Leadership Update is a free electronic monthly newsletter by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. and www.leadershipfirst.com. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential. Please feel free to forward unedited copies of this newsletter.
- Quotable: The Pundits Speak
- Leadership: Assessing Ethics
- High Performance Teams
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
Quotable: The Pundits Speak
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking.”
“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
LEADERSHIP: ASSESSING ETHICS
RECENT ACCOUNTING AND MANAGEMENT SCANDALS have rocked Wall Street and raised questions around the country about executive ethics that few people thought to ask before. Among those questions: If ethical behavior is so essential to positions of responsibility, how do unethical people make it to the top?
If you believe that ethical decision-making is a function of the person’s basic values and beliefs, then it’s likely that unethical leaders displayed dishonest behavior long before they became high-ranking corporate officers.
The nation’s leading business schools understand that, as evidenced by the growing trend of checking applicants for more than just test scores, work history and leadership experience. They’re now looking at their honesty, integrity and ethics before they let them through the door, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
“Everybody has ethics on their mind right now,” said Rosemaria Martinelli, director of MBA admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, quoted in the article.
Wharton recently hired ADP Avert, a background-checking firm, to verify the authenticity of a random sample of applications submitted by the 800 students who were offered admission this year. According to the article, they have also changed their interview process, relying less on standard questions like “Why do you want to get an MBA?” and more on items like “Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt uncomfortable doing?”
Ethics isn’t just an issue for public companies and the business schools that feed them. Even if you’re a small, entrepreneurial firm, hiring and developing honest people is essential to reaching your goals. In fact, at smaller firms it may be even more important to hire staff with integrity, because any one person’s actions potentially have a greater impact on the company.
How can you protect your company against unethical behavior?
First, make sure that integrity is a shared value among the leaders of the organization. If there’s a lack of alignment between the expressed value and actual behavior, it needs to be addressed, and some people may no longer be a fit for the organization.
Second, clearly outline the expectations around ethical behavior in your corporate policies. Make sure to include the consequences for non-compliance.
Third, schedule trainings and workshops throughout the year that focus the staff’s attention on behaving with integrity. Even trainings on other issues can have a component on ethics related to the main topic.
Finally, stop unethical people from joining your firm. Examine a candidate’s values as part of your hiring process. Resumes frequently contain false or misleading information about an applicant, but that’s just one sample of an applicant’s behavior. “Behavioral event” questions, like the one asked by Wharton above, require the applicant to describe a past experience, focusing on their thoughts, feelings and behavior. The responses reflect the values that drive behavior. Hypothetical questions are also useful for identifying the values and principles that a candidate relies on to respond to various situations. Before changing your interview process, consult with an attorney to confirm that your procedures comply with applicable laws.
The news will continue to carry headlines about newly charged or convicted executives, as bad behavior catches up with corporate crooks who left plundered companies in ruins. You can protect your own firm by making responsible behavior an expressed core value. Invite unethical employees to leave. Select new staff members who possess integrity. And develop it as fully as you can among current staff. Your organization will become stronger at the core as a result.
Copyright 2002-2004 by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. All rights reserved.
WHETHER YOUR COMPANY has two employees or two thousand, you’ve probably observed that great results often come from highly effective teams.
And you’ve also probably recognized that aside from the technical skills that team members each bring to the table, personality styles significantly influence the quality of the team’s overall work.
Groups of employees often instinctively work well together, playing off each other’s strengths, using resources well and delivering excellent results.
In poor-performing groups, leaders sometimes attribute failure to a lack of cooperative relationships among group members. But quite often, basic problems are just disguised as personality conflicts. Before concluding that team members can’t get along, answer the following questions:
- Is the team’s goal clear to every member?
- Are the roles, responsibilities and expectations of each team member explicit?
- Are there clear and agreed-upon processes for accomplishing the team’s work?
- Do team members communicate effectively?
- Is the team capable of identifying and solving problems?
- Are motivation and feedback provided?
The areas mentioned above are basic to effective team functioning. If those issues have been taken care of, then it’s time to turn your attention to the more subtle factors that affect cooperation.
There are a number of strategies for helping well-functioning teams operate at an even higher level. In the book Turning Team Performance Inside Out, Susan Nash suggests that the most effective way to create high-performance teams is to:
- Evaluate the individual personality types and temperaments of team members.
- Assess as a group what the strengths and weaknesses of those individual styles are in the group.
- Use proactive leadership to balance those styles, maximize strengths, minimize weaknesses and function in a way that leads to the most effective communication and problem solving.
With teams I’ve encountered, steps 1 and 2 are quite powerful because they crystallize thoughts and feelings team members may have already had but were unable to express clearly.
A theory of temperaments is used to identify personality styles, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is used to assess other areas, like preferred ways of taking in information and solving problems.
For step 3 to succeed, team members need to identify the changes necessary for more effective team functioning, and then assess and adjust team performance regularly to assure sustained behavioral change.
For additional resources or suggestions for improving team performance, contact me at (610) 642-3040.
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Reader’s Forum: Your Observations
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ABOUT DR. WEIMAN
David A. Weiman, Psy.D. is a psychologist who specializes in executive development. For information or a consultation, please call 610/642-3040.
333 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 202
Wynnewood, PA 19096-1929
(610) 642-3040; Fax (610) 642-3041