5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders and organizations can get into real trouble if they oversimplify ethics. Some examples of what that might look like include dormant ethics statements (that look good on paper but are not brought to life) and grandiose statements (that are vague and not well understood). 

Here are 5 warning signs to watch for that signal an oversimplified approach to ethics:

5 Warning Signs Of Oversimplified Ethics

1. Ethical values are communicated, but never explained or practiced.

2. Ethics is thought of as a program or a requirement, not a way of thinking and acting.

3. Ethical values and ethical learning are treated as separate from the core mission of the organization,

4. Discussions about ethical grey areas are quickly discouraged.

5. Ethics training and leadership training are separate (which won’t prepare leaders to make ethical decisions in their daily work).

To make the boundaries of ethics clear, we need to explore the borders and grey areas. Trying to make things CLEAR and keeping them SIMPLE are not at all the same.

 

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Hitting the High Notes

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

When I was singing with a local chorus many years ago, I took voice lessons. My teacher had me start by singing scales while she listened. After my voice cracked, I explained that I had trouble “hitting the high notes.” I explained that I was an Alto, not a Soprano and the high notes seemed way out of my reach.

Our Thoughts Drive What We Do

Listening to me try to hit those high notes, she encouraged me to stretch to reach them. But over a period of weeks of practice, my ability to reach them didn’t get much better. Then I learned a valuable lesson about how what we think determines what we do. I had a breakthrough when I realized that the piano keyboard visually has no high or low on it. It goes left to right. I started to think about my voice that way, as singing the notes from left to right instead of up and down.

Upgrading Our Mindset

That change in my thinking greatly expanded my singing range and I was no longer struggling to reach the high notes. I have learned through the years that changing our experience can be as simple as changing the way we perceive it. When our mindset changes, our actions follow.

Upgrading Our Leadership

This lesson also applies to how well we adapt our leadership as the world changes. Are we using the mindset of an ethical leader? Are we modeling full inclusion, or do we treat some types of people better than others? Are we placing a priority on our own development, or have we settled into a comfortable zone where we no longer challenge ourselves to learn and grow? 

We should never settle for a limited range and give up on adapting to change

Identify an area in your leadership where you might not be hitting the high notes, and where changing your mindset could make all the difference. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

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Finding Meaning Requires Growth

By Linda Fisher Thornton

When Nicolae Tanase at ExcellenceReporter.com asked me to submit an entry for his Meaning of Life project, I hesitated. It was a question I had often thought about. But it was a big one, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to tackle it publicly. After thinking it over, I decided that the question was related to my work in human development and leadership, and that a clear answer could be valuable to readers. I agreed to participate and submit an entry.

What is the Meaning of Life?

After pondering the question for a couple of week, I realized that the way we interpret the meaning of life depends on our perspective, our stage of life and our level of human development. The link below takes you to my answer to Nicolae’s question that was published on June 17th. As you read, think about how you would have answered his question. 

Linda Fisher Thornton: The Meaning of Life and Human Development

Questions to Ponder:

1. What makes your life and leadership meaningful and fulfilling?

2. How might your answer change as you go through the different stages of your life?

3. How could your answer impact how you lead others?

 

Follow @leadingincontxt and @7Lenses for insights into leading through complexity without losing sight of ethical values.

 

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How Does Struggle Shape Us as Leaders?

20150502_100843By Linda Fisher Thornton

On the journey to ethical leadership, we all struggle.

We struggle to make ethical choices when there are multiple stakeholders to consider. 

We struggle to balance competing interests, high expectations, information overload and overbooked schedules.

We struggle to be at our best in difficult circumstances.

This struggle is often seen as negative – something that pulls us down and keeps us from succeeding. But what if we looked at it another way? Isn’t the struggle, this personal growth journey, this quest to achieve when the odds are against us, the same thing that enables our success?

If we see the struggle as a brick wall that we can’t get past, though, it stops us. Rejected 10 times? It’s not going to work out. Group experiencing chaos during a big change? We must be failing as a leader.

