Is There Hope for High Integrity Leaders?

April 14, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 207-209 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 The negative conclusion of the previous section should not be where we leave the discussion of integrity. There is little doubt high integrity leaders should have a strong commitment to integrity, and therefore, we cannot assume they will be unable to change an organization from within. The previous section sounds like a particularly pessimistic view of changing an organization with rotten values. The good news is organizations can change, and recent studies reflect that American corporations are increasing efforts to improve their cultures. According to the 2005 National Business Ethics Survey, which surveyed more than 3,000 American workers, 69 percent of employees said their companies implement ethics training, which is a 14 percentage point increase from 2003.

 Tragically, much of the change that occurs in organizations, as in the world of politics, results from a crisis. Often the behavior predicated on the lack of integrity encourages or precipitates a crisis. Many organizations have found a way out of a crisis because leaders, either from within or from without, have committed to change. If the crisis is severe enough, the entire culture can be shocked into a dramatic shift. It is important the cancer of lost integrity is not so pervasive that the organization is populated by only the weak or the $awed. One example of an organization that lost its way at the top is

Hewlett-Packard (HP). This organization has very high standards and a rich culture of commitment to a value system known as the “HP Way.” It appears much of the culture remained intact, but not at the top. The tragic story of HP’s apparent illegal practice called “pretexting” demonstrates that even an organization known for its virtuous business ethics can be polluted by a breach at the top. The scandal that ensued caused many to leave the board and the organization, and several individuals, including the former chair of the board of directors, were indicted in California. Those individuals appeared to have strayed from the company’s tradition of sound values and integrity. However, the strong culture that exists deep into the organization has reportedly survived and seems to be working with the new leadership to save the company from demise.

 The HP story suggests that an ethical culture at the bottom of an organization can eventually prevail. If integrity is a value that has positive influence on the organization, then hopefully, the lack of an integrity culture at the top will eventually lead to an organization’s failure. If that is true, then the good leaders at the bottom can overcome the “bad leader” at the top, hence invalidating the Law of Bad Leadership. The mission of restoring integrity within an organization may be influenced by its size, complexity, and geographic dispersion, but it can be accomplished more easily when the top fails than when the entire organization fails.

 Some organizations manage to mask their lack of integrity for a surprisingly long time. The Enron story is once again a perfect example. Enron had been the darling of the investment community for decades, and it took a financial crisis to bring the house of cards down. In the case of WorldCom, it took the courage of an internal auditor to speak up and tell the Board Audit Committee she thought there was “something

wrong” with the accounting. In the final analysis, neither Enron nor WorldCom survived as stand-alone entities. The message is clear: eventually the “bad guys” get caught, but it is difficult for outsiders to see that a corporate culture lacks integrity. The good leaders from within must be the organization’s salvation and cause others to commit  to the value of integrity.

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Can a Leader Behave with a Commitment to Integrity Despite a Lack of Organizational Integrity?

April 8, 2010

 Chapter 8  Pg’s 206-207  Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 The simple answer to this question is ”yes!” My behavior does not need to be controlled by anybody else but me. I am responsible for my level of commitment to integrity, so if I believe in a set of values, then I can and should do what I believe to be right, irrespective of the organization’s views. If I truly believe, then I will not be distracted from my path.

 In theory, our individual beliefs should dictate our behavior; however, we are undeniably influenced by the “tone at the top.” It is clear that what an organization’s top leadership establishes as the norm of behavior will eventually become the norm within the organization. If the culture at the top of Enron was one that said, “Do the deal, no matter what the cost,” then every person in the organization would have been influenced by that culture. The senior leaders of an organization may not fully realize it, but their impact on others is enormously powerful.

 So, what can I do as a leader if I do not believe in the “kill for the deal” culture? Can there be a “sub-culture” that says, “Not all deals are worth doing if they harm others”? One could argue that, if I believe in my principles, I will prevail. But the corrosive nature of the described culture would make it virtually impossible to survive in that type of organization without acquiescence to the organization’s values. Eventually, the contradicting value will be expunged by the leadership behavior and, in particular, the reward system. If the leaders value “cutthroat competition,” then that is the behavior they will reward, and eventually that is the behavior they will get. Any “rogue” ideas by members of the organization will be driven out.

