Global Sentiment About Taking Responsibility

Ethics is GlobalBy Linda Fisher Thornton

We are beginning to “get the picture” globally that ethical responsibility includes much more than meeting minimum standards and avoiding fines and penalties.  These quotes from recent global surveys reflect the current sentiment about what it means to take responsibility in a global society:

1. Do More Than Meet the Minimum Standards

“91% of global consumers believe that companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly.”

Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, May 2013

2. Use the Highest Integrity and Engage Employees

“Underperforming on high priorities: Engagement and Integrity, Business Importance versus Business Performance in 16 Trust Drivers – Global.”   

Edelman Trust Barmometer 2014 Annual  Global Study

3. Increase Profits and Improve Economic and Social Conditions

“84% believe a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates.”

Edelman Trust Barometer 2014 Annual Global Study

4. Take Care of the Planet and Society

“In a global survey of 30,000 consumers, 72% of people said that business is failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole.”

Accenture and Havas Media quoted in Trendwatching.com report Brand Sacrifice, October 2014

These surveys reflect increasing expectations for business leaders  – the expectations that we take responsibility well beyond managing our own Profits, to also improve life for People, support the success of Communities and protect the Planet. Profits and Corporate Social Responsibility are no longer seen as mutually exclusive ideals. 

Related Stories:

What is Integrity? Beyond “I’ll Know it When I See It”

Full Accountability For Ethics – The New Normal

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

What is Integrity? Beyond “I’ll Know It When I See It”

20140821_143302By Linda Fisher Thornton

During the recent 2014 NeuroLeadership Summit, Jamil Zaki (an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford) talked about an interesting experiment the Stanford Neuroscience Lab did. The team took a large number of Fortune 100 statements of company values and generated a word cloud from them to see which word would appear most often. Which word was it? Integrity was the most frequently used word. This experiment reveals a general agreement that integrity is important, but what exactly does it mean? People may understand it in very different ways.

The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete.[3] In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

Wikipedia, Definition of Integrity

Following this definition, integrity is the alignment of our thoughts, actions and words with our personal values.  The tricky thing about integrity in organizations is that integrity is partly internal (what we think) and partly external (what we say and do).

When we demonstrate integrity, what we think, say and do are all aligned. But aligned with what?

I think that something that many organizations include in the concept of “integrity” is good moral character. People with good character would be morally aware and ethically competent. This leads me to ask some important questions:

Do your leaders know which values you want them to act on when they “Use the highest integrity in all that they do?”

Do they know what those values look like?

Do they know how to honor them while balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders?

Without clarity about the ethical values we should honor in our work, integrity is individually interpreted, based on the personal values of each leader. To help them lead ethically at a high level, though, we need to answer a deeper question  – “Which ethical values should we uphold in what we think, say and do?”

Are your leaders crystal clear about which ethical values are most important to your organization?

If your leaders are all perfectly clear about which high level ethical values to uphold and how to demonstrate them, you are probably incorporating complexity into your leadership development. You are also probably providing leaders with the level of detail about ethical values that they need to navigate through information overload, constant change and demands from multiple stakeholders. If not, you may be rolling the dice by taking an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach to ethics.

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For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

3 Factors That Numb Ethics Efforts (And 3 That Energize Them)

2013-08-06 18.38.33

By Linda Fisher Thornton

To build a strong ethical culture, leaders should take a positive, preventive approach to ethics. That would include communicating clear ethical values and expectations and quickly stopping any unethical behavior. But those things are not enough by themselves. There are cultural factors that either enable our prevention efforts or disable them. Understanding these factors helps us build an ethical culture. Here are three enabling factors (that support proactive ethics) and three numbing factors (that disable our proactive ethics efforts).

Numbing Factors

Numbing factors act as an ethical dampening field, disabling the natural systems that would prevent and identify ethical risks. The presence of any of these factors numbs people to proactive ethics, and makes it harder for people to want to protect the organization’s ethical reputation.

NUMBING FACTORS 

Ethical Incompetence 

Lack of Trust

Fear (Often Generated By Leaders Using Negative Interpersonal Behaviors)

Enabling Factors

Enabling factors act as ethical boosters, fueling the natural systems that prevent  and identify ethical risks. The presence of any of them boosts the organization toward proactive ethics, and makes it easier to prevent ethical problems from happening.

