who return favors and good fortune. Be with people whose mantra could very well be “Graciousness is next to godliness.”

7. Keep your word. Human beings are essentially honest, but if you pack legal heat in your dealings, the other side will do likewise. At that point it becomes negotiation by attorneys. Understand the great legacy of trust and integrity. You will be remembered for truthful disclosures and promises kept. Do business earnestly and diligently, and you will get the best possible outcome. When you offer a handshake, honor it — at all costs. Your word is your greatest asset; honesty is your best virtue. Without it, Cicero believed, “there is no dignity.”

8. Generosity is good for your business. Corporate or individual giving energizes. It enriches one’s heart and soul — and it’s contagious. You must practice and adhere to what you advocate and preach, walk your talk and put your money where your heart is.

Honesty indeed has a new meaning in the extremely competitive environment characterized by the interconnectedness of business elements, interactivity of communication technology, and the increasing number of vigilant customers. You or your company can be held publicly accountable for employment malpractices, be boycotted because of unacceptable behavior, or be under intense social criticism following certain events or revelations that can damage corporate reputation.

A good reputation creates wealth. When strongly developed and consistently managed, it can generate hidden assets or “reputational” capital that can give your company a distinct advantage. It can allow your products and stock offerings to bring in more customers and investors, attract more quality applicants for job openings, generate more loyalty and productivity from your employees, build greater clout with suppliers, reduce risks of crisis, and when a crisis does occur, survival can be managed with lesser financial loss.

But to a public that has raised its expectations of an executive’s or a company’s professional conduct, being good just isn’t good enough. More than public relations posturing or kowtowing to correctness, corporate GMRC — good manners and right conduct — is essential to long-term success. As a corporate leader, you must now contend with a public that is increasingly aware of your obligations to the business community and society at large, and expects a level of fairness, accountability and transparency.

Why do good men lose their integrity? It can be partially answered by saying that the world is a complicated place, that at some point you may not be able to control every facet of your environment, and that as a result, accidents and misbehaviors happen. But you can prevent the erosion of professional and personal integrity from happening if you harness your multiple-intelligences — moral, business and social.

Nice guys don’t necessarily finish last. They may not finish first, but they finish better.–COMMONNESS By Bong R. Osorio, Philippine Star

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