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Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution

July 27, 2020

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A Silicon Valley expert shows that companies that do not think seriously about a crucial element of corporate culture—integrity—are destined to fail.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses made tough decisions that earned them goodwill and loyalty from employees and consumers alike, while others made the sort of decisions that they will be explaining away for years. The main difference? Whether those decisions were guided by an established integrity code.

Rob Chesnut, most recently chief ethics officer at Airbnb and author of the new book Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution, calls this “the value in having values,” and he is on a mission to show business leaders how they can leverage their hidden superpower—integrity.

“Most companies think they have integrity, until they get exposed by data, skewered by the press, boycotted by customers, dropped by investors, and protested by their own employees,” explains Chesnut. “They’ll punish and apologize for transgressions but throw up their hands about how to prevent them—even though they can cost a company everything.”

“You can’t outsource integrity. We need business leaders to step up, so I wrote Intentional Integrity to show them how to develop a home-grown, authentic approach that builds brand recognition, strengthens relationships with stakeholders, and ultimately helps their bottom line.”

Corporate ethics have been sorely tested through the COVID-19 pandemic, as Rob notes in an updated chapter on leading with integrity during a crisis.

“Suddenly business leaders had to answer questions on the fly. How to handle layoffs? How to adapt to customer expectations and shifting government requirements? How to transition entire workforces online?” says Chesnut. “The crisis highlighted the importance of having an established culture of integrity. If one of your values is employee safety—that simplifies decisions about whether to prioritize short-term financial gains or employee health.”

Intentional Integrity makes clear that it is never too late to create a culture of integrity, and Chesnut delivers an industry-tested process—the Six Cs—to help leaders tackle ongoing issues like #MeToo, digital privacy, fair labor practices, and sustainability, as well as new ethical challenges, such as:

  • When and how to reopen businesses or return to offices?
  • How to keep employees safe?
  • How to restart relationships with furloughed workers, vendors, and partners?
  • How to manage the unique privacy, data, and HR issues of a work from home world?
  • And, how to support employees who are balancing work, childcare, and health issues?

What qualifies Chesnut to guide us? A former Federal Prosecutor who prosecuted spy Aldrich Ames, he went on to found the Trust and Safety Department for eBay and the integrity training program for Airbnb: two companies with business models dependent on trust that had to invent the rules in the new frontiers of e-commerce and platforms.

Changing a culture and behaviors isn’t easy, but Chesnut shows us that a revolution is possible if leaders are specific and intentional about their aspirations and have a process for doing so.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Chestnut was General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer with Airbnb, Inc. A graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of Virginia, he worked for fourteen years with the U.S. Justice Department as a prosecutor. He joined eBay in 1999 as its third lawyer and founded its Trust and Safety team. He joined Airbnb in 2016, overseeing a team of 125 legal professionals around the world, developing a popular employee program—Integrity Belongs Here—to help drive compliance throughout the company's culture.

 

This giveaway is being brought to you by St. Martin's Press. 

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Editor's Note: Porchlight Book Company has implemented the CDC’s recommendations for workplace cleaning, disinfecting, and social distancing. We continue shipping books even as employees nonessential to that operation have been directed to work from home, but book giveaway shipments may see a lag in shipping time as we prioritize shipping book orders. We do want to keep getting you great books to read during this time, so hang in there! 

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