Is Spam An Ethical Red Flag?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Consumers expect companies to respect boundaries. That allows them to live happy and meaningful lives without intrusion from companies that want them to “buy right now.”

Spam Violates Ethical Boundaries

When people get spam mail, email or blog comments, do they rush to click on the websites or buy the items advertised? Probably not. The reasons are a complex mix of changing expectations and higher ethical standards for business:

  • A barrage of unwanted information violates the boundary of respect for people’s time and space.
  • Sustainability is important, and fat envelopes with unwanted offers use up natural resources. 
  • Spam signifies that the organization is willing to do whatever it takes to get your business, making savvy consumers wonder “What else are they doing that isn’t good?”

Spam senders conveniently ignore information and privacy boundaries  – they do not honor people’s right to seek out the information they want, instead pushing the information they want people to haveThe privacy boundary is also a major issue in the discussion about technology-enabled smart marketing based on what people have viewed in the past.

Spam Creates a False Sense of Urgency

The spam that I see is generally for optional luxury goods. With these goods, the sender is trying to create a need and not fulfill one. Lauren Bloom describes how that can make us feel in The Ethics of Spam“There’s something sadly dehumanizing about all that in-your-face advertising.  If I’m really a valued customer, why are you pushing me to buy things I don’t want or need?”

Responsible Selling is Respectful

I realized when thinking about this problem, that I’ve never seen spam from a human rights organization. Why not? Perhaps companies that work based on positive ethical values care about their reputations, and realize that spam is not responsible.  Maybe they realize that people are less likely to buy from spammers. Responsible selling requires a respectful approach. As ethical expectations have increased, so have consumer reactions and legal penalties. 

How does spam inform us? Perhaps it is a red flag – not telling us to “purchase this product right now” but telling us that a company has questionable ethics.

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Never Underestimate The Power of Trust

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Trust is powerful. It is being recognized as a pivot point in business and a powerful catalyst for financial success. This updated Harvard Business review article connects trust with ROI and risk management:

A low-trust environment makes everything about doing business more difficult… loss of trust leads to higher transaction costs, lower brand value, and greater difficulty attracting, retaining, and managing talent. Ultimately, it can mean boycotts, negative publicity, and unwanted regulation.”

Beinhocker, Davis & Mendoca, 10 Trends You Have to Watch, HBR.org.

Trust is a Powerful Market Differentiator

A recent World Economic Forum report on the evolving role of trust in business describes the power of trust in the market:

“If these trust-rich, more resilient companies are the survivors of each period of turbulence, then they will come to dominate the market – and the model of the high-trust corporation will become prevalent.”

World Economic Forum, The Evolution of Trust in Business: From Delivery to Values

I like the term “trust-rich” because it describes the ability of trust to transform every corner of a business or organization. It also describes the positive financial impact that results from consistent trustworthy leadership.

Is your organization “trust-rich?”

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

What Does it Mean to “Do the Right Thing?”

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

The “Keep it Simple” approach is good for many situations, but keeping it simple will set you up for failure in ethics. Using an oversimplified approach to solving a complex ethical problem just means you leave out variables you should be considering.

5 Reasons a “Do the Right Thing” Message Isn’t Enough

  1. Nobody knows what it means
  2. Even though it is positive, it is too vague to direct good choices
  3. Everyone defines it differently, and acts on their definition
  4. Unless you painstakingly define what you mean by “do the right thing,” there is no common understanding of ethical expectations across the organization
  5. A vague definition can be used to justify unethical choices that “seem right” when you’re not using an ethical framework

“Do the Right Thing” is a wonderful starting point, but we need to define it in great detail. Otherwise, people will do whatever THEY think is the right thing, and that could pull your organization off course.

Ethical leaders don’t just ask people to “do the right thing.” They share examples of people who have done the right thing. They explain ethical performance standards that define “the right thing” and bring it to life in discussions about how to handle competing interests. This approach keeps everyone headed in the same positive direction.

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

Prevention or Cure? Your Choice

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Senior leadership teams and boards have a choice. In their ethics strategies, they can focus on either prevention or cure.

The cure approach is reactive and messy. You do the bare minimum required by law, wait for something bad to happen, and scramble to do damage control. Then you build an ethical support system (perhaps at the insistence of a regulatory body) to prevent it from happening again.

The prevention approach is proactive and positive, and it helps prevent those messy problems. You build the ethical support system up front, while things are going well.

