As a result of recent corporate scandals, organizations are being
more closely examined than at any other point in recent history.
With this intensified examination comes a responsibility that can
no longer be avoided. In this extraordinary time, leaders need to
be ever more clear and exacting about how their organizations
should operate and how employees should behave.
A sound ethics policy is based on both words and visioning and is
the foundation upon which all exemplary organizational
infrastructures are built. Such a policy gives an organization a
consistent and easily explainable sense of identity and purpose
that reflects how the organization works at every level. A
meaningfully developed and carefully executed ethics policy that is
well understood by employees provides the guidance needed to make
the right decisions, even when those decisions are neither popular
nor easy to make.
Over time, the ethical standards used to make these decisions must
be nurtured, redefined, improved upon, and enhanced to ensure that
ethics-based leadership takes hold throughout the organization. The
best organizations continuously seek to improve their ethical
standards. This effort requires a significant amount of energy and
personal investment from top leaders. Leaders keep the
organization's focus on ethics by asking the following questions:
- What are the standards for acceptable employee behavior? What
will be the process for redefining ethical standards over time?
- Are any of the corporate policies inconsistent? Do any of the
policies create special treatment for a favored few? If so, what is
the impact of these policies on the organization's workforce?
- Are the recruitment, retention, and development programs
integrated? That is, do we recruit using one set of expectations
and then expect to retain and develop talent by applying another
set of expectations? If so, what level of anxiety does this
disparity create for employees and customers? What outcome will
this disequilibrium produce?
- Similarly, is the organization devoted to developing all levels
of employee talent? How does the ethics policy fit in to the
development process? Are any employees left out of the development
process? If yes, why?
- Are employees at all levels of the organization committed to
adhering to the ethics policy? Does the organization's reward
system recognize this commitment?
To operate without this carefully crafted ethical framework leaves
much to chance. Exemplary leaders welcome the opportunity to
scrutinize the ethics policy in order to perfect organizational
standards through ever-evolving ethics initiatives. This passion
for keeping the ethics debate at the forefront is one way to drive