Here’s an article pulled from the archives. It’s sad to say, but what I wrote in 2002 is still right on target – if not more so – today.
“At this moment, America’s greatest economic need is higher ethical standards, enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders,” (President) Bush said in a speech delivered to the Association for Better New York. “In the end, there is no capitalism without conscience, no wealth without character.” (July 9, 2002)
Who ever thought the Golden Rule would come back to bite so many?
Who ever thought we’d need legislation to enforce its theme? Who ever thought a lack of ethics could rock the global economy? Not only have the greedy actions of a select few business “leaders” destroyed companies and driven down the financial markets, but they’ve also caused tens of thousands of innocent, hard-working people to lose their jobs; lose retirement fund security; and lose confidence in the economy, in businesses, and in their futures. According to the September 16, 2002 edition of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a recent survey of nearly 13,000 employees by Watson Wyatt found that worker trust and confidence in senior management has fallen over the past two years and, unless reversed, presents a major threat to future corporate competitiveness.
According to Linda Trevino a professor at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business Administration, “research shows that employees take their ethical cues from their companies’ leaders”. Not surprising, many organizations are planning to install “Ethics Officers” to monitor the ethical behaviors of not only senior staff, but also of all employees in an attempt to curb this downward spiral in confidence and financial security.
Really, it all comes back to the basics.
As a leader, you are by default a role model. Whether you like it or not, that responsibility comes with the title. As a leader, it is imperative that you do your job and work for your organization’s success. However, you also must personally exhibit day in and day out, the types of behaviors and attitudes you expect of your employees. Your employees follow your lead – or they follow what you allow. If you exhibit true excitement about your customers, products, and organization – your employees see it, feel it, and can be infused up with that same excitement. If you exhibit greed or deceit – your employees see it too, and they may be overcome with disdain for those behaviors. Worse yet, if they see greed, they may mimic those same behaviors. If they distance themselves from their jobs or the organization – or worse, mimic unethical behaviors - your poor behaviors are now being duplicated throughout your organization. So don't be surprised when you see productivity numbers drop, employee turnover costs jump, and customer dissatisfaction skyrocket. They're following your lead. They're following your version of the Golden Rule. Copyright MMII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.