Taking the “cure” approach seems easier when everything is going well, but all it takes is one highly visible mistake to pull the organization down in every way (in the media, in the stock market, in the eyes of customers, employees and partners…).

Here’s the most interesting thing I’ve discovered – Both the prevention and cure approaches require building an infrastructure that supports ethics in the organization. In the cure approach you choose to do it in the public eye, possibly under court supervision, while bleeding profusely from taking a hit to your credibility. In the prevention approach, you choose to do it now to prevent bleeding profusely in the future. 

Why should we choose prevention? It’s positive. Leading with positive ethical values builds trust and brings out the best in people, which brings out the best in the organization, which leads to great results. The cure approach leads to negative front page headlines, a tarnished reputation and poor organizational results. 

Prevention or Cure? Your Choice.

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Great Leaders Are Other-Focused

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many important roles leaders play. The common thread through all of them is that leadership is about enabling the success of others. Leaders are supporters, developers, guides, team builders, and imaginers. They are culture caretakers, roadblock removers and inspirers. All of these roles require being other-focused. 

As leaders, we seek to bring out the best in individuals, the best in teams, and the best in organizations, pulling together diverse collections of people striving toward common goals. We create the conditions for success, we build trust and we model and reinforce ethical choices. Doing these things consistently enables those we lead to do their best work. 

How do we define our success as leaders using this mindset? It’s simple – Great leaders create the conditions for success, intentionally building trust and an ethical culture, enabling people to do their best work. Their best work fuels the economic and social success of our organizations. We succeed when they succeed. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Leaders Are Culture Caretakers: 10 Actions For Success

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

There are many ways to understand culture, and some of the definitions are very complicated. My favorite way to think about culture is as an infrastructure or scaffolding that supports the behaviors we want. Culture drives what people do, and is the setting and framework for great work.

What leads to strong ethical cultures? Here are 10 critically important actions every leader should take:

  1. Keep Ethics Alive and Relevant
  2. Build an Engaging, High Trust Culture
  3. Establish Positive Conditions for Success
  4. Learn Ethical Thinking
  5. Develop Ethical Leadership Competence 
  6. Demonstrate Organizational Integrity
  7. Manage Ethics as a Performance System
  8. Have Meaningful Conversations About Staying Ethical
  9. Tend the Culture Carefully to Prevent Gaps
  10. Weed Out Negative Interpersonal Behaviors

Leaders are culture caretakers. To fulfill that role successfully, they need to know what a positive ethical culture looks like. Start the conversation today. 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future. 

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

What Does it Mean to Win?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

What it means to “win” in business has changed. Driving this change is a greater awareness of the impact we have on each other:

  • A better understanding of our global connectedness
  • An awareness that laws aren’t ideal ethical standards, just punishment thresholds
  • A greater focus on human rights and dignity and human well-being
  • Increased attention on the well-being of communities

The message used to be “WIN at all cost” to achieve strong financial performance. Then we began to consider what happened to  other people when we “won at all cost” and “Win-Win” became the mantra. As we gradually became aware of our many stakeholders, “Win-Win-Win” looked better – paying attention to the triple bottom line, our impact on Profits, People and the Planet. 

When we consider our interdependence and the leadership context, the way we think about a “win” changes. 

Driving this change is also a greater awareness of the global context:

  • Our constituents are global, and our impact is global
  • We are part of a connected, global economy
  • We are experiencing dwindling natural spaces and increasing demand for natural resources
  • Global citizenship is a growing issue as we deal with border management and complex social issues
  • Leadership and ethical duties are inseparable if we are going to create a positive environment, locally and globally

The triple bottom line, a great improvement over “win at all cost,” is only the beginning. The future of work will require much more. Taking extended stakeholders and the broad responsibilities of corporate social responsibility into account, we are ultimately looking for a 7 Way Win. To learn more, see The Triple Bottom Line is Just the Beginning and 7 Definitions of “Good” (Why We Disagree About Ethics).

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Is Our Ethics Who We Are Or What We Do?

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week’s question is about what defines our ethics – “Is our ethics based on who we are or what we do?” Some people would argue that we have a persona, a manner, that is either ethical or not. Others would say that it is our decisions and actions that define how ethical we are, and therefore our ethicality changes from moment to moment.