If we see the struggle as a natural part of the journey, it fuels us. Rejected 10 times? We’re that much closer to a “yes.” Our group in chaos during a big change? We’re on the verge of progress. 

In Marcia Reynold’s book The Discomfort Zone, she points out that “the discomfort zone is the moment of uncertainty when people are most open to learning.” Reynolds acknowledges that this is a vulnerable state to be in, but points out that “when you’re vulnerable, that’s when radical growth happens.”

We choose our response to the struggle. If we choose a GROWTH mindset, we see struggle as a natural part of our leadership journey. The growth mindset most closely matches the difficult long-term process of human growth that is a critical part of good leadership.

While it may feel like climbing straight up a steep cliff, growth is necessary for good leadership. 

How does this struggle shape us? It helps us develop the capacity to handle increasingly difficult challenges. It helps us stay open to new possibilities. It helps us become the best possible version of ourselves.

Choose to take on this journey, the struggle for growth that helps us become authentic leaders.

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With Ethics PREVENTION is the Cure

20150118_150650By Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you heard the expression “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep will help us prevent health problems. In the quest for good health, preventive habits make all the difference. It is generally easier for us to establish healthy habits than to correct persistent health problems once they start. 

There is an important parallel we can draw between human health and organizational health – prevention is also the best way to approach ethics in our organizations.

An organization with a PREVENTION mindset will take the time to clarify, discuss, engage, enable, support and measure ethical culture. Leaders will accept responsibility and be recognized and rewarded for positive ethics as well as other measures of success. If leaders achieve results using less than stellar ethics, they are mentored and coached to change, and if they can’t change, they are asked to leave. This pattern leads to “culture improvement,” and encourages others to uphold the highest ethics throughout the organization.

Organizations with a PREVENTION mindset are setting leaders up to succeed in an ethical sense and reducing the chances of having ethical problems.

An organization with a CURE mindset on the other hand will not take the time to clarify, discuss, engage, enable, support and measure ethical culture. It will assume that everything is “just fine” and deal with problems as they happen. If leaders use less than stellar ethics to achieve results, they may still get lucrative rewards. This pattern leads to “culture slide,” a disastrous shift in the ethical culture that encourages employees throughout the organization to violate ethical principles in order to earn lucrative promotions, pay increases, bonuses and other rewards.

Organizations with a CURE mindset are addressing problems after they have already eroded ethics and become difficult to eradicate.

While it is tempting to put off important prevention work because it takes time, how much time would we spend cleaning up an ethical mess that leads to penalties and fines and hits the news headlines? That brings to mind another old saying – “We reap what we sow.” If we want to be an ethical organization, only prevention (a positive commitment to ethical values) is a reliable cure.

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40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Last week I blogged about 40 Ethical Culture Gaps to Avoid. This week, I’m sharing a ‘What To Do” list of 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture. This list includes many ways to incorporate ethical values into daily organizational leadership. 

Each one of these 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture can improve an organization. Leaders paying attention to all of these factors will reap rewards that include improved employee engagement, better financial performance, increased productivity and job satisfaction, improved competitive position and more.

Use this “ethical to do list” to assess your culture. Put a check mark beside the positive ethical actions that you have observed in your organization. Any that you leave unchecked are opportunities for improvement.

