DEBT: THE IMPACT OF ETHICS ON SUSTAINABILITY Earlier in the Value Injection series we looked at how we operate in systems on a personal level and on an organisational level. Your best focus is on creating systems around you that are virtuous and have a positive trajectory. This means that your actions will be creating long term positive consequences for the systems – personal and organisational. Lela’s job, as a debt trader, might be very different from yours, but there are elements of her day that we can all identify with. She has customers who she would like to sell her product to. Her product is pieces of debt. Her customers are organisations who buy debt. Her manager asked her to sell a piece of a debt to one of her clients that probably wouldn’t be repaid by the borrower. She was told not to inform her client exactly how risky the piece of debt was. Lela has a sense of the long term consequences of selling a very risky piece to her client who trusts her. More than that, she knew she was being asked to act outside of her value system. Her client would accept her word on the risky debt, because her client trusted her, based on their experiences with Lela on previous transactions. They would buy the debt and her manager would be pleased. However, her client would find out eventually that the debt was a bad buy, and that they had been treated unethically. Once they realised the poor service they had received from Lela, the client would not trust her as much. The next time she tried to sell a product, good or bad, her client would feel wary of Lela because of previously having been manipulated into buying a bad debt piece. If your client does not trust you, you will have a harder task moving your product. We know through a bunch of clever peoples’ research (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry) that the way to our client’s heart is by doing these five things: Do what you promised to do Do what you promised to do in the time your client expects you to Give your client a sense of confidence in your authority and ability to do what you promised Be empathetic, taking your client’s point of view into account and show them you care Provide evidence that you did what you said you would These five things are called the Universal Dimensions of Service Process Quality. But what do the Universal Dimensions have to do with success, ethics and sustainability? Positive organisational systems are created by people working smart and with creativity. Successful organisations provide a product or service to their customers and make a profit. An organisational culture focussed on ethical success and sustainability will create the space for you to work smart and with creativity. If Lela dupes her client into buying a bad product, her client will not think she does what she promises. The first time she dupes her client, they will listen to her, believe in her authority and ability to do her job. Then they will realise the deception. The next time she speaks to her client, they will not perceive her to have authority to advise them on purchases. Even though she may be personally empathetic to her client’s needs, they will not believe that she cares for their wellbeing. The evidence of their previous transaction with Lela will be their ownership of bad merchandise that affects them negatively. The product Lela has sold her client will ultimately cost her client money. Lela’s integrity will be tarnished in the eyes of her client. Her promises will mean little going forward. The lack of ethics in the system will not enable Lela to provide her service to the client again. Her role would have been made much more difficult because of an unethical transaction. Lela may not want to work for an institution that contravenes her value system. She may leave the organisation and find another organisation that does not ask her to lie to her clients. Her organisation will then have to find another person to do Lela’s job. A lack of ethics begins to have a financial cost implicit in it. The cost of losing your clients’ long term commitment to your service and product. The cost of hiring a new person to fill Lela’s role. A lack of ethics will begin to systematically eat into the profitability of the organisation. Without a profit, organisations don’t last very long…because you need money to pay your employees and to fund production of your service or product. A lack of ethics in the organisational system will disable the organisation’s success and sustainability. If you have a low turnover of staff and a consistent client-base, there will be more time for you to work smart and be creative. There will be time to improve and grow your organisation and yourself. Ethical companies are likely to practise the Universal Dimensions, and therefore keep their employees and their customers longer. “Long term” and “consequences” are not always the focus when you are trying to get through a busy day. But attending to them means that your life and the life of your organisation are going to grow towards allowing you to attend to things that are important. Not just focusing on things that are urgent. Thinking about “long term” and “consequences” would mean less fire-fighting, and more improvements to how you operate on a daily basis. It would mean less crisis situations, and more planning and execution time. What are my personal values? What are my organisation’s values? What are my client’s values? Do our values all align? What could be done to create alignment between our personal, organisational and service values? If you aren’t sure of the answers to any of these four questions, it is time to seek out the answers. When you know the answers, you can take action to better serve yourself, your organisation and your clients. When you can be dependable, responsive, confident, empathetic and provide tangible evidence of your value to the system, then you can know you’re being fully you, and ever more so. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.