Malta – In The Heart of an Interconnected World

Malta – In The Heart of an Interconnected World

If an earthquake struck today, could you imagine the devastation? The ground torn asunder and everything we treasure ripped apart. Technology and architecture have evolved to minimise damage and loss of life. And yet we still see city after city, community after community, having buildings destroyed by the immense forces of an earthquake.

The same can be said of our society. We live in strange times. We have seen banks bailed out by people, people who then saw their homes repossessed. We see the vastly wealthy grace the covers of magazines, while a child dies every 15 seconds from lack of access to clean water. We watch corrupt politicians line their own pockets, disregarding the rule of law or even what is humanly right.

Yes, the world is strange. It is a world where the pursuit of profit and personal gain outweighs the implications and consequences of our actions.

We may think these things don’t affect us, but we would be wrong. We live in an interconnected world, whether we are aware of it or not. Just like the effects of an earthquake reverberate around the world, so the ripple effect of events abroad impact our daily lives.

The question is – are we going to keep our head buried in the sand or are we going to do something about it?


The purpose of education is not the acquisition of certificates, but the ability to think and apply knowledge. For this to happen we need an education system equipped with teachers, as well as a methodology that instils a sense of curiosity among our children.

The purpose of education is not the acquisition of certificates, but the ability to think and apply knowledge.

A system in which our children are encouraged to seek experiences that broaden their mindset and outlook. A model that encourages a desire to learn about the world around us, to think through better ways of doing things and eventually the role we can play in shaping it.


The seeking of profits at all costs has justified some terrible business practices – the most recent of which is Volkswagen. Where is trust and integrity? While profit is important, businesses need to be smarter in seeking and adding value. By smarter, I don’t mean more conniving.

The winners of the future will be those who seek financial and social benefit. This isn’t some marketing campaign that says how good a company is because of its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Rather, it’s where the raison d’etre of business is the intrinsic desire and commitment to add value, seeking win-win solutions and whose business positively impact people, society and the environment.

Government and Regulatory Bodies

One of the objectives of governing bodies is to provide the framework of what can and cannot be done. From a business perspective, this framework should be like a well-oiled machine that facilitates good practice and supports efficiencies. The current paradigm, however, is one that creates stumbling blocks (unless you are someone who is part of the fray or has a team of lawyers to navigate the system). With a lack of understanding of the challenges businesses face, regulatory bodies seem to create more hoops for businesses to jump through, eating up time and resources that would be better spent elsewhere.

Systems are only as good as the people behind them.

If, of course, these systems stopped corrupt and unethical practices, they could be condoned. But they don’t. Why? Because systems are only as good as the people behind them.

The Mindset

The ultimate challenge we need to overcome is our mentality as a nation. As part of the developed world, we have become a society of consumers programmed to get a job, buy a house, buy a car. We live out life in a simple cycle: earn this, buy that. This has created a nation of automatons. We wake up in the morning, go to work, do tasks, go home and then sit in front of a box or glued to some ‘social’ device clicking like.

We are outraged when we see atrocities such as the refugee situation. Some react to the senseless deaths, others react to a perceived invasion of foreigners into our land.

But very few think through how, why, and what can we do about it. We are driven by our emotions without engaging our intellect. Why? We have been programmed to believe our actions are of no consequence, numbed into a sense of helplessness. Sounds pretty bleak. And yet, this tiny little island has the greatest potential in being a force for good.

This tiny little island has the greatest potential in being a force for good.

We are a democratic country with a thriving economy and a strong rule of law. We have education and health available to all our people. We have a mere 400,000 souls, smaller than the individual workforces of Wal-Mart, McDonalds and IBM. Surely, we can come together and formulate a better way forward.

The question is, will we step up and surf the wave of change or will we be engulfed by it?

As appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta

Deborah Webster is the Founder of AMANI™, a thought leader in Innovation, Leadership and Impact, and a catalyst for business as a force for good.

Ethics and Economic Performance

Ethics and Economic Performance

Ethics and economic performance are interconnected. To thrive, companies need to ensure the wellbeing and satisfaction of stakeholders. This includes investors, employees, suppliers and customers. Recent times have seen how bad conduct results in negative publicity, poor company image and a drop in share price. Here is the case for ethics in business.

Risk Mitigation

Ethics-related news influences a company’s share price for better or worse by 0.5% to 3%.*

News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts the level of trust and confidence in management, key factors that influence shareholder sentiment. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is also relevant to private companies, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impacts the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer to work at companies where they will be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Creating an environment where employees feel valued further encourages the creation positive customer experiences. However, if employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour, their trust in and loyalty to the company will erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

However, there’s a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices, are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Creating Value

The purpose of business is to focus on producing quality products and services that enable positive financial results for the company. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from the mission and purpose? Ethical business practices are sound business practices.