 Let’s go back to the question “Can a leader value integrity in an organization that does not?” The answer is “yes, but not for long.” If an individual leader behaves in a way that is inconsistent with the acceptable behavior, eventually that leader will change behavior and become “one of them.” Or the individual will fail by the organization’s standards and will leave or be !red. Ultimately, the realistic and highly pessimistic answer to the question is “no!” Call it the “Law of Bad Leadership”: bad leaders at the top will drive out good leaders at the bottom. Eventually, the organization will end up with only those who sell out to a lack of integrity or those who never had any in the first place.

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A Culture of Integrity?

April 5, 2010

Lead With Love  Chapter 8 Pg’s 204-206 By: Gerry Czarnecki

 Have you ever worked for an organization whose values you thought were flawed? What did you do? Did you stay and just ignore the circumstances? Did you quit? This is a tough issue, and there are no easy answers. The dilemma we frequently face in the arena of ideas is there are many views, philosophic or simply opinion that differ. If I am a current-day political conservative, I probably believe in the primacy of the individual

and individual initiative. On the other hand, if I am a political liberal, I value the use of society to support the weak individuals collectively. These two positions establish likely behaviors and set up potential conflict for any individual who might have a view of society that differs from the one currently dominant in the political party in power. This difference in views has much to do with the political arguments we hear in a variety of public media. Which side is correct? On a more abstract level, this question cannot be answered. If I believe in the position of the conservative, then I am convinced I am right and that the society should follow the path that flows from my conviction.The other side of the argument is wrong, in the conservative opinion, and vice versa.

 The core lesson here is you do not need to have an untruth to create an integrity problem. A simple disconnect between the values of an organization and those of the individual could result in an integrity violation. Consider an organization with extensive behaviors that prove to you it does not honor its customers. You come to that conclusion because you see the organization always charges the highest price the market will bear. You, on the other hand, have a deep sense that all organizations must be committed to offering customers the very best service at the very best price. How do you reconcile the organization’s behavior with your own value? In this case, a classical economist could easily conclude that the organization has a core value of profit maximization and it actually has an obligation to its shareholders to charge the highest price the market will bear.

  Hence, the behavior of charging the highest price would be consistent with a core value of the enterprise, and yet violate your sense of values. According to your value of fairness, the corporation should charge a lower price and certainly not always all the market can bear. If you believe strongly in this value, you could potentially find yourself troubled by the organization’s decision making and might even view it as evidence the organization has low integrity. Ironically, an organization with this profit maximization goal would probably believe anybody not working toward maximizing shareholder profit would be committing a breach of integrity. Our philosophy on values and the core concepts of right and wrong may differ, but each of us in the workplace will eventually be faced with situations that require value-based decisions. There will be times when our personal values appear to conflict with the organization’s values. When they do, we will inevitably be faced with the need to reconcile that conflict, resolve it, ignore it, or walk away from it. The irony is many organizations do not have a clear expression of their values, and consequently, their employees or prospective employees have no way of knowing if the corporation’s values conflict with their own personal values. As an individual with a set of values, it is imperative you understand as much as possible about the organization’s values before you join it, because if there is a wide disparity, it

 will cause you great conflict and pain. A conflict of values is difficult to resolve. If you have a strong commitment to a value that is inconsistent with an organization’s values, it may actually be a personal violation of integrity for you to remain in the organization. The organization also would probably be better off if all those who did not subscribe to its values were to leave. Indeed, any employee who did not behave consistently within the value structure probably would be viewed as creating an integrity breach.

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INTEGRITY—Begin Every Action with a Commitment to Integrity

March 30, 2010

The rash of horrendous scandals that have plagued corporate America in recent times has put a spotlight on the integrity, and lack thereof, among today’s business leadership. Seldom in the history of the twentieth and now in the early twenty-first century has there been a period of time in which corporate travesties of this nature have captured the attention of the American public. The result has been a huge loss of public confidence in corporate leadership. Leaders in corporate America are now ranked near the bottom on evaluations of trust and respect, even lower than politicians.