ENABLING FACTORS 

Proactive Values-Based Leadership

Trust-Building (Including Showing Respect and Care)

“Safe Space” to Talk About Ethical Issues

Which Way is Your Organization Headed?

By cultivating enabling factors, you are setting the stage for the team to work together, actively protecting the organization’s ethics. If you have numbing factors within your organization, be aware that the dampening field that they create will reduce the effectiveness of your positive ethics efforts. 

“Ethical culture” is a complex system. To support the health of the system, maximize enabling factors and eliminate numbing factors.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

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For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Focusing on Profits? Watch Out For the “Blinder” Effect

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We need money to exchange goods and services, pay bills and grow our businesses. So what’s the problem with it? The problem is that profitability cannot become our defining business goal, and it cannot replace values as the central beacon of our decision-making.

Money has no inherent moral grounding. 

Since it has no inherent moral grounding, we can’t ever let money be the deciding factor in our decision-making. We have to balance the quest for dollars with strong ethical values.  It is this moral grounding that ensures that we will consider how our decisions benefit or harm others. Making profitability a singular goal leaves an organization stuck in self-serving mode.

In self-serving mode, anything that brings in dollars looks good.

A focus on money alone causes leaders to plod on, as if wearing blinders, ignoring unintended consequences and harm.

We can’t put money where morality should be.

Have you ever lived in a house constructed by a builder who saved fifty cents by using a cheaper part, and that “savings” interfered with your enjoyment of your home or cost you major repair problems? How do you feel about food companies that choose the cheapest ingredients without regard to the health impact of the products they sell? The self-serving pursuit of profit doesn’t work in today’s world. People expect much more.

Ethical leaders care for constituents (not just profits). 

Money lacks inherent meaning and ethical values. It is just a token of exchange. It is our responsibility to add the ethical values.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

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For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

5 Ways to Talk About Ethics (Without Being “Blah Blah Boring”)

20140822_085358

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We owe it to our employees to make ethics real. People learning ethics are often given “blah blah boring” material (and then expected to remember and apply it). I believe that this is not just a mistake, it’s a crime! Why? Because ethics is anything but boring. Ethics is really interesting stuff when you dive into its complexities.

Today I’m sharing 5 ways to talk about ethics without being “blah blah boring.” Feel free to use these as conversation starters with your teams, and let me know if they make your conversations more meaningful.

1. Ethics is human

Ethics is inherently human. It focuses on how broadly we consider our impact on others and honor their well-being. And “others” doesn’t just include our coworkers and customers. We have an ethical responsibility to many “others, ” even some who we may never meet.

How can we bring ethics to life in our conversations as a human responsibility – a responsibility to do good and avoid harm for an ever-broadening array of “others?”

2. Ethics is positive

Ethics is not just laws, regulations or ethics codes. Those are simply safety nets to keep us on the positive (and legal) side of ethics. Ethics is really about high level positive values like respect and care, service and sustainability.

How can we stop fixating on the safety nets, and start talking more about the positive values?

3. Ethics is multidimensional

There are hundreds of different terms used to describe ethics, and many angles from which to approach it. There’s personal ethics (integrity and character), interpersonal ethics (respect and care), environmental ethics (respect for life and sustainability) and societal ethics (supporting communities and the greater good). Add professional ethics (codes for each profession) and organizational ethical culture to the mix too.

How can we talk about the dimensions of what really matters in ethics instead of giving people oversimplified statements like “always do the right thing?”

4. Ethics is a system

Not only is ethics multidimensional, it’s also systemic. Building an ethical culture requires the alignment of many different aspects of ethics including expectations, communication and full accountability.

How can we help our leaders learn how to build an ethical high-trust culture where people can do their best work?

5. Ethics is a learning journey

Not only are we all human, striving to meet increasing ethics expectations as part of an organizational system, we’re also at different stages in our ethical development. We’re all learning. The very human challenges are for us to learn fast enough to keep up, and to aim high enough to act on values.

How can we bring ethics to life by talking about it as an ongoing learning journey toward positive values, rather than as a training event, a problem or a set of rules?

Boring ethics content will not get your organization where it needs to go. It may put people to sleep, or cause them to “check out” in future ethics conversations. Don’t settle for weak, oversimplified or vague messages as the scaffolding for your organization’s ethics. People need clear messages that are relevant and that help them deal with complexity. There’s too much at stake to rely on “blah blah boring.”

