The Matter of Business Ethics

The Matter of Business Ethics

We are making great strides in corporate social responsibility. Many reflect changes in business policies and practices. But when it comes to business ethics, are we really improving? Consider this: almost 120 years ago, German socialist, economist, and politician Max Weber published his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, emphasizing that personal integrity and reputation matters: they form the basis of good business relationships. A person’s words are their bond and business can be counted on with a handshake. Jump to the turn of the century. For six consecutive years, Fortune magazine deemed Enron one of the most innovative organizations and two months after being publicized, Enron filed for bankruptcy, bringing down companies and 1,000’s of individuals with it. Not long after, new regulations and legislation were enacted including penalties regarding records and the accountability of auditing firms. Then came the financial crisis of 2007-08, where organizations were deemed “too big to fail,” generating other hazards, risks, and an uneven playing field. Headlines, book lists, and social media are filled with other examples, several from the most recent past. How did we get here? And more importantly, where do we go from here? What We Don’t See In Moral Mazes (Oxford University Press, 2009), Robert Jackall suggests that modern bureaucracy has created a “society within a society” in which there is a set of ethical standards that may not be consistent with those of the larger society. Our current capitalistic society goes along with these sub-societies, as long as they are successful. Generally, the larger the organization, the more complex the strategy and operations. It might...
A Better Manager for 2021

A Better Manager for 2021

How are you preparing to be a better manager in 2021? Employees look to their managers and business leaders to help them make sense of complexities within their own organization, as well as the external world. They seek reassurance that their own experiences and perspective is accurate, and that there exists an adequate framework to create and maintain stability and move forward. More than ever before, employees need to be able to trust their leaders. According to a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, trust is comprised of four components:   Competence: the ability to get the job done Motives: our reasons (or reasoning)  Fair means: consistency in applying the same rules to offer rewards or assign punishments Impact: the consequences of all actions In a chaotic world, business leaders cultivate trust and help their employees when they clarify their values, develop their communication abilities, and connect in meaningful ways. Clarify Your Values Your values are the underlying foundation in how you make decisions and take action (or non-action.) They are at the core of your motives, how you prioritize, and the sacrifices you make to reach your goals. Your values have a great impact in how you reconcile conflict. Consider your attitude in relation to other people. What are your obligations to your family, friends, and community? What will you leave as a legacy to the next generation? As a mentor, what values or core beliefs would you want to pass on? Below is a sample of values. If you were to rank each from 1 – 10 (with one being the most important to you), what would be your top...
The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

As a leader, what role do you take in your own leadership development? If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of seeing the big picture without losing sight of the small details. This requires a tremendous skill in balancing priorities, energy, and focus. And while most great leaders can take pride in their ability to multi-task under stress, this year has really tested their abilities. Leaders are called on again and again to shift their attention from one priority to another. They must consistently and consciously choose (and judge) that which is deserving of their attention. They must ignore impertinent distractions. Developing the right leadership skills and habits is critical to personal and organizational success. The Importance of Habits Consider this: 80% of our results stems from only 20% of our efforts, according to Joseph M. Juran. In the context of our productivity and efficiency, this means that only about 20% of our activities actually provide the results we are looking for, professionally and personally.                       To devote more time and energy to our most important activities we need to be able to recognize and say “no” to the people, places, and things that distract us from achieving our goals. This isn’t always easy, especially when we really like our distractions, or worse, our distractions become bad habits. Disrupting the habits that are counter-productive is important, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Unless a new routine takes its place, the pattern will continue automatically. Fortunately, we’ve come to a new level of understanding about habits, and we’re learning and practicing new techniques to improve them. The Importance of Focus...
The Need for Kind Leaders

