By 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.2014 Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner About 7 Lenses Info@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses
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