Some time ago, I had the privilege to address several hundred college students at St. Cloud State University, College of Saint Benedict, and Saint John’s University in Minnesota as part of their annual Ethics 360 program. One of the attendees, a sophomore who was interested in pursuing a combination business and human resources degree, asked me to address this question. As I made a covenant with this young man, I am hoping to cover a few key areas that have potential value for any organization:
✅ Build values-based cultures where every employee can speak up reporting what they hear and see. Transparency, honesty, and a desire to build winning teams means that people are comfortable in communicating incidents that are violations of organizational policies and procedures.
✅ Implement rigorous systems and controls that catch irregularities and unethical behavior. One of my co-presenters yesterday was an accounting manager for a major reinsurance company that was given authorization to wire $50 million to a subsidiary. Some companies that I have worked with will not approve of expenditures or transfer of funds totaling $100K without a signature from the CFO or CEO.
✅ Develop ongoing ethical awareness and understanding via training and processes. The best leaders (woefully short in number) make ethics as important as driving sales. Training people how to act ethically is a small step in the right direction, but building the means that allow them to anonymously report violations along with the cultural expectation to do it is essential.
✅ Hire the best talent available who are ethical. This means identifying talent who add value to the organization’s mission, objectives, and culture via their moral compasses.
✅ Implement compensation packages that reward ethical conduct and report violations. Unfortunately in my long career, this key component is a missing link and organizations wonder why their initiatives to create better ethical cultures crawls at snail’s pace.
My friends please remember this: respect, consideration, and courtesy matter a lot. Treat others fairly, decently, and equally. Consult your moral compasses every chance you get and monitor your progress. You know the battle cry: do your best each day. No one can ask more or less from any of us.
All the best/blessings, Mark