 This situation has created severe angst in corporate boardrooms and has incited a strong determination to regain the trust that American consumers once had. Many in corporate America protest that the current public opinion resulted from just a handful of corporate leaders who made serious missteps and that the rest of the leadership community has been unfairly tainted by those mistakes. Indeed, only a small number of leaders have been accused, indicted, and convicted of corporate malfeasance; however, that does not disprove the view that the leadership of America’s business community cannot be trusted. A large segment of our society has concluded that the typical corporate leader follows the Gordon Gekko philosophy of “greed is good.”

 The same people tend to believe the pursuit of financial reward drives corporate leaders to do whatever it takes for the corporate compensation system to work in their favor and that their (potentially) short tenure as CEO or senior executive will be richly rewarded for the substantial risk they take in assuming that perilous position. Far too many CEOs face the prospect of a one- or two-year tenure and consequently arrange or negotiate terms of compensation systems that are not affected by the quality of their performance. Unfortunately for corporate America, the erosion of corporate integrity has created a burden for all leaders that will be difficult to carry in the coming years. Once the public’s trust is lost, it is a huge challenge to regain it. Time may heal the wounds, but scars will remain. Trust and mutual respect are fundamental to all human relationships. Without trust, our relationships with customers, shareholders, associates, and vendors will be difficult to sustain. When there is a basic level of trust, the parties to a business relationship behave much differently than when that trust does not exist. Trust allows us to have enjoyable and efficient relationships as we pursue our organizational goals.

At the heart of trust is the commitment from every individual in an organization to behave in ways guided by a commitment to integrity. Our conduct must adhere at all times to the highest moral principles and professional standards. Truth, honesty, and fairness are not optional; they are mandatory. It may be challenging and occasionally unpleasant, but behaving with integrity is the only way to build trust and achieve success. Integrity and the trust it inspires provide great comfort to those who have business relationships with us. A breach of integrity forces our business partners to rely on testing and other controls that would be unnecessary if they had implicit trust in our behavior . Leaders must build relationships founded on a commitment to integrity. Unfortunately, our society makes that commitment difficult. It appears, even to the casual observer, that standards of integrity in our society have changed dramatically over the years. Under the traditional rules of early America, integrity was a core value of the society.

 Those were the days when a handshake or verbal commitment would be honored. Some believe the secularization of our society has diminished the impact of the moral and ethical standards established by the commitment to a religious belief. The “absolute truth” standard seems to have given way to the more “nuanced” view that answers are not simply right or wrong, but rather much more “gray.” The transparency of our society, with the media constantly watching and listening to every word, has caused politicians to avoid “telling it like it is” and opt instead to “spin the truth.” Most of us are so accustomed to political spin we seldom expect the words we hear to be a fully accurate reflection of the truth. A true commitment to integrity would require that we never spin anything.

Some argue one breach of integrity by a leader can destroy any trust associates might have. Others argue it is our ongoing pattern of behavior that determines how we are perceived. There is no doubt some people find it difficult to accept any misjudgment they perceive to be a breach of integrity. In a discussion on leadership and integrity at the Wharton Business School, Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, said, “If your people believe you have the right values, they will tolerate a few mistakes. In fact, they will stay with you. They want to see that you are decisive and compassionate, because they are asking people to take risks, to take chances. But don’t confuse compassion with a reluctance to act decisively when necessary.” Leaders must balance their commitment to integrity and their commitment to love. Often leaders tell substantially less than the “whole truth” so as to avoid jeopardizing the psychological well-being of one of their associates. In the guise of caring and sensitivity, leaders may mask the full, candid, and potentially hurtful truth when communicating with their associates. Such caring is not love, and it often stems from fear that the truth will have painful consequences. Love demands the truth, and leaders must exercise their commitment to integrity if they are to be effective in their application of love during virtually every interaction they have with their associates. A candid counseling session only has meaning when the “candor” is expressed with love. Candor without love can be brutal and hurtful.

