Reputation is crucial: It's hard
to build up and easy to damage
President and CEO
of the most valuable assets you can ever have is your reputation. To build
a rock-solid reputation takes time, dedication and a track record of demonstrated
behavior of the values that define you. But unlike a rock, which erodes
over time, a reputation can be significantly damaged by a single act or
behavior inconsistent with your stated values. Several years ago, Boeing’s
reputation for ethical behavior was tarnished by a series of such acts.
Since then, we have been working diligently to repair that damage. So
how are we doing?
Boeing leaders are in constant communication with our stakeholders, and
we receive lots of feedback on how Boeing is viewed by its many constituencies.
The long and the short of what we’re hearing: Boeing gets high marks
for the quality, safety and high-performance of our products; but our
reputation with regard to ethics has suffered over the last several years…and
the road back is a long one.
What it means to us is that our focus on ethics and integrity must never
The recent feedback comes from—among other places—the Paris
Air Show, where a number of senior Boeing leaders met with literally hundreds
of customers, suppliers, reporters and investors; from a series of meetings
my colleagues and I have had with employees; and from the World Headquarters’
Ethics Recommitment event.
The good news is: We do see and hear signs that we’re on our way
- From investors, analysts and Wall Street, who all take a very forward-looking
view of the world, we’re hearing optimism. They consider our ethics
violations old news and see a positive outlook for us as long as we
keep delivering solid and consistent financial performance—with
no big, new surprises on the ethical front.
- From our suppliers, we’re hearing differing types of feedback.
Many of our suppliers confirm that we really do approach the relationship
as a partnership based on trust and integrity—and that we’re
offering the right tools and processes to extend the ethics message
through the supply chain. That’s our goal. But we still find a
few places where we need to work on improving our relationships.
- From our airline customers, we’re hearing that we’re
once again listening carefully to them and that we’re investing
the necessary time and energy to understand them and their needs.
- From our U.S. government and military customers, who say they believe
in the men and women of Boeing, we’re hearing consistent signs
of increasing confidence—some enthusiastic, others on the cautious
side, along the lines of: “You rebuild trust slowly, over time,
but so far so good.”
- Finally, what do employees think about the company’s level
of integrity? To start with, nobody ever thinks of themselves as unethical.
I still hear a certain amount of resentment that “everybody has
been paying for the mistakes of a few.” And yes, we’ve done
a lot of mandatory soul-searching. But as a result, we’ve reshaped
our company culture to encourage open and honest communication and to
increase awareness of the resources we have available to report issues.
We’ve focused on operating within the framework of the Boeing
values and driving long-term, sustainable business success. And we need
to keep pushing on this front.
Running healthy businesses and strengthening our reputation are inseparable,
long-term endeavors. Just as our people are experts at delivering the
best products and services, so, too, are we committing—and recommitting—every
day to operating with the highest integrity and earning the trust of all
our stakeholders. And just as it takes years of diligence and energy to
bring an airplane or a satellite or a defense system to market, so, too,
does it take a long, concerted effort to build or re-build corporate reputation
Our behavior drives our reputation, and our values drive our behavior.
Working for Boeing is our agreement—our own personal commitment—to
act within the Boeing value system and the Code of Conduct built upon
it. Fundamentally, that is what each of us owes to all of our customers,
shareholders, suppliers and fellow employees.