When I was a mentor for a company in the Portland Metropolitan area, they had a bit of a reputation with the IRS, but not the kind you might expect. They got on the IRS’s radar not because they had shady business practices, but rather they told the agency they had made an error that inadvertently saved them a bundle of tax dollars.

This company quickly informed the IRS about the mistake and refiled admitting a mistake had been made and paid the underpayment and penalties without the IRS catching the error. This self-regulation, according to the IRS, is not very common. (I’m sure you’re surprised to learn that!)

This had a great impact on this company, but not once was there any discussion by the leadership of maybe letting it slip unnoticed or having the IRS discover it much later past a possible statute of limitations.

Did this have an impact on their bottom line? Sure. My recommendations to the leadership was consistent with their actions. They agreed that the money saved by the error was not really their money to begin with. They chose to do the right thing, and that meant more than than the money.

But in most companies, things are very different.

  1. 82% of people don’t trust their boss to tell them the truth.
  2. 60% of people feel routinely undervalued at work.
  3. 77% of employees feel that the process for determining pay at their company is not transparent. They’re probably appropriately concerned, given that fewer than half of managers use any kind of data when making salary and promotion decisions.
  4. While managers feel like they’re doing a pretty good job of being transparent with their staff, with 80% of managers saying that they’re open with their teams, just 55% of employees agree. Just over half feel like their managers care about them at all.

These are just a few of the frankly alarming statistics about the state of work right now.

And sure, the workplace is more complicated than ever. We’re in a period of unique tension as longstanding issues come to a head, and things are happening at a much faster pace. The problems are, to say the least, complex.

The solution is simple though: do the right thing.

It sounds so simple as to almost seem like a platitude, or a cop-out that doesn’t really mean anything. But it’s actually one of the most powerful concepts you can get behind as a leader.

After all, doing the right thing is what leadership comes down to, at its very heart. All great leaders have the same three core characteristics in common: integrity, heart, and commitment. Doing the right thing simply means acting in line with those three characteristics.

Doing the right thing means:

  1. Acting with integrity, even when it hurts.
  2. Bringing your heart to everything you do, and being “all in”, even when it’s hard.
  3. Following through on your commitments to yourself, your clients, your employees, and your community, no matter what.

And it also happens to be an incredibly effective way to make your organization better.

The business case for doing the right thing:

Doing the right thing is far from just a “nice to have”, it’s actually a much more effective way of doing business.

The highest rated, most effective leaders are those who also routinely do the right thing — for instance, Harvard Business Review has found that integrity is one of the highest rated critical capabilities for leadership. What’s more, doing the right thing inspires much higher levels of engagement with your employees, which in turn increases your sales by up to 20%. And with many companies with a productivity drag of 10% directly tied to bad leadership, this is well worth looking at.

Do the right thing. Everybody wins.

It’s as simple as that: you get better as a leader, your organization does better, your employees are happier and more engaged, and you’re better able to give back. Not sure how to start?

We’d love to help. See how we help leaders and teams do the right thing, no matter what.

And if you’d like to get some in-depth mentorship from Al on this very subject, you’re in luck, because he has a book coming out that dives deep into how to be an ethical leader! Sign up here to get a head’s up on its release date.