Ethical leadership. How do we do this at TinQwise?

In early December, we organised an online TinQtable on the theme of ‘ethical leadership’ for our EthiQs customers: Roland Notermans explained to us what ethical leadership is, and Bianca Bernecker of SBM Offshore shared her experience about how to support supervisors in their effort to use it.

How do we put ‘ethical leadership’ into practice at TinQwise? We interviewed our Reinoud van Dommelen, Managing Partner at TinQwise. 

Patricia Handels
Patricia Handels Learning Specialist / Business Developer

Reinoud, I’m going to ask you a few questions on the basis of the three major insights of the TinQtable on ‘Ethical leadership’. But let me ask you some general questions first: what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘integrity’?

"I think of acting with a ‘clear conscience’, showing some consideration for other people’s needs and wishes, and especially giving while taking less. To every individual, however, this means something different, of course."

What would your best friends say if I asked them about your integrity? Why do you think they say what they say?

"I believe people should know me a bit better to see this, but I think my best friends would say I really am a person of integrity. I should think they see that I show much concern for other people and that I pay much attention to them."

So would your friends say you have a clear conscience?

"Yes, they would most probably say I live up to my own standards and values."

Could you give an example?

"That’s not easy. It feels like bragging, and I don’t like that. But look at how we, as a company, put the corona containment measures in place. I believe we do this to the best of our knowledge, by giving everybody the space and means they need. This doesn’t mean that everybody appreciates this or links it to my personal integrity."

Let’s turn to the TinQtable on ‘Ethical leadership’. I have some questions about it: 

Insight 1

  • Most supervisors avoid discussing integrity matters, because they consider it a bit of a challenge, and they do not know how to go about it.

    Compliance or integrity managers could provide support or give them the training they need. 

When did you decide not to discuss an ethical issue (so to look the other way) and why?

"I have to face dilemmas every day, and every day I have to decide whether or not to address this. Everybody weighs their own pros and cons. This also applies to Joost and me as business partners, and we don’t always see eye to eye with each other. There are always multiple interests to consider, and these sometimes conflict. So there are choices to make. I always ask myself: what are the things that will make the difference? Generally, I don’t hesitate to discuss anything whatsoever, but perhaps I’m not always good at it. I’m aware of the importance of creating space for dialogue."

Which matters with respect to compliance and integrity do you have to deal with?

"At any rate, we have the GDPR to take into account. This is a very important subject for us. I’ve been working on it for three years now: making arrangements and laying these down in a policy, protecting data, etc. Improvement is still required, however.

Further, even though we are small, we are not immune to fraud. Another current topic is the question of which resources employees need to be able to work from home. Opinions differ on what people believe they are entitled to and on who is responsible for what."  

Insight 2

  • A leader’s considerations may ethically be very sound, but if these are not communicated explicitly, nobody will know,

    and nobody will experience these as such, let alone use them as an example. 

Who is an example for you in your role as an entrepreneur?

There are many entrepreneurs I learn from. Take Steve Jobs, for instance, or Bill Gates. But did they apply the highest ethical standards? I sometimes wonder if you could achieve what these two have achieved, if you always act in a way that’s ethically appropriate.

It’s true that you can’t always tell from the outside whether someone is guided by ethical principles. Additionally, integrity is something quite complex. What if you have to operate in countries where they have a different perception of bribery?

Would it still be possible to realise objectives while adhering to your ethical choices? This is very difficult, especially in the grey areas.

Where exactly would your position in the grey area be? What would be your choice?

"I’m not the kind of person who wants to get the gold medal in the short term. I would opt for the long term and for doing what is right."  

Insight 3

  • Make sure that doing business responsibly becomes part of your organisation’s DNA.

    Develop your company conscience! Discuss the subject on a regular basis, as well as its importance for the organisation, mention good examples, and organise dialogue.

How would you rate the company conscience of TinQwise on a ten-point scale? Why?

"It’s still too early to give us a high mark. We’ve been working on it a great deal, but we could improve even more by really embracing such subjects as the GDPR and cybersecurity as a joint responsibility. We are aware of the importance of these subjects, but we should be more convinced that everybody should play an active role in this."

Do you think our core values are in our DNA? When was the last time you saw an example of this? What was the added value?

"We formulated our core values several years ago, and we believe in them:

Go for it 

especially if it’s a challenge or different

Be committed

Respect each other and get the best out of each other

Dare to clash

No shine without friction

Continue to learn

for this is your motivation

I would like to see us convert these core values into actual behaviour, and I should like us to have an even keener sense of knowing when this behaviour is needed. Having said this, I notice many examples in daily practice of colleagues who act in conformity with (one of) our core values.

Only last week, I observed that our cooperation should be more efficient in a specific respect, and I proposed a new weekly consultation as a solution. One of my colleagues didn’t see the use of this and didn’t want to go along with it. I admit we clashed on this, but the added value was that it made me think more profoundly about my proposal. Eventually, this gave me the opportunity to add something to the proposed consultation, and now it’s workable and useful to everybody."

Could you mention two things you are going to do in 2021 to improve the company conscience of TinQwise? What will they bring us?

"In 2021, I definitely want us to rediscuss our core values with each other. I don’t want to question them, but I would rather take the next step in translating them into actual behaviour. In 2021, we will also take our actions concerning the GDPR to the next level."  

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