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture

  1. ___Avoid Harm To a Wide Variety of Constituents
  2. ___Balance Ethics With Profitability and Results
  3. ___Carefully Build and Protect Trust
  4. ___Choose the Ethical Path, Even if Competitors Aren’t
  5. ___Clarify What “Ethical” Means in the Organization
  6. ___Clear Code of Ethics
  7. ___Clear Messages About Ethics and Values
  8. ___Commitment to Protecting the Planet
  9. ___Consistently Demonstrate Care and Respect for People
  10. ___Decision-Making Carefully Incorporates Ethics
  11. ___Develop Leaders in How To Implement Proactive Ethical Leadership
  12. ___Do Business Sustainably
  13. ___Enforce Ethical Expectations
  14. ___Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility
  15. ___Engaging and Relevant Ethics Training and Messages (Not The Same Old Boring Stuff)
  16. ___Ethical Actions Match Ethical Marketing
  17. ___Frequent Conversations About Ethics (That Honor Work Complexity)
  18. ___Full Accountability for Ethics At Every Level Including the C-Suite
  19. ___High Degree of Transparency
  20. ___Leaders Aware of Increasing Ethical Expectations
  21. ___Leaders Stay Competent as Times Change
  22. ___Open Leadership Communication and Invitation to Participate in Decisions
  23. ___Open, Supportive Leadership
  24. ___Performance Guidelines and Boundaries For Behavior
  25. ___Performance System Fully Integrated With Ethical Expectations
  26. ___Positive Ethical Role Models
  27. ___Recognize and Praise Ethical Actions
  28. ___Recognize and Punish Unethical Actions
  29. ___Safe Space to Discuss Ethical Grey Areas
  30. ___Set Ethical Boundaries
  31. ___Strong Commitment to Improving Leadership and Culture
  32. ___Take Broad Responsibility For Actions
  33. ___Think Long Term About Our Impact
  34. ___Treat Ethics as an Ongoing Priority
  35. ___Treat People With Care
  36. ___Use the Precautionary Principle
  37. ___Use Systems Thinking to See the Big Picture
  38. ___Values Mindset (Not A Compliance Mindset)
  39. ___Welcome and Act on Feedback From Constituents
  40. ___Willing to Do What it Takes to Become an Ethical Organization

When ethical culture is carefully tended, we are poised to meet the increasing expectations of our many stakeholders. Use this checklist of 40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture to identify your organization’s current strengths and opportunities for improvement.

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It’s All About The Trust

Trust is pivotal because it is the basis of every human relationship, every transaction, and every market.”

Dennis Nally, The Trust Agenda, Strategy & Business, PwC Strategy& Inc. Summer 2014

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Monday I received the wonderful news that I was in the Trust Across America-Trust Around the World 2015 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trust. I consider this a great honor because trust is critical to successful business. Trust improves communication, culture, performance, engagement and results.

Today I’m sharing some inspiring quotes from recent trust reports about why “it’s all about the trust” – why trust has such broad importance and impact in work relationships and organizations:

“Gaining trust from society at large also requires understanding what value means to a wider range of stakeholders than many companies are used to—including not just shareholders, but customers, employees, local community members, government officials, and others.”

Dennis Nally, The Trust Agenda, Strategy & Business, PwC Strategy& Inc. Summer 2014

 “Well-being promotes the greater business good and what’s good for the individual is good for the organization and its customers. Because of this, an organization needs to think about the work experience from their employees’ point of view and consider whether policies, structures and workplace culture are adding to their well-being or detracting from it.”

Justin Heifitz, Gallup Business Journal, December 15, 2014

 

“80 percent of respondents said that they chose to buy a particular product or servicebecause they trusted the company behind it. Sixty-three percent said they refused to purchase a product or service because they distrusted a particular company.”

Edelman Trust Barometer 2015, Executive Summary

 

“By focusing on building trust, companies can develop a compelling identity, one that sets them apart from competitors—assuming that they have the intent to deliver and the capabilities to do so.”

Dennis Nally, The Trust Agenda, Strategy & Business, PwC Strategy& Inc. Summer 2014

 

“For their part, senior leaders need to invest in systems, rewards, and habits that make it easy for managers faced with complexity and constant change to make solid commitments, connect the dots with other groups, and remember their promises. This is how thriving businesses create an upward spiral of trust and strong results.”

Elizabeth Doty, Does Your Company Keep Its Promises? strategy+business, July 18, 2014

In every dimensions of success, from employee engagement to stakeholder confidence to customer retention, building successful organizations really is all about the trust.

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7 Lenses (Foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) is a practical roadmap for learning the kind of proactive ethical leadership that builds lasting trust.

 
7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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12 Gifts of Leadership (Will You Give Them This Year?)

