The Wells Fargo scandals have forced consumers to realize that individuals and groups have different ethics to consider, depending on what sphere they belong to. Love it or hate it, in business, the most important factor will always be the bottom line. Business leaders must assuage shareholders and maintain numbers to keep the entire ship afloat. In Wells Fargo’s pursuit of sales goals, ethics ended up walking the plank. In the wake of both scandals, the public has asked, What does integrity look like in the business world? Obviously, day-to-day business isn’t going to look like Peace Corps operations, but that doesn’t mean we should expect our offices to look like a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, right? Right?
Each Wells Fargo scandal has only fed negative stereotypes associated with the sales industry. As the director of sales for ABCD & Company, I’ve been on the other side of the cynicism and preconceived notions. People think they have salespeople pegged as a caricature of a cheap car salesman who cons vulnerable consumers, purely to make money.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a desire to make money– a lot of it! However, it’s important to know that morality and sales can (and must) coexist. I know this because I’ve watched the partners and peers of ABCD & Company prioritize integrity and service in all aspects of life, which leads me to the crux of the matter: Leadership matters disproportionately when it comes to determining a company’s culture.
The first step in preventing a scandal like this is assessing leadership style and developing a priority of maintaining integrity in sales. Moral practices don’t come out of a vacuum, but are a bi-product of a healthy company culture that reflects the character of its leadership. Employees at Wells Fargo witnessed a culture centered around selling as many products as possible. It’s evident that a lack of incentive and discussion of the “how” caused them to reduce their work ethic to lies.
So, despite widespread criticism of former CEO John Stumpf, the problem is not the “eight is great” mindset. As a head of sales, I clearly understand the ambition to overtake the average by a wide margin. However, employees must be equipped with ethically sound, organized, and innovative methods for accomplishing the goals set for them by their leadership. Not only must sales goals be communicated clearly, but there must be adequate training and realistic expectations to steer employees clear of the temptation to cut corners and falsify accomplishments. The price for making a living should not be their integrity. Even when employees are equipped, the business culture must demand accountability from both leaders and workers. Sales progress should be monitored every step of the way by leaders confident in their abilities to motivate and reorganize the available human resources to stabilize their trajectory toward their goal.
Wells Fargo’s scandals are only symptoms of deeply rooted dysfunction. While making retroactive amends is important, Wells Fargo executives compensating the victims of their crimes is only a superficial remedy. The bank needs to address the source. The root of Wells Fargo’s unethical actions was the absence of a culture that empowers employees to reach their goals by providing the communication, infrastructure, and training needed for them to successfully execute pre-set goals. Wells Fargo could overcompensate the people they cheated and fire every senior executive, but will remain unable to emanate trustworthiness to the world until it’s leaders cultivate a culture that grows intra-organizational trust between employees and leaders.
About Durecia Moorer
Durecia Moorer is the managing partner who leads sales, marketing, and strategic development at ABCD & Company in Chevy Chase, Maryland. You can visit her Twitter page @dureciamoorer to see more of her thought leadership or contact her with inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s looking forward to hearing from you!