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An ethics program that exists on paper

but never in the hearts, minds and actions of the organization’s employees creates a breeding ground for violations.

This statement is from the executive summary of a research report, Ethical Culture Building, by the Ethics Resource Center, http://www.ethics.org/.

More from the summary
Maintaining a strong ethical culture is essential for complying with the laws and regulations, but this alone cannot be the motivation for ethical culture building. Beyond the large impact an organization’s culture has on the bottom line, the development of programs to foster ethical conduct must maintain a focus on fairness, encouragement and communication at all employee levels.

The attitudes, choices and actions of business leaders play a primary role in the creation of an organization’s ethical culture and climate; expectations for employees’ ethical behavior can only be set as high as the organization’s leadership is willing to meet.

What’s a Leader to Do?
Leaders should work to create a values-based ethics program that also encourages compliance with the law. Additionally, they must demonstrate their concern for the interests of internal and external stakeholders and commit to making the needs of others a business priority. Finally, they must remember that ethical leadership requires modeling, coaching and careful communication. To demonstrate their commitment to ethics and to promote ethics in the culture and climate of their organization, leaders should:
• walk the walk
• keep people in the loop
• encourage thoughtful dissent
• show that they care
• don’t sweep problems under the rug
• celebrate the successes
• be fair
• make ethics a priority
• make the tough calls
• get the right people and keep them.
(End of notes from the Ethics Resource Center.)

I’m worried about ethics
It’s a topic at a session I’ve been asked to attend and contribute to at a June conference. I find it hard to define ethics; I don’t think that’s uncommon.

The part I really relate to in the center’s report---communicate, communicate, communicate. I ask for this every day in my job. I told my church congregation the day I took over as moderator (lay leader) that I had two hallmarks: civility and communication. I am trying to give that congregation and the church staff more information than they’re accustomed to.

I believe people have to help shape the goals and solve the problems, know what decisions are being made, asked to join conversations and feel free to express their ideas and opinions. It’s the way to win hearts and minds…and move forward.

I welcome any help you want to provide on ethics.