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Trust-Building Requires Trust-Giving

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Good leaders intentionally build trust. They build it through everyday words and actions. They build it by demonstrating that they can be trusted. They also build it when they extend trust to others. Some leaders wait for people to prove themselves before they trust them, but trust is reciprocal.

 Trust-building requires trust-giving. 

Are you reaching out? Or are you waiting for your employees to have a “perfect” record before trusting them? Today I am sharing a fictional letter from an employee who doesn’t feel trusted by her manager. As you read this “Dear Manager” letter, see if you can empathize with the employee who doesn’t feel that she is being trusted enough.

Dear Manager Letter

We are the beacons of trust in our organizations. If we want to create productive high-trust workplaces, we must start with ourselves, remembering that what we do, others will follow. The longer we wait to trust, the longer we’ll have to wait to be trusted in return.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics)

20140828_072156

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why is it so difficult to agree on the right thing to do? One of the reasons we may not agree is that each of us may be using a different definition of what is “good.” Here are 7 different interpretations of what is ethically good, based on the framework in 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (2013). Which ones are you using in your leadership?

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

1 – Profit

Using the Profit Lens, we see what is “Good” in a money sense. Good means what is good for economic growth, good for income growth, and good for organizational growth.

2 – Law

Using the Law Lens, we see what is “Good” in a legal sense. Good means following all laws and regulations.

3 – Character

Using the Character Lens, we see what is “Good” in a morally grounded sense. Good means demonstrating character and integrity, and showing a high degree of moral awareness.

4 – People

Using the People Lens, we see what is “Good” for people’s well-being. Good means supporting people’s success and bringing out their best.

5 – Communities

Using the Communities Lens, we see what is “Good” for the health and well-being of communities. Good is what supports thriving families and provides needed community services.

6 – Planet

Using the Planet Lens, we see what is “Good” for the planet and nature. Good means protecting plants, wildlife and natural lands, and treating the planet and ecosystems that we depend on for our lives with care.

7 – Greater Good

Using the Greater Good Lens, we see what is “Good” in the broadest sense, at the highest level, for the longest-term. Good is what creates a peaceful, global society where people can thrive.

Which of these 7 Lenses do you use in your daily leadership? Hint: They’re all important for intentional ethical leadership.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey). This practical guide to the future of ethical leadership takes us well beyond the triple bottom line to 7 different perspectives on ethical leadership, and provides 14 Guiding Principles that help us honor them all in daily leadership.

21 Question Assessment Based on the 7 Lenses™ Framework: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Full Accountability For Ethics: The New Normal

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Recently, I blogged about trends in ethical leadership, sharing 10 forces that are fueling a movement toward higher expectations for values-based leadership. Today I want to explore how those trends help explain what we are seeing in ethics events in the news.  Recent headlines have described more severe sanctions than people have seen in the past, in response to ethical problems in sports, politics, business and beyond. Some people may have wondered, “Why are people now being convicted for doing the same things that others before them have done?”

HFull-accountability-forolding people accountable for ethical problems that were previously overlooked may appear on the surface to be inconsistent and unfair. But when you take a closer look at the trends, you will discover an important reason why people are more frequently being held fully accountable. It is because ethical expectations are increasing and expanding.

What does all of this mean? While everyone is still catching up with increased regulation and recent changes in ethics expectations: 

There will continue to be a predictable increase in the enforcement of ethics standards across industries. 

It is definitely time to move out of a “what worked before will work again” mindset and into a mindset of full accountability and increasing expectations.

Mindset of the Outdated Leader: “What Worked Before Will Work Again”

  • You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.  We’ll both be better off.
  • This is the way we’ve always done it and we’ve never been cited for it.
  • We go over the ethics codes once a year. That’s enough. 

Mindset of the Ethical Leader: “Full Accountability and Increasing Expectations” 

  • Everyone is fully accountable for ethics, and favors are not “ethics-free.”
  • Ethical violations that may have been overlooked in the past are being enforced vigorously now. 
  • Dealing with increasing expectations for ethics now requires intentional effort, ongoing learning and frequent conversation.

You will be hearing more about this trend toward full accountability for ethics. It’s not just a phase. It is becoming the new normal.

