Our household comes to a halt for Wimbledon fortnight as we gorge on tennis and tradition. I can’t believe it is 50 years since Billie Jean King first lifted the women’s singles trophy. She was back in the royal box as if it were her home away from home and was interviewed about her life and philosophy. She has three principles that she shares with everyone:
- Relationships are everything
- Keep learning and learning how to learn
- Be a problem solver.
Doesn’t that sum up what we need to do in life in general and ethics in particular?
Every Code of Conduct talks about how we treat customers, how we treat one another, how we mustn’t harass or bully or disrespect. Some companies have “Trust” as a value, nearly every one has “Integrity”. Our communications teams try to define these concepts and give examples that will have meaning in our diverse communities and drive the desired behaviour in our organisations. How about “Relationships are everything”?
Keep learning and learning how to learn. At every stage of my career, I have made a change that would enable me to keep learning. I left a law firm that thought I was most profitable if I just kept doing the same thing over and over. Nearly every ethics and compliance officer that I meet loves learning. We come together at conferences, we share best practices, we learn about our organizations, about new regulations, about audit practices, about behaviour and culture. We are lucky to be in a profession that can take us in so many directions and where we can never know enough.
Be a problem solver. Ethics is not about ticking boxes or implementing procedures for the sake of having controls to point to. It is not about being busy with busyness. Ethics is about approaching problems with an open mind, understanding the facts and the stakeholders, understanding who will be affected by a particular course of action and how. A friend described his job as a six-dimensional chess board. We are there to help people deal with dilemmas and make better decisions.
Finally, Billie Jean said that at times of crisis, it was the values which her family shared that determined what she did. It always comes back to values.