It would be naïve to suggest that all people and all businesses are honourable in the way they operate, conduct their transactions and communicate their intent. It would be equally remiss to suggest that all customers too are honourable in their dealings with traders, suppliers, businesses and organizations. And, it is no surprise that most of us have experienced horror customer service stories which are far from honouring the customer!
However, with the consumer watch dogs in action, better education and rules, and greater accountability of behaviours, most businesses operate within regulated guidelines that generally protect and support individuals and businesses. In some ways, this does ensure businesses behave honourably thanks to the protective nature of the regulators.
Traits of honour
Let us consider the traits of the honourable person. They are those that are characterized by their value set and their ethical and moral code of behaviours. Typically, they would display the following five characteristics of honesty, integrity, reciprocity, empathy and respect. All of which are displayed with different levels of intensity depending on the circumstances at the time and the different people they are interacting with.
The first and most critical aspect is honesty. Honesty in what is said, promised, acknowledged, and in what is disclosed or discussed.
For example being honest enough to say things such as "I don't know", "I made a mistake", "I am sorry", "We can or can't do this for you", "We are not going to continue doing business with you", "I won't be able to give you the answer you are looking for" is what I am talking about. These words expressed in a timely, respectful and authentic manner demonstrates a willingness to be open to the real issues, not hidden or veiled. Conversely, if these words are expressed but not meant, it signifies the place where communication stops and complication begins.
While most people do not like bad news, they are more resentful of a hidden truth or being kept in the dark. All research today indicates that people want their leaders and those people in positions of influence, to 'tell it like it is' and advise how things will impact on them, rather than disguise things in a way that either confuses, hides or is dishonest. When people are honest, they get closer to true communication.
This leads on to integrity, suggesting people who are honest enough to let others know what is happening, will also have the integrity to look after those in their care - mentally, emotionally and physically - especially if promises or opportunities have been outlined. This means having the ability to support, inform, follow through and guide, so others are less likely to be 'let down' or 'hurt', if circumstances change.
They say 'what comes around, goes around' and an honourable person understands how powerful reciprocity can be. By honouring others from everything to considering what they need and thinking of ways to help them even in a small way, there is a greater likelihood of being honoured in return - without the guise of obligation or expectation.
Reciprocity usually comes naturally and authentically when there is a healthy respect and care for one another. It happens without premeditating the situation.
When people are made to feel valued, they are likely to respond more empathically to others and to the situations they find themselves in.
Take for example a clothing retailer who sells (by no fault of their own), a garment that turns out to be faulty. The customer returns it and asks for a replacement garment. In some instances the retailer refuses to change the garment saying the customer created the problem. The customer gets frustrated, often leaves the store unsatisfied and complains to anyone who will listen. This causes damage to the reputation of the business, and the brand of the product. However, some retailers know that by exchanging the garment on the spot, irrespective of where the fault lies, they are creating ambassadors for their shop and the product. They honour the customer and honour themselves. The cost of the replacement garment is nothing compared to the cost of what a disgruntled customer can do to a brand.
Another way we can look at honourable businesses is how the leaders embrace and respect the contributions their people make. In particular, we can look at charities and foundations that honour people experiencing difficult times. The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Save the Children, Children First Foundation, Very Special Kids, to name a few, are dedicated to honouring people and families in often tragic and cruel circumstances. In Hebrew, there is a saying meaning 'All the honour' (Kol Kavod) and it is these organizations that deserve this honour. Their resilience, tenacity and capacity to give to others and give in a manner that is truly honourable at a basic level, is the most compelling of all.
Closer to home
So what about your business? Is it honourable? Do your staff feel valued and valuable? How do you celebrate and acknowledge their contribution and effort? What distinguishes your business from others in the pack and makes people feel like they want to go to work and make a significant difference? If you can answer those questions, the answer often lies in the quality of relationships and people.
In conclusion, I remember a comment made by a CEO of an organization in the US who stated that a speaker asked an audience at a large conference to put their hands up and show how many people "had dead wood in their organizations...?" Many people put up their hand immediately... to which he asked... "Did you hire them that way?... or Did you make them that way?"
Honourable businesses look after their staff and honour them as much as they honour the customer who pays for the products they sell.
About the author
Ricky Nowak is an executive coach, corporate trainer and co-author of 'The Integrity Factor - Why Reputation Rules in Business and Leadership', available now for $22 from www.rickynowak.com. Alternatively e-mail email@example.com