Mar 27, 2009

Begin from Within: Corporate Integrity Starts with Personal Integrity

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the phrase “corporate integrity” may well get your blood boiling today—especially if you live in the U.S.: Corporate giant AIG, a decades-old institution in not only the American (and international) economy, but also (thanks to business and advertising) in the mind of the American, is being publicly lambasted for the choices it’s made in the wake of its federal financial bailout. The situation is a macrocosmic parallel to the American individual on public welfare whose monthly income checks are designated only for program-approved costs, like milk or diapers. If the individual gets “caught” spending welfare money on anything outside of those program-approved expenses, there are repercussions.

The terms of this “program-approved spending”—and its mismanagement consequences—may not have been so clearly defined for AIG and other corporate recipients of federal bailout money. Just like the financially unstable individual who suddenly wins the lottery, the company is perceived to have continued the spending spree that put them in the red in the first place.

But the backlash goes beyond spending practices. It’s no secret that personal wealth is a high priority for most Americans, as well as others around the globe. And when you factor in the success over the last decade of products that tout prosperity consciousness (such as Australian Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret), there’s really no mystery to the motivating force behind this seeming money-hungry madness.

But the difference between reaping rewards and sowing repercussions is not such a fine line. In fact, most prosperity consciousness programs—be they in audio book, afternoon workshop, weekend retreat or online e-course form—feature a compelling distinction between wealth and greed: generosity. “Giving to get back” is a phrase that can be twisted. Sound business practices call for “giving” to the business in order to generate more growth. But global companies like Starbucks have based their corporate mission statement around giving to not just the business’s bottom line, but its employees, customers, vendors and even the communities with whom they work.

Starbucks’ longtime CEO Howard Schulz has spoken at length about how he applied his personal philosophy of generosity to the mission and vision of the company almost from its inception, learning quickly that focus on the bottom line should remain the bottom of one’s focus for true success—success that’s measured in more than merely dollars. His personal values became his corporate values, and remain the paragon of virtue at his Fortune 500 business—a company that’s yet to ask for a handout in 2009. (By the way, Starbucks is not only a Fortune 500 entity, it’s also currently listed as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work.)

Do you speak your truth all the time, even when no one is listening? Do you do the right thing, measuring the motives behind your choices, even when no one is looking? Integrity is commonly known as the ability to do the right thing even when no one is watching. Watchdogs and whistleblowers aside, getting caught misappropriating (or simply being inappropriate) only goes so far. Living an honest life can get you further than the greatest windfall; that measurement may include, but goes beyond money. Talk about your truisms!

(c) KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009


  1. A very true analogy for today's troubled times. I'm sure that any member of the AIG "bogus bonus gang" pandering to Congress for bailout funds would project themselves as the Virgin Mary for a handout. Yet behind closed doors they take precious funding away from their sinking ship in a callous "every man for themselves" fashion. This is truly the epitome of greed and the proliferation of the "me" value system. AIG has cowered behind the contractual agreement, but that doesn't mean the bonus recipients can't refuse or refund their bonuses. If they lived by a standard of generosity and refused their bonuses, perhaps AIG would not be where they are now. (lest we forget how that insatiable appetite for a quick buck got them there in the first place) Do the right thing: give the money back and salvage some respect! These "leaders" need to set an example and show Wall Street that the Dollar is NOT the bottom line!
    "It's the people, stupid!"

  2. You have some strong opinions on this subject, I can see! Thank you for voicing them here. And feel free to expound on ways you, personally, "do the right thing" in your own business and interpersonal practices. Although "Beyond Talk" does not condone or endorse readers' comments, it most certainly does encourage reciprocity!


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