Typical advice for ethical business leadership encourages the business owner to serve as a strong example for employees. What also is important is building a working environment in which employees follow that example in all of their actions. It's best if you can get employees involved in selecting the business values they must support. For example, your company might pick a set of core beliefs such as honesty, accountability, fairness, equity, responsibility, trust and integrity.

Emphasize Personal Responsibility

Set an organizational priority on the cultural belief of responsibility. This means employees understand that, in the scope of their jobs, they are responsible for their own actions. They also must understand that their actions on the job affect your company's reputation. You can devote a component of new employee training to your business's ethical values and emphasize the importance of individual responsibility. This concept can be emphasized at staff meetings and through regular employee communication, such as on the lunchroom bulletin board and in all-staff emails.

Align Your Operations

As a business owner, ensure that your operations and goals are aligned with your company's ethical beliefs or values. For example, you wouldn't establish procedures that would require employees to act dishonestly, but you would establish procedures that would encourage them to be honest and accountable. You also can devise methods to check on their performance. You want to ascertain if they are honest in implementing your operating procedures. For example, you can audit reports that employees prepare to see if they are honest in representing their work results.

Teach New Behaviors

Some small businesses need to take drastic steps to change their ethical culture, especially if there have been instances of unethical behavior in the past that have affected their reputation. Their owners need to teach new values and get employees to behave in different ways just to stay in business. Look at instances of employees who have been fired because of their unethical behavior as a starting point. Ask yourself what ethical values they were violating. You can create rules for employee conduct that prohibit these kinds of behaviors. You also can use incentives or reward programs to reward employees whose behavior supports your core business values.

Create a Story

You want to create a shared identity for employees who join your business. If they feel they belong, they will be more likely to behave like other employees who have worked in your company for a long time. Look at the history of your company and create a story based on fact that will teach the behaviors that you think are important for your business. One way to do this is to share a story of yourself as a struggling entrepreneur. Alternatively, you could share the success story of a former or current employee recognized for outstanding contributions to the company. No matter which example you choose, the story should emphasize desired behaviors that are aligned with your business values.