Instead of trying to decide which perspective is right, we would be well advised to take our lead from Aristotle. He conveyed in his famous quote “we are what we repeatedly do” that our ethical persona and actions cannot be separated. 

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 3

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. The second asked you to evaluate your IMPACT. These four ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) focus on MANAGING THE SYSTEM.

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Manage the System

  1. COMMUNICATE OPENLY ABOUT ETHICAL ISSUES: Are ethical expectations clear and widely communicated? Does widely communicated include open conversations about grey areas? If not, start those conversations, framing them as important ways to change the ethics quo and improve the organization. 
  2. BRING ETHICS TO LIFE: Does ethics have a life beyond procedures and the shelf full of ethics manuals? Are the materials readable and relatable so that people can succeed in applying them? Are they current? Are they followed? If not, find ways to bring ethics to life so that people know it’s “the way we do things” and not “that binder on the second shelf.”
  3. REWARD ETHICAL CHOICES: Is ethical behavior rewarded just as much as financial profitability (in promotions, awards and public recognition)? If not, the message of your ethics system is “we are ethical unless it interferes with making money.” Get it straight by making ethics at least as important as (or more important than) profits.
  4. INTEGRATE ETHICS INTO EVERYTHING: Is ethics an integrated part of all training and performance management instead of being “separate?” If ethics training is separate that may give the impression that ethics can be separated from good performance and good leadership. If performance is rewarded based on results and not ethics, you’ll get results without ethics. Make sure that ethics is a thread woven through every learning experience for every audience and through the fabric of your culture. 

We may think that things are going well when there are no major problems, but that’s a “false reading” for ethics. Without prevention and taking the steps recommended in this series, we will be “putting out fires” and cleaning up damage to our organization’s reputation. Don’t wait for that to happen. This week, work on these important ways to MANAGE THE SYSTEM.

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

Leaders: Can Rights and Responsibilities Be Separated?

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I want to take a moment to reflect on the question “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” Clearly they are both part of good citizenship and ethical leadership. But what happens if we try to separate them?

Rights Without Responsibility?

If we demand our rights but fail to live up to our responsibilities, we will have a negative impact on others. 

If we assert individual rights without also taking responsibility, we are asking for more than we are willing to give. We are conveying that what we want is more important than what others want. We are demanding that our needs be met without caring about what happens to others.

Under those circumstances the answer to “Can rights and responsibilities be separated?” is “Yes, but not ethically.”

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 2

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. In this second post we’ll take a look at IMPACT.

Here are 3 ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) that improve the impact of your organization and your leadership. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Improve Your Impact

  1. BE DEEPLY COMMITTED TO DOING GOOD: Take a hard look at the positive impact your organization is having in the communities you serve. Does the total impact say “deeply committed to doing good” or “trying to appear good?” Move toward “deeply committed to doing good” with intention.
  2. MAKE COMMUNITY SERVICE PART OF YOUR DAY TO DAY MISSION: Identify at least one important way that you are improving the communities you serve. If we stopped associates on the way in to work, would they all know what it is? If not, start the conversation and make the commitment today.
  3. COMMIT TO OFFERING SINCERE MUTUAL BENEFIT – FOR ASSOCIATES, COMMUNITIES & THE ORGANIZATION: Does the way you are improving communities also benefit your associates? Do they find meaning in volunteering their service and do you support them doing that during paid work hours? If not, make the financial commitment that backs the message and shows you care about associate AND communities.

Having a net positive impact on the communities we serve is an important part of good leadership, and our stakeholders will notice our efforts. 

Watch for more ways to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good) in the next post in the series!

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

Is Moral Development Observable?

 

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Most of us have some idea about human development because we have watched people grow up and pass through stages and milestones in their lives. We have seen babies roll over and sit up, and later walk on their own. We have watched children grow into teenagers and become adults.

Moral development is just as important as physical development, and should be going on at the same time as physical development, but it is not visible in terms of a person’s appearance. Because it is not visible, its important role in human development is sometimes overlooked.

Moral development is dependent on learning, so it is vital that organizations provide an environment that forwards moral learning. There are specific things that organizations can do to encourage moral development in leadership. They include teaching systems thinking and how to seek mutual benefit when making decisions.

Moral development requires learning. It doesn’t just happen.