Financial Health

Beyond regulatory requirements, accurate financial records are key for sound decision-making and long-term success. Financial records provide an overview of return on effort. This is an essential tool for a business to measure the effectiveness of market initiatives.

Sound and timely financial records are essential in determining the trajectory of the business, as well as the means to course correct where and when necessary. They also provide the ability to respond quickly to opportunities that arise, without adding strain or unwarranted risk.

A clear picture on the financial situation of the company ensures there is the cash flow required to fulfill its commitments. This is great news to employees and suppliers.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instill and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices. It is far easier to set off on the right foot than trying to course correct once calamity hits.

When bad news hits delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion. This causes a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. Not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive. That said, genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

As featured in Fresh Business Thinking

  • According to a study by EIRIS
What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

The right people are essential to a company’s success. In our view this is not limited to ‘staff’. Rather, it is the entire ecosystem of value-creating people – founders, teams, mentors, partners and investors. Through our experience, the greatest challenge is not finding the right people. It is finding great companies you want to find great people for. This is what a company needs to attract the right people and create value.


A company needs to present a compelling purpose and proposition. A purpose candidates can relate to and connect with. Companies whose sole objective is to make profit with no sense of meaningful purpose, will attract a particular breed but not top talent. Purpose doesn’t have to be complicated but it has to real. And the company has got to be committed to it in practice.


People want to ensure their own personal values will not be compromised through their work. Hence companies need to ‘walk the talk’. It is pointless and counterproductive to brandish a set of values if this is not reflected in decision-making and day-to-day business practices. For instance, an investment company that espouses high ideals may attract great people. But if in practice its investment decisions are made solely on the level of return, regardless of impact, it will not keep them.


People starts with great leadership. People in positions of power may have the title but they may not necessarily be great leaders. Great leaders understand the value others bring. They also have the ability and desire to bring out the best in people. This includes: providing access to tools and resources required to succeed; a conducive environment where people feel they can contribute, where they feel safe to try, make mistakes, learn and grow; where their experience will help them excel and thrive.

People ultimately need to form a team. The team needs to consist of colleagues that resonate and have a balanced mix of different yet complimentary capabilities to get the job done. An optimised team harnesses people dynamics and fosters collaboration, trust and mutual respect. We call this the FIT – Finding Interconnecting Talent.


High ideals are great but for a company to be successful it needs to deliver. Failure to do so will result in poor financial results and the inability to support the employees. There is no point in hiring people if you hinder them in getting the job done. So get clear on the mission and the deliverables. Moreover ensure you have the willingness and appetite to allow people the latitude they need to deliver.


Companies need to ensure alignment between financial performance, desired behaviours and rewards/recognition. Whilst I would ward off any company from hiring anyone who is interested solely in the financial package, it is important for people to feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Some companies have pay bands, compensation packages linked to a particular rank. Although these may be useful to HR in setting a guideline, but they are often a hindrance to the heads of the business unit who are ultimately held responsible for results. It is far wiser and more effective to view a person in terms of the value they add, adjusting the pay accordingly. So for instance a base (which can fit the bands) with a fair and measurable bonus component. This in effect shifts people away from job titles and focuses them on adding value. Companies also need to ensure the metrics they are using are in alignment with the business’s objectives and principles. Mismatched incentive programmes are a sure way to create conflict, demotivate people and create an atmosphere of resentment.


The company needs to produce or provide products and/or services that add value in terms of financial and social returns. For instance, a financial institution that provides project funding for power, water, telecoms and other infrastructure projects, thus enabling the advancement of society and a sound return. Companies also need to ensure they are mindful of the impact their product or service has along its entire lifespan, from sourcing and production to its use and disposal. Mechanisms needs to be in place to identify, eradicate and avoid negative practices.


Who a company aligns themselves with and how they treat them speaks volumes about them as an organisation and as a group of people. Regardless of an organisation’s success, a level of humility, respect and fairness are essential. Companies that demonstrate arrogance based on their brand, size and supposed standing tend to breed a similar level of arrogance amongst their people. This is not the type of environment people of character opt to work in. Yes they want to work for respected organisations but acting superior is not a great way to earn respect – positive results and a proper manner of doing things are.


The process through which a potential candidate will be taken through is also essential. From interviewing to induction, companies need to ensure the company puts its best foot forward. It also needs to be open and honest about the challenges the company is facing – a reality check if you will.

A process which gets bogged down in HR processes is a sure way to turn off top talent. Talented individuals want to get a handle on the business environment and if they can add value. They need to understand the vision and the task at hand, and will be looking for data points that will enable them to determine if this is the type of company they are best suited for and if they are the right person to take it on.