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

How do we lead when we want to bring out the best in people? These 12 Gifts of Leadership are on the wish lists of employees around the world. They aren’t expensive. They don’t require dealing with the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, and one size fits all. Sure, these gifts are harder to give than a fruitcake, but they will be life-changing for those you lead.

12 Gifts of Leadership

  1. Ethical Awareness – When we make it a priority to stay ethically aware, people can count on us to protect their interests and the interests of the company.
  2. Care – When we show every day that we care about people (not the FAUX care that we see so often, but the REAL kind), they feel valued and secure.
  3. Humility – When we lead without looming over people, instead working beside them and involving them, they can contribute their best work.
  4. Competence – When we stay competent, we set the bar high for others, and create a learning environment that brings out everyone’s best.
  5. Open Communication – When we welcome input from everyone, regardless of level, we send a message that we value the insights and talents of the entire workforce.
  6. Respect – Respect makes people feel safe, and when they feel safe, they are usually more productive and engaged. When we are respectful, that helps build a respectful workplace.
  7. Trust – Being trustworthy is a great gift to those we lead. Trusting them back is the ribbon that makes the gift complete.
  8. Clear Expectations – Letting people know what you expect gives them the security of knowing the boundaries that should guide their work.
  9. Support for Success – When people can count on you to support their success, they will be more and do more, and enjoy their work more.
  10. Inclusion – People come in all shapes, sizes, races, religions, etc. Each person needs to be able to maintain dignity and dreams for the future while working with you.
  11. Appreciation – Everyone wants to know that someone notices what they do. Make it a point to appreciate everyone, even if what you appreciate is a small improvement someone makes toward a goal that seems far away.
  12. Values – Basing your leadership on ethical values lets people know what they can expect from you, and focuses the efforts of the whole organization on a positive outcome.

Will you give these 12 Gifts of Leadership this year? Be aware that these “must-haves” for employees are expensive, but not in the way you might expect. They require soul-searching and personal growth. Doesn’t your organization deserve these generous gifts from you? The journey to ethical leadership transforms people and organizations, so don’t be afraid to dig deep to give these 12 Gifts of Leadership this year.

 

Vote for your 10 favorite CSR thought leaders at Global CEO’s Top 100 CSR Leaders (Linda Fisher Thornton is #32).

 

7 Lenses™ Workshops Engage Organizational Leaders in Learning:

  • What leading with “integrity” really means
  • Moral awareness and ethical competence
  • Leading in ways that bring out the best in others
  • Centering daily work in ethical values
  • Building lasting trust
  • Using clear ethical thinking and decision-making
  • How doing all of the above transforms organizational results

7LensesStanding

We believe that ethics, integrity and trust are critical to our success. …But what are we doing to clarify them, to tether our work to them, to apply them?

 …Are we doing enough?

 

Schedule a 7 Lenses Workshop for 2015:  Info@LeadinginContext.com

 

Ethical Leadership 2015: Graphics That Tell the Story

get ready

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The graphics at the links below tell the story of the future of responsible leadership. They describe the kind of leadership that is respectful, caring and ethically aware. This is the positive leadership that engages employees in meaningful work and helps builds an ethical culture.

My hope is that you will share this story with your leadership team and plan now for the future, using the questions that follow.

16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership
10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement
5 Elements of a (Proactive) Ethical Workplace
Managing Ethical Leadership as a Human Performance System

The kind of leadership described in these graphics doesn’t just happen on its own. It requires intentional ongoing preparation by individual leaders and organizations. 2015 is almost here. Use these questions to develop your plans for meeting the future prepared for success:

Individual Questions

1. How well does my leadership measure up to the leadership described in these graphics?

2. What are the most important changes I need to make now to be ready?

3. How will I be accountable for making those changes and what support will I need to make them?

Organizational Questions

1. How well does our organizational leadership match up with this vision of the leadership of the future?

2. What are the most important changes we need to make now to be ready then?

3. How will we make those changes in a way that ensures that the change is deeply rooted and not superficial?

Business is changing. Let us know how Leading in Context can help you prepare. 
 
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 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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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.

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 

 

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

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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”)

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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 

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™ 

522

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 

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