Although the News of the World phone-hacking scandal came to a head more than one year ago, the story continues to serve as a prime example of what can go wrong when a business’ operations become too far removed from its core values. The incident also sparked debates about internal and external governance, media ethics and corporate responsibility. A lack of oversight and a failure to drill the importance of ethical behavior into every executive, manager and employee contributed to the problems for News Corp. (the owner of News of the World). While the action taken by the newspaper is not justifiable, it is easy to see how a rapidly growing organization can lose sight of business principles if those at the top do not put guidelines at the center of every person’s function.

The issue of media integrity (and more broadly, corporate ethics and responsibility) was brought up recently. Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, addressed the subject in her lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. She said the company was “currently asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so short of its values.”

Consider your own values

Do not think you can be lax on enforcing your own business values by assuming that industry regulations will pick up the slack. To create a corporate culture that is dedicated to preserving its values and operating with integrity, the example has to come from the top. In everything that you and your employees do, and in every decision you make as a team, make sure that you remain true to the company’s driving mission and vision.

Have you created a list of your business’ values? Do you take steps to ensure every member of the company is familiar with and adheres to those rules?

As I explain in The Entrepreneurial Journey, the values you choose to highlight in your business send a message to employees, clients and prospects about what you consider important. It also declares that “This is how we want to spend our time; this is where we want to spend our money.” Think of four to six values that you treat as the highest priorities, such as teamwork, high-quality service and ethics. These should be conditions that you are dedicated to acting upon and laboring to maintain. Whether you are just starting to build your organization or have been running your business for years, identifying your values is worthwhile for ethical and operational purposes.