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see the new guide book to ethical leadership future called 7 Lenses and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Leading For Ethics Future? (Or Ethics Past?)

Ethical Leadership FutureBy Linda Fisher Thornton

We are expected to make ethical decisions in a rapidly changing global society, where there is increasing awareness of what “ethical” means. The question of where ethics is headed has been the focus of my research over the last four years.

I have learned that to be considered ethical, we must consider more constituents, honor more dimensions of ethics, and lead ethically through higher levels of complexity. How do we prepare for that? We reach higher and think longer-term.

Aim Higher and Farther Ahead

Strategies that may have worked in ethics five years ago will not help us now. To succeed, we need to broaden our worldview and expand the scope of what we consider to be “ethical territory.”  

We need to aim higher than legal requirements, in the direction that ethical expectations are moving, so that we can avoid falling behind. 

To keep up with rapid change, we need to aim higher and farther ahead.

When we aim higher, we reach for ethics of care, respect and inclusion, sustainable business and corporate social responsibility.

It is easiest to stick to “what has always worked,” but organizations that are doing well in ethics are intentionally adapting to the future as it unfolds. They are staying ethically competent through a commitment to continual (individual and organizational) learning.

Learn Faster Than the Pace of Change

We aren’t going to stay on top of changes in ethical expectations by just doing what we’ve always done. Keeping up requires constant vigilance.

Some people are still leading using the ethics of yesteryear. And that has consequences.

We can discuss and learn from the many ethical issues in the news. We can put preventive measures in place to be sure the mistakes of others don’t happen in our organizations. But we will need more than just negative examples to succeed.

The scope of what is considered “ethical territory” is broadening, so we need to advance our ethical competence faster than the pace of change. Let me repeat that – faster than the pace of change. 

We can never stop learning. We may become unethical just by doing “what we’ve always done” as the world changes.

When we stop learning, we may quickly become unethical by not changing as the world changes around us. Are we just working on our individual ethics (moral awareness, character and integrity), but not paying attention to interpersonal and societal ethics (respect, inclusion and care, service in communities, sustainability and the greater good)? Ethics is not a simple one-dimensional challenge, so to be ethically competent, we must stretch and learn every day.  

Successful ethical leaders are proactive about ethics and adapt to changing ethical expectations. They aim for ethics future, not ethics past.

Want to learn more?

Please join me, @leadingincontxt, as I guest host the #LeadWithGiants Tweetchat with @DanVForbes on Monday, September 8th at 7:00 pm EDT on the topic of Ethical Leadership.

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for more articles that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™ 

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For more, see the new guide book to ethical leadership future called 7 Lenses and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

“Hearing” All Stakeholders (Even When They’re Not in the Room)?

Silent Stakeholders

By Linda Fisher Thornton

A quiet group of stakeholders is being considered in leadership conversations. They can’t weigh in on major decisions, but they have a lot at stake in the decisions that get made. They are silent stakeholders, and the decisions we make in our meetings every day affects them directly.

These silent stakeholders include consumers who expect to have their interests and their safety protected. They are current and future employees who want to work for ethical companies that care.  They are communities and ecosystems that need protecting to ensure our healthy and successful future. Are we considering their needs when they aren’t in the room? Are we hearing them?

Ethical leadership includes proactively doing good and preventing harm. Our responsibility to do that extends to silent stakeholders – people who can’t speak up in protest when we’re about to make a bad decision that affects them.

Business leaders are increasingly expected to demonstrate care for stakeholders who are not in the room. 

With so many ethical scandals in the news, consumers have become quite aware of risks. They are more actively protecting their interests, even though they are not invited into the closed meetings where decisions that affect their health and safety are made.

Considering Our Impact on Silent Stakeholders

Leaders who think long-term and seek to minimize harm broadly consider all stakeholders, including those who are not in the room.

At our best, we demonstrate care for all constituents, all the way up and down the line.

As you consider these questions, keep in mind that ethical leaders recognize and honor their responsibilities to all constituents, including those who are not in the room.

  • What will be the effect of this decision on the end user?
  • What will be the long-term impact of this decision on the environment, communities and ecosystems?
  • How will those who cannot speak for themselves (but need our care) be affected by this decision?

 

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For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Using Negative Examples to Teach Ethics? Why It’s Not Enough.