The Need for Kind Leaders

Is your organization led by kind leaders? This year has been like no other. Most leaders and managers are eager to put it behind them. Yet, we’re not out of the woods. A culture of kindness will make it easier. Researchers have found that kindness is associated with better and stronger physical and mental health; relationships, teams, and communities; life satisfaction, and even economics. According to researcher and psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD, “The science of human emotion, kindness and goodness are not to be taken lightly, they are actually good for our bodies and minds.” Unfortunately, uncertainty, increased stress, and frustration have challenged and tested many organizational cultures: the way we collectively perceive, think, and feel at work. Add to that tribalism, polarity, and over exposure to vitriol, and incivility is easily sparked. Organizational culture is damaged, and left unchecked over prolonged periods, altered. The Importance of Kind Leaders Over the past two decades, thousands of employees have been polled about their treatment at work. According to research referenced in the recent Harvard Business Review article, 98% report experiencing uncivil behavior, often prompted by thoughtlessness, rather than malice. Common forms include: Interrupting others Discussing other employees Acting in a condescending manner; belittling someone and/or their contributions Arriving late; responding late (or not at all) Ignoring others Negative eye contact—giving the side eye, dirty looks, rolling eyes, or staring Yelling, shouting, and/or verbally assaulting others (insults, harassment) While subtle forms (and microaggressions) are often easier to overlook, they erode engagement, morale, and ultimately, organizational culture. Managers, and leaders, must intervene, not in kind, but in kindness. Being kind can boost...
Leading Through Mistakes

Leading Through Mistakes

Business leaders today are not exempt from making mistakes. While we like to believe their judgment is getting better, certain behaviors make them vulnerable to err, such as mindset failures,  delusions, mismanagement, and patterns of unsuccessful (or poor) behavior. Our wishful thinking, denial, and other forms of avoidance often prevent us from seeing their errors—or the mistakes we make. We live in a celebrity culture where leaders, and especially CEOs, are expected to be perfect examples. They are held up as icons. We don’t like to admit they have flaws, or that the traits that make them special can also lead to failure. To be sure, we crave heroic leaders who we can look up to and derive a sense of safety and security. We can’t do this when we see their flaws, so we contribute to the heroic myth and enable the leader to plunge full steam ahead, right or wrong. We must abandon this hero-worship. There is a fine line between right and wrong, and like all humans, leaders are capable of swinging back and forth. They can be great leaders and fallible human beings. When great leaders make a mistake, when they realize they were wrong, they take appropriate action. So why don’t some leaders admit when they have made a mistake? Fear of Mistakes Fear of mistakes remains a common challenge for leaders today. This fear fuels our drive to avoid losing face, at all costs. But the truth is, admission of error does less to harm our credibility than ongoing denial. According to social psychologist Adam Fetterman, “When we do see someone admit that...
Develop Your Mental Game

Develop Your Mental Game

As a leader, how is your mental game? Consider today’s outstanding athletes, such as those who recently participated in the U.S. Open. It’s impressive to see these leaders excel in their field; they are really amazing! Not unlike today’s outstanding business leaders and managers, they overcome obstacles, deal with set-backs and persevere to the end. After watching a game or two it’s easy to take their impressive skills for granted. After all, they make it look so easy. And then they make a clear mistake. Such was the case for one such player: with a single swat, he unintentionally hit a ball at a line judge, and was disqualified. How can such a well-trained, highly-skilled and disciplined leader make such a mistake? He got caught in a momentary lapse of un-mindfulness, distracted and fueled by frustration. And it happens to the best of us. We lose our clarity and focus. Clarity and Focus Clarity is knowing exactly what you want to achieve as a leader: your vision. Focus is knowing and doing the actions required to get you there. Great leaders do the right thing, right now. How? First, they develop a clear mental picture of their intention. Then, they make a conscious choice to commit to and pursue that intention. And last, but certainly not least, they develop strategies for protecting their intention against distracting feelings or emotions, like boredom and frustration. Just like great athletes, great business leaders take purposeful action to preserve and strengthen their mental abilities. After all, leaders who work on their brain fitness are less prone to errors. They understand that clarity and...