Well, it looks as if the NFL may drop the proverbial ball on the whole “deflate-gate” fiasco and no one seems to care. Of course, the official word from the league is that it is investigating allegations that someone may have deflated footballs used by the New England Patriots in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. Maybe the NFL is investigating, maybe it isn’t. Who knows? Does anyone care?
More concerning to me than the slow response from the league is the muted reaction from the public. The season is over and no one seems to care about it anymore. Some argue that the Pats would have beaten the Colts anyhow, so cheating had no bearing on the outcome. Pats quarterback Tom Brady laughed it off and franchise leadership pretty much said, “There’s nothing to see here, please move along,” which is exactly what many people did.
Is waning interest in deflate-gate symptomatic of a society that has become desensitized to cheating?
Then there’s the more recent example of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who allegedly fabricated a story about having been in a military helicopter that came under mortar attack. NBC investigated, determined it was not true, and suspended Williams for six months without pay. A news anchor from a major network betrayed public trust by repeatedly lying into the camera, and for that he has to sit on the naughty bench and think about it? NBC clearly dropped the proverbial ball. I suspect its executives believe the public attention span is so short that 6 months from now no one will remember that Williams admittedly lied to them. Sadly, they are probably right.
Brady and Williams are not the problem, our collective apathy toward wrongdoing is the problem.
Brady and Williams may be good people, and Brady may be entirely innocent. My point here is not to point fingers at either of these men. Instead, my point is that it wasn’t long ago that public figures caught lying or cheating were shunned by society and held accountable by employers, constituents, and sponsors. Do the names Lance Armstrong and Dan Rather ring a bell? The former was an athlete caught cheating and the latter was a news anchor caught lying. Armstrong immediately lost sponsors and Rather quickly lost his 24-year CBS Evening News career.
Unethical behavior in society and popular culture has made its way into the workplace.
With lying, cheating, and other deviant behavior becoming increasingly tolerated in society and pop culture, leaders are seeing a wave of ethical ambivalence among employees. Leaders must counter this wave and ensure the line separating right from wrong does not become blurred. Otherwise, even good employees may become indifferent to deviance, if not engaged in it, and that would have significant consequences.
There are actions every leader can and should take to counter the threat of ethical ambivalence in today’s workforce, such as establishing and sustaining an ethical tone at the top, making honesty and integrity core values of the organization, adopting and adhering to a strict code of conduct, mandating ethics training for all employees, and making ethical behavior an integral part of the organizational culture. If you are a leader, don’t drop the ball on organizational ethics. Make it a priority!
Want To Take Your Organization to New Heights? Drive Organizational Ethics
Leaders, do you realize how much your personal values affect your organization’s culture and the attitudes, commitments, satisfaction, and effectiveness of its employees? Ethical leadership makes a difference, now more than ever!
Caution: Detour Ahead
Let’s face it. Employee attitudes have been in a virtual free fall lately. One reason is that economic uncertainty, decreasing labor budgets, and increasing benefit costs are forcing organizations to navigate off the beaten path. Since the start of the industrial revolution, there has been an implicit arrangement between companies and workers. That arrangement is obviously changing. Staff sizes are being reduced, full time positions are being converted to part time, benefits premiums are rising exponentially, and wages remain stagnant.
When hours are cut, workloads are increased, and rewards are reduced or eliminated employees may view those changes as a breach of the psychological contract they had with the organization. In other words, the new conditions are not what employees believe they signed up for so they may feel cheated or even deceived, especially when leadership doesn’t explain the rationale for those changes.
Danger! When employees believe their psychological contract has been violated and they feel short-changed or exploited they are less likely to exhibit constructive behaviors and more likely to engage in deviant, destructive behaviors. That presents a clear and present danger to your organization.
To make matters worse, when employees believe their leaders are withholding information, deceiving or cheating them -whether or not those perceptions are founded in reality- a norm of reciprocity causes some to engage in what is called reciprocal deviance, which includes work slowdowns, theft, sabotage, and other harmful and disruptive actions.
The Higher Road Leads to Better Results
Fortunately, the values you emphasize, demonstrate, and promote can make a world of difference. Do your employees know you care about them? Do your actions reflect your character? Do your employees understand the changing business environment and employment landscape and how it affects ALL employees? Transparency is key.
Research by the foremost authorities on employee motivation, including Herzberg, Vroom, Adams, and others suggests that ethical leadership traits such as openness, honesty, transparency, empathy, humility, courage, and accountability are correlated with highler employee morale. Research further concludes that when employees perceive an employer to be ethical, they experience higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, productivity, and retention!
By being open, setting an ethical tone at the top, and personally demonstrating ethical leadership traits you will not only shape wholesome organizational values and promote ethics and compliance for your company, you will create a culture of integrity in which your employees thrive, contribute, and produce in very tangible ways. Ethical leadership makes a difference. Take your organization to new heights; take the higher road.