20140707_200217By Linda Fisher Thornton

How many times have we tried to teach people about ethics by explaining every detail of what it doesn’t look like? We describe laws and regulations and ethics guidelines in great detail, then ask attendees if there are any questions. After learning in great detail how to stay out of trouble, the thought on their minds may just be “Okay, now I know what NOT to do.”

We can’t teach ethics by giving people negative examples.

Just as we don’t learn how to drive a car by only hearing about accidents, we don’t learn ethical behavior by hearing about the times someone didn’t use it. It should be obvious to us, but the lure of focusing on complying on laws and regulations is strong. Those laws and regulations, though, are only designed to prevent the “what not to do” examples we hear about in the news. So “teaching” them is only teaching people how to avoid punishment.

The trap in teaching people how to avoid punishment is that it doesn’t build an ethical culture. An organization can have everyone comply with laws and regulations, and still be unethical. Why? Because ethics is about leading with positive values, not just preventing ethical failures. If we focus people’s attention primarily on the shadow side of ethics (unethical choices) we are missing the point entirely.

Ethics is about leading with positive values, not just preventing ethical failures.

Values Build Ethical Cultures

Positive values like respect, care, transparency, sustainability and service help build ethical cultures. Teaching people what they look like, and how to work together using them helps build trust and improve ethics.

“In an ideal workplace, structures and relationships will work together around core values that transcend self-interest.”

Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture, SHRM Foundation

We need to keep the focus on what we want people to do, not just what we don’t want them to do. We need to clear up ethical grey areas with positive values.

Take a moment to think about how often you talk about compliance and how often you talk about values. Be sure you talk about positive values at least as often as you talk about compliance. Values represent a higher level of ethics than laws do, so ask for the level of ethics you want.

 

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO

When-we-intentionally

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There have been many stories about unethical CEOs in the news, but not as many about the good ones. That’s a shame, because the ethical CEO is a positive powerhouse – devoted to serving employees, customers, and communities. I thought it would be helpful to describe some of the critical functions of the ethical CEO that enable organizational success. Intentionally investing in these roles creates the kind of workplaces that attract top employees and devoted customers. 

Critical Roles of the (Ethical) CEO

Ethical Leadership Role Model

High Level Trust-Builder

Champion For Ethical Values

Ethical Prevention Advocate

Highest Leader Accountable For Ethics

Accountability Consistency Monitor

Ethics Dialogue Leader

Ethical Decision-Making Coach

Ethical Culture Builder

There are many other things that CEOs do besides the roles listed here, but these are particularly important for creating ethical high-trust cultures. The ethical CEO knows these roles should never be ignored when other pressures loom. The reason? Investing in these roles every day (while doing other things) greatly reduces the need for handling crises later.

Ethical CEOs know that ethical prevention, open dialogue and intentional trust-building are keys that unlock great organizational performance. Besides that, it’s much easier to help leaders wrestle with ethical problems in real-time than it is to clean up messes when there is a visible ethical mistake.

Don’t leave organizational ethics to chance.  Ethical cultures need these roles, and the best ethical CEOs tackle them earnestly. Are these roles included in the CEO’s job description in your organization?

 

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

5 Reasons Ethical Culture Doesn’t Just Happen

EthCultureBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Don’t assume that an ethical culture will just happen in your workplace. Even if you are a good leader, ethical culture is a delicate thing, requiring intentional positive leadership and daily tending. It requires more than good leadership, more than trust building, and more than good hiring.

Why does building an ethical culture require so much more than good leadership? Ethical culture is a system of systems, and just putting in good leadership, trust-building and good hiring doesn’t make it healthy.

Managing people systems requires that we pay just as much attention to what we “take out” as what we “put in.”

Just dealing with obvious ethics lapses won’t ensure that they don’t happen again, and fixing them won’t build an ethical culture. Building an ethical culture requires that we both “put in” ethical values and “take out” negative behaviors that erode trust. Culture is subtle, and we must be just as careful with “unspoken rules” as we are with “corporate messages.” 

Here are 5 reasons why ethical culture doesn’t just happen, followed by a 10 minute podcast with proactive strategies for building an ethical culture.

5 Reasons Ethical Culture Doesn’t Just Happen 

1. Ethical culture is a human performance system that must align across multiple functions.

2. Ethical culture depends on consistent messages about ethics across the organization and a safe space to talk about grey areas not covered by corporate values and ethics codes.