 Fear can influence a leader’s willingness to be candid or direct with associates during discussions about their performance. Leaders may fear reprisal from their associates, or they may be concerned their associates have legitimate reasons to question, doubt, or even aggressively challenge the accuracy of the observations. How many times have you as a leader provided feedback to an individual and found the subsequent conversation more painful than it would have been had you remained silent? Leaders who have had this sort of experience may try to avoid such difficult conversations in the future. In so doing, they fail to effectively lead (and love) their associates and the organization. If an associate does not receive your honest feedback, whether positive or negative, the result is the associate is being led with anxiety rather than love. The loving thing to do is to provide feedback that helps your associates find ways to improve their performance or behaviors. An entire organization suffers when leaders fail to have candid, direct, and meaningful conversations with their associates. Organizational performance reflects the sum total of individual performers in the organization. The leader is ultimately accountable for the quality of that performance. When a leader fails to provide meaningful feedback that is truly of the highest integrity, the organization is cheated of the potential for improved performance. Excellence cannot be achieved without the commitment to continually improving each individual’s performance. It is the leader’s responsibility to use every leadership tool available to maximize the performance against expectations set by the organization and its leaders. Leaders who have the highest standards of integrity understand this obligation to the organization and, irrespective of their contemplated fears, commit to taking high integrity actions.


Promoting Creative Thinking/ Is My Job Candidate Open to Humor?

March 25, 2010

Chapter 8 pg’s 189-191 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 One strategy for prompting creative thinking is to play the “yes and …” game. It starts with one person tossing out an idea that can be practical or zany, and each person in turn has to add to the idea by saying “yes and,” then adding something to it. For example, a leader might gather his creative team together to discuss ways to increase public awareness of the company. The first idea might be “We should host an event”; the next person might say, “Yes and it should have a memorable theme”; the next might say, “Yes and there should be a contest,” etc. By having only “yes” replies, there is no fear of being wrong; furthermore, the spirit and nature of the session are based on fun. Even if the ideas become impractical as the chain of “yeses” continues, there will likely be a few suggestions or kernels of creativity that may ultimately lead to an “aha.”

 For associates to be able to participate in this sort of freestyle thinking and sharing, they have to be open to humor. Everyone knows how to laugh, but there are some individuals who will find it challenging to lighten up and enjoy levity in the workplace. They may have the same fears that leaders have: that they won’t be taken seriously or will appear unprofessional. It is the leader’s responsibility to establish the humor precedent and help the associates to join in the fun. This is another aspect of associate development that is truly important for long-term success. Associates who can’t learn to lighten up and maintain a healthy attitude will ultimately be those who turn over or burn out.

 In establishing a workplace that embraces humor, leaders also need to consider whether potential hires are a good fit in that environment. The

 tone of a job interview is typically serious, and candidates will most likely behave in a strictly professional manner. #is presents a problem for leaders to gauge a candidate’s humor quotient. To the extent that it is possible, try to put the candidate at ease and take note of whether the individual smiles often. If appropriate, tell a joke or humorous personal story and see if it elicits a laugh. When it is truly hard to assess whether a candidate can lighten up, address the issue openly. Explain that your team takes work seriously but laughter and fun are part of the culture. Ask the candidate if that is an environment in which he or she would be comfortable.

 Use the clues from body language, attitude, and dialogue to determine if an individual will mesh with your team and be able to participate in the fun. When faced with difficult circumstances, your ability to use humor to diffuse stress and tension will actually help your associates to regain their focus and enthusiasm. We all try to organize our personal and professional lives so they run smoothly and don’t negatively affect one another. Inevitably there will be times when family will take precedence and interfere with our plans at work. There are also times when work demands a personal plan to be sacrificed or put on hold. A loving boss recognizes that an associate’s happiness and productivity involves more than what goes on at work. When a valued and reliable employee is simply having a bad day, respond in a way that is sensitive. Rather than a reprimand that will make the person feel worse, ease the tension through humor.

 Tell your associate to take a breather of some sort. If one associate is having a bad day, the negative attitude could affect other associates and lower their morale. It could also be evident to customers or clients. By helping the individual in distress, you also help the people who would be interacting with him or her.


Why Don’t We Use More Humor?