Thought Leaders: Soft Skills Are a Top Priority for Internal Audit in 2014
According to reputable research and respected thought leaders, acquiring and developing relevant soft skills is a top priority for the internal audit profession in 2014.
As former director of seminars and curriculum development for The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Global Headquarters, I know first-hand that non-technical “soft” skills emerged from mere nice-to-have attributes just a few years ago to become among the most essential and sought-after competencies for internal auditors today. This shift toward non-technical skills has important training ramifications for IIA chapters and internal audit departments.
Whereas chapter training programs of the past consisted almost exclusively of technical “hard” skills, they must now include relevant soft skills topics as well because as Larry Harrington, Chief Audit Executive of Raytheon Company and former IIA North American Board Chairman likes to say, “Soft skills are the new hard skills.”
In a forward-thinking whitepaper titled 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Auditors, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers and Robert Half International Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald state that, “Technical skills remain absolutely necessary, but they are no longer sufficient on their own. The most effective ‘Internal Auditor of the Future’ possesses a broad range of non-technical attributes in addition to deep technical expertise.” Not surprisingly, they have research to back up their claim.
The 2013 Global Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession conducted by the IIA’s Audit Executive
Center identified analytical / critical thinking and communication skills as the top two skills for internal auditors most sought by global recruiters. Chambers notes, “Audit committees have come to expect, if not flat out demand, that internal audit evaluate the organization’s strategic risk exposures as well as provide assurance on overall risk management effectiveness.”
As further evidence of this shift, the 2013 Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey conducted by Protiviti reveals that internal audit professionals at all levels seek to master such essential soft
skills as strategic thinking, collaboration, negotiation, persuasion, and conflict resolution. According to Protiviti, this trend signifies internal audit’s increasing responsibility to provide risk-related input into strategic decisions and partner with and influence colleagues at all levels throughout the organization.
The IIA Global Internal Audit Competency Framework, which defines the professional attributes necessary to meet the requirements of the IPPF, includes ten core competencies. Of those ten, six involve non-technical soft skills: ethics, business acumen, communication, persuasion and collaboration, critical thinking, and improvement and innovation.
Chambers and McDonald conclude their timely white paper by advising internal auditors to
“…apply as much effort and precision to the acquisition and development of non-technical attributes that they currently apply to the enhancement of their traditional internal auditing expertise.”
Do your 2014 training plans include the essential soft skills topics recommended by the foremost thought leaders of the internal audit profession?
Soft skills are the new hard skills, so resolve to invest as much time and effort toward acquiring and developing non-technical competencies in 2014 as you invested in learning technical skills in years past. A year from now you'll be glad you did so.
When I speak with leaders about organizational ethics, they often ask whether I think we're in the midst of a moral crisis in leadership. They want to know whether I think the conga line of leaders busted for wrongdoing in recent years signifies the end of ethical leadership, and they wonder what the heck some of those leaders were thinking.
Well, we certainly live in an age when it seems commonplace to read headlines about leaders busted for one type of deviance or another. The transgressions of infamous leaders from once reputable companies like AIG, Arthur Anderson, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Enron, Lehman Brothers, and WorldCom are well documented, so I’ll spare you those history lessons. Besides, there are plenty of newer examples.
Warren Buffet’s protégé (and heir apparent to his Hathaway throne) David Sokol resigned amidst insider trading allegations, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of corruption for trying to sell the President’s former Senate seat, ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer stepped down in disgrace after it was discovered he regularly patronized high-end prostitutes, and former US Congressman Anthony Weiner was pressured to resign after he sent lewd photographic self-portraits to underage women. The list goes on and on, but I won’t.
The fact that Spitzer and Weiner are currently vying for new political offices says less about their lack of personal shame than it does about their belief that the public no longer expects leaders to act ethically; but they're wrong. A Harvard University study several years ago found that a majority of Americans believe leaders in business, religion, and government lack honesty, integrity, and ethics. And a more recent survey by Marist College revealed that a staggering 76% of respondents think the moral compass of corporate America as “pointing in the wrong direction”. As for Spitzer and Weiner, the Washington Post says Spitzer isn’t really sorry and ABC News says neither of them deserves a second chance. (editorial note: after this post was written Weiner admitted he continued tweeting naked photos to women he didn't know AFTER he resigned from Congress.)
If we conclude there is in fact a moral crisis in leadership, then we must acknowledge that leadership is not values-free. After all, if values didn’t matter then everyone would want
Weiner-like leaders. If declining leader ethics is bad, and if the absence of morality is what is wrong with the state of leadership today, then a return to leaders who emphasize and demonstrate values may be exactly what we want and precisely what need. We’ve definitely seen our share of leaders who lack scruples, but I’m not ready to concede an end to ethical leadership as we know it. As for what the heck some of these guys were thinking, one can only speculate.