3. Ethical culture requires zero tolerance for abusing situations for personal gain, and quick correction of behaviors that fall outside of expected values and behavior.

4. Ethical culture requires trust, and must be built on a high foundation of positive values (respect, care, sustainability), not on a low foundation of compliance with laws.

5. Ethical culture requires that every member of every team be held accountable for living out ethical decision-making and ethical behavior. No exceptions.

I was recently interviewed on Federal News Radio “In Depth With Francis Rose” about strategies for developing an ethical culture.  Key points raised in that conversation are important for all leaders. For more detail about ethical culture building, listen to the full 10 minute interview.

There’s another important variable that makes building an ethical culture tricky – it requires a learning mindset. Making ethical choices in a global society requires high level thinking, and we must approach it as a long-term learning process. We must avoid the easy temptation to look for a quick fix, because linear problem-solving never fixes a broken system.

522For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LL

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership

Toxic Culture 2By Linda Fisher Thornton

A reader commented on the post Can A Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No  requesting more information about the organizational side-effects of toxic leadership. If you have ever worked for a toxic leader (myself included) you have already experienced the powerful negative side effects first-hand.

When people are treated as “less than human,” “less than capable” or as “pawns in a game” some extremely negative things happen in the organization that derail its success. Attempts to control what people do and say makes them feel inadequate and unappreciated. Withholding information to preserve power creates an environment of suspicion. 

The effects of these behaviors over time is numbing. The downward effect on morale and productivity is easily visible in the fear, frustration and uncertainty on people’s faces. 

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership on Organizational Culture

  1. Low productivity

  2. Low morale

  3. Rampant fear

  4. High stress

  5. Decreased learning

  6. Employees becoming detached and insulated to protect themselves

  7. Detached employees help each other less and don’t communicate as proactively

  8. Lack of proactive communication and teamwork leads to diminished company reputation

  9. Employees fail to find meaning in their work

  10. People dread what each day may bring

  11. Trust in each other and in the organization is lost

  12. People leave, generating high turnover

  13. The ripple effect from #1-12 above leads to deteriorating organizational results

Toxic leadership is unethical. It harms people, groups and organizations. The side effects are crippling. We must carefully prevent this kind of un-leadership from happening in our organizations.

To learn more, see Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No . You may also enjoy Marla Gottschalk’s article Managers Beware: What Toxic “Jane” or “Joe” Can Do To Your Team.

 

522For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

Is Your Leadership Net Positive?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Generating an intentional positive ethical impact is the successful ethical leadership of the future, and it’s already here. The Forum For the Future describes it as net positive leadership – making a positive contribution to society and leaving things better than we found them. This commitment represents a higher level of ethical leadership than just preventing harm – we are preventing harm and adding value.

“The ambition of business has to change. From doing less harm to becoming net positive.”

Net Positive: A new way of doing business, A Report by the Forum For the Future, World Wildlife Fund and The Climate Group.

The net positive leadership concept is a natural extension of our changing awareness of the purpose of leadership. In the recently published book 7 Lenses, I describe how our understanding of the purpose of leadership has evolved over time from transactions to service and more recently to the greater good.

Fully-honoring-the (1)

In The Guardian article “Can a business really be net positive, and if so, how do we judge success?” Oliver Balch writes that “Any movement needs its champions, and net positive boasts a coterie of early cheerleaders, including Kingfisher and IkeaCoca-ColaRio Tintoand BT (on carbon).” As business leaders embrace the net positive movement, Oliver explains, they may discover that it is difficult to tackle becoming net positive in every aspect of the business at once – leaders in the net positive movement start with one area that is pivotal to their brand. 

There is the danger that some companies will promote their net positive progress in one area of the business while causing harm in other areas. As explained by Steve Downing in “How net positive could turn out to be net negative” “practitioners of net positive should confront the negatives in their policies and make them part of their story.” 

An ethics award and an ethics violation don’t net out to equal good ethics. One area of positive impact and one area of harm do not add up to net positive business.

“Net Positive” gives us new terminology for understanding the positive impact of our leadership. While it will be challenging to implement, it provides us with a stretch goal that will make our leadership more impactful. 

There is a very human side to the net positive equation that includes enhancing people’s lives and helping them grow. Take a moment to think about your daily leadership. Would the people and groups you lead describe it as “Net Positive?”

 

522 For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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