July 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 3 
Leadership Message

Reputation is crucial: It's hard to build up and easy to damage

James Bell
President and CEO

Leadership MessageOne 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 fade.

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 back up.

  • 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 and trust.

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.


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.