Companies should ensure they have the ability to understand a candidate’s capabilities as well as their character – what makes them tick. Only in this way will you ensure you have people on board with the right FIT – essential for people to thrive in and add value to your business.

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

Character and Corporate Culture

Character and Corporate Culture

It is not in calm seas that our character and integrity are tested but in times of crisis. It is at these times that mistakes are likely to happen.

When people think of ethics and social responsibility in the corporate context, they perceive it as a simple matter of determining what is right and wrong. Since we do not live in a world where decisions are a matter of black or white but more in shades of grey, steering the right course is not always a clear cut decision. With increased diversity of cultures and nationalities in the workplace, the topic of ethics and social responsibility becomes ever more complex, and one that should be treated with attention and focus.

Every company in hiring executives seeks people with integrity and good moral standards, but how do these translate to the corporate culture?

Every organisation has a value system. But is what the company says it stands for and the value system communicated, aligned with desired behaviours, practices and reward systems? There is little point in having formal policies and procedures that prescribe one mode of behaviour, if people are positively rewarded for achievements where an alternative and ‘non-desirable’ behaviour is applauded in terms of raises, bonuses and promotions.

Sharing the value system of an organisation enables the individuals within it to look within themselves and align their values and subsequent behaviour with that of the organisation, making them stronger people and better corporate citizens. Making this a topic of continual attention in an organisation has a resultant impact on the level of openness, integrity and trust amongst colleagues. Research has shown that in organisations with such systems, people within the organisation are motivated to not only be stronger representatives but better enabled to handle turbulent times such as change or crisis management. Continual attention to ethics in the work place sensitises leaders and staff to how they want to act consistently. And this comes from the top – leaders who lead by example will set the tone for the whole organisation to follow.

Ethics programmes have also been shown to support employee growth and development. A study cited in the Wall Street Journal found a direct correlation between the level of emotional health of an executive and the results of a battery of tests on ethics.

Having ethics as part of the organisation’s agenda better prepares employees to face reality with the resultant effect that they feel more confident and ready to deal with whatever comes their way.

Another benefit is the impact ethics can have on a company’s public image if people perceive those organisations as valuing the manner in which business is conducted more than profit. Recent years have seen greater attention to this factor, with more companies reporting on their social responsibility and analysts making it part of their agenda in their valuation of company stock.

In the meantime, we need to ask ourselves how are we contributing to the sustainability and longevity of the local economy? How are we ensuring that our actions have a positive contribution for the next generation and beyond?

Authenticity and Transparency as the Cornerstone of Business

Authenticity and Transparency as the Cornerstone of Business

Use the words ‘authenticity’ and ‘transparency’ in a business meeting and you may find that an air of boredom sets in as staff steel themselves for, what they believe will be, yet another pep talk which has little to do with them and how they do their job.

So how can you explain the importance of authenticity and transparency and what do these words actually mean when we include them in our business thinking?

For me authenticity is about being yourself whether you are the CEO or the most junior member of staff. You won’t know all the answers so why pretend that you do? Create a culture where it is ok for people to speak up. If you walk around with bravado you will be intimidating others and you will, eventually, trip up. In the end that will cost you money because people will make mistakes as they are too afraid to ask for help.

Look at the way you recruit people. Do you really care about the people you recruit or have you simply decided they need to fit a certain role, act in a certain way and do their job ‘your way or the highway’?

Picking the wrong person will have an impact on your business quite apart from the cost of recruitment. If the interviewees are not encouraged to be authentic about who they really are then how will you know if they will fit? How will you know how to bring out their best and play to their strengths? One of the companies I worked with was particularly strong on this point. Since they recruited internationally, they knew that by offering someone a job they would be moving their family and their life across to the other side of the world. They wanted to be sure that the person would be happy and thrive in their role, as well as considering the needs of the family, because the consequences were far-reaching outside the workplace.

Transparency is an easy thing for companies to write in their mission statements but do they mean it? For me transparency is about being open about who they are as a business. So if they are claiming to be ethical then they need to be open about what they do and how they do it. This could be anything from where they source their material through to the treatment of workers outside of the UK.

The internet used responsibly has meant that there is no hiding place any longer for companies who choose to use sweat shops in the Far East or elsewhere. A smart phone and access to Wi-Fi means images from these places can be on YouTube within seconds of them being taken. How will your customers feel about you then?

A culture where a workforce feels valued will encourage staff to stay and to work with you as well as for you. Customers who feel you will do what you say, and you are who you claim to be, will keep coming back. Authenticity and transparency aren’t just words. They add value too, as long as you mean them.

As featured in Authenticity Rules