A culture characterized by integrity begins with two key insights: that surroundings have a major impact on the actions of individuals and that it is necessary to understand and handle ethical gray areas. It requires in turn that ethics becomes an issue of leadership rather than a question of obeying rules. This approach is advocated by Guido Palazzo, professor in business ethics at the Lausanne School of Economics, and the person who helped us with a training initiative that began during the year.
The initiative was in two parts: a lecture on culture, peer pressure and other environmental factors, and a card game about ethical dilemmas. By playing the game, participants were asked to discuss difficult situations, such as relationships toward customers and suppliers, conflicts of interest and issues concerning coworkers. By showing that there is rarely one correct answer, we wanted to strengthen the ability of participants to handle various situations. These discussions also helped the participants to feel more comfortable in sharing dilemmas they had faced themselves.
The training initiative began with the Executive Management Team and was then taken to our management conference with 150 of the company’s top managers. About 1,000 managers will have taken part in the project by the beginning of 2017. It will then be incorporated into our ordinary leadership development activities.