There are also things parents can do to encourage moral development in children. “Young people need help learning how to succeed in living positive ethical values in a world filled with distractions and negative messages. Our job is to help them center themselves in positive ethical values and get to know themselves as good people.” (Thornton, Helping Young People Become Ethical Leaders, Leading in Context Blog)

To “observe” someone’s level of moral development, look beyond what they say to their behavior and their choices. Notice how well they treat others. Look for how well they seek solutions that benefit all parties, not just themselves. Notice what they value. Notice how consistently they think beyond their own interests and concerns to attend to the concerns of others.  These are the ways that moral development is made visible. 

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Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

Ready To Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? – Part 1

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Each day brings new challenges for leaders. They struggle to deal with uncertainty and complexity and sometimes the most ethical choices are not obvious. In this kind of environment, we can’t assume that things are going well even when there are no lawsuits or imminent ethical crises. What we need to do is build an ethical workplace that will discourage ethical problems.

The focus of this week’s post is on Ways to Improve Accountability For Ethics. Here are 3 ways to avoid relying on the status quo – that also help you “do good” in your organization, community and world. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)?

Improve Accountability For Ethics

 

  1. EXPECT MORE FROM SENIOR LEADERS: Think of several examples of senior leaders who were coached, penalized or fired for ethical violations. If you can’t think of any, does that mean your organization prevents problems or lets senior leader infractions slide by? Always hold senior leaders to the highest standards since they model what others throughout the organization should do.
  2. HAVE ALL LEADERS MODEL AND REWARD ETHICAL ACTIONS: Keeping in mind corporate ethics policies and company values, examine what leaders are making important by their actions.  What are they doing? What are they holding people accountable for? Make sure that ethical decisions and actions are modeled and rewarded.
  3. SEE YOUR CEO AS THE “ULTIMATE ETHICS OFFICER”: Take a careful look at who is responsible for ethics in your organization. Is it just the compliance officer and HR Manager? It is the CEO and 1 or 2 other managers? Or is it every manager and every associate? Make sure that everyone is responsible, and be sure that the CEO is actively playing the role of the “Ultimate Ethics Officer.”

These 3 ways to change the ethics quo improve accountability for ethics. Are you ready for MORE actions you can take to move your organization toward ethical prevention and practice? Stay tuned for new posts in this series!

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

Learn how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.  

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate

 

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we progress on the learning journey toward positive leadership, some of the qualities we seek seem to be paradoxical. For example, as leaders we need to be CRYSTAL CLEAR in outwardly communicating what we expect and also OPEN to hearing input from others that might change our plans. We need to be FULLY PRESENT in this moment, and still able to THINK AHEAD to prepare for the future.

The secret that great leaders know is that these qualities (which may seem like polar extremes) are each effective at different levels, in different contexts and at different times. 

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward. 

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, describes Level 5 Leaders (the highest level in his model) as having the paradoxical qualities of personal humility and professional will. This means that they are strong and confident, but choose to use their leadership in a “service-orientated” way that benefits others. They don’t save the power or attention for themselves.

Great leaders learn to identify when a group needs clarification, and when people want to be heard. They respond with just what people need at that moment. That careful dance builds trust.

We can be decisive when we need to be, but also keep our teams involved in deciding our future path.

We can be confident in our leadership and also humble enough to step aside to let others take the lead so they can grow.

Cultivating these paradoxical qualities (and learning when to apply them for the most positive impact) takes our leadership to a higher level. 

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

Includes how ethical expectations are increasing, and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Click the cover to read a free preview!

 

LeadinginContext.com  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Building a positive ethical culture is a long-term process. It involves much more than just company trappings and perks – leaders must make a commitment to people and to creating a positive work space. When things seem to be going well, it’s easy to miss signs that the culture may be off track.

Mistakes slow our culture building progress, and we may lose ground if they are not fixed quickly. Have you seen signs of any of these culture-eroding problems in your organization?

5 Signs Your Culture is FAILING

  1. Closed (Lack of Transparency, One-Way Communication)
  2. Behind the Times (Failing to Stay Competent, Not Adapting to Change)
  3. Aiming For Minimum Standards (Focusing On Laws Instead of Values))
  4. Toxic (Allowing Teasing, Bullying and Other Negative Behaviors)
  5. Loose (Performance Standards and Values Are Not Enforced)

If you see culture warning signs like these, address them quickly. If left unchecked, they unravel the fabric of the culture, leaving holes that can lead to ethical problems.

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

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC

 

 

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