March 19, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 183-184 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 If Southwest and other big-name organizations are using humor and succeeding, why are so many leaders reluctant to do the same? The first reason is perception. They mistakenly believe that humor and laughter in the workplace means associates are not doing their jobs. They may also feel it is inappropriate and unprofessional. The second reason is personal. Many leaders don’t consider themselves funny, don’t understand the value of humor, and don’t know how to incorporate fun into work.

 The first reason is simply a misconception. Humor does not undermine work. To the contrary, it enhances an associate’s ability to perform. Humor provides a physical and emotional release, a distraction from negative emotions, such as anger or stress, and it enables us to see challenges from a different perspective. Laughter is contagious: it elevates the mood of those around us and creates a positive social interaction. Whether one associate is having a bad day or a team of associates is facing a difficult situation at work, laughter will temporarily divert attention away from the problem. The diversion will likely improve their ability to cope with the challenge. According to Weinstein, the positive effects of fun can penetrate into the “heart and soul” of an organization: For too many companies, building a team means creating a high-powered, smoothly functioning

organization that has plenty of muscle, but not much heart. It is the absence of the human side of business that depletes employee morale, and contributes to job dissatisfaction and burnout. By adding an element of fun and celebration to a team-building program, you can take an important step toward humanizing your workplace and creating a sense of heart and soul in your organization.

 Humor in the workplace involves some risk. By incorporating humor, you lighten the tone of the work environment. If this is taken too far, it can spin out of control and result in reduced focus and productivity.

 Humor also has the risk of falling $at or being offensive. Humor in the workplace is not about practical jokes and should absolutely not involve off-color or politically incorrect statements or behavior. As described by Warren Shepell, an HR consultant, “Humor has nothing to do with taking your job lightly, joking about your company not being a good place to work or joking about its products and services… Humor that works in the workplace has to do with attitudes.”


The Benefits of Humor

March 18, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 182-183 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 To fully appreciate the many and varied benefits of adding humor into the work environment, one can start with the research that has demonstrated that humor has a significant impact on our health. Studies in publications including the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the American Journal of Medical Science support the health benefits of humor. Laughter releases hormones that reduce stress and enhance the immune system; it oxygenates the blood, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles. We all encounter stress on some level in our professional lives, and often this is compounded by stress in our personal lives. Employers who incorporate humor into the workplace will likely have healthier, happier employees. According to Linda Melone  hD, a clinical psychologist and Pepperdine University professor, humor creates positive responses in three ways: “Laughter triggers an emotional uplift. In the work environment, it also triggers our cognitive process and gives us added perspective. physiologically, laughter counteracts negative thinking and other emotions: chronic anger, anxiety and guilt feelings associated with an increase in the incidence of health problems.”

 The additional benefits of humor are more abstract but equally appealing for the results it produces. Humor stimulates creativity, positive attitudes, and morale, as well as lessens anger, absenteeism, and turnover. According to humor coach Ann Frey, author of Laughing Matters, “A willingness to laugh, plus a sense of lightheartedness, equals a fun, productive workplace. If your employees are happy, they will bring greater energy and enthusiasm to their jobs and your company will function at peak performance. It’s not rocket science.”

 Indeed, humor is not “rocket science,” but it is a fundamental joy that is often absent at work. The absence of humor results in employees who are unhappy and inevitably look elsewhere for a job. Employee turnover is expensive to an organization as it takes time and money to interview, train, and integrate each new employee. The current generation of employees expects to work longer hours than were typical for previous generations, but they’re also looking for a fun, supportive environment that is more relaxed than the formal, buttoned-up office culture of the past. Studies have also shown that organizations with a fun-at-work ethic are extraordinarily successful. Among the standouts are Southwest Airlines, General Electric, Kodak, AT&T, Money Mailer, Quaker Oats, and Playfair, a company founded by Matt Weinstein, author of Managing to Have Fun.

 Herb Keller, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, said, “If work is more fun, it feels less like work.”Southwest is often used as a case study for a company that encourages humor and fun and can demonstrate that it has a positive effect on the bottom-line results:

* the fewest customer complaints eighteen years in a row, according to the Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report

* profitable for thirty-one consecutive years

* the “Second Most Admired Company,” according to Fortune magazine * less than 10 percent employee turnover rate * a $10,000 investment in the airline in 1972 would be worth more than $10 million today