There is an argument that could be, and has been, made that if a leader needs to teach ethics to future leaders, the organization has employed the wrong people. However, in your role of leader one of your key responsibilities is to develop future leaders and, in this day, and age, ensuring their ethical standards are high and in the forefront of awareness, is important. Thus, today’s Monday Moment utilizes the popular acronym method of helping you remember six simple steps to teach, reinforce, remind, and bring to top of mind the conversation around ethics and the need for their demonstration.
Our first letter E stands for exploring the topic all together. Leaving ethics in the land of assumptions is a dangerous proposition. No discussion and no exploration means you and your fellow leaders are assuming everyone is operating from the same value base, similar principles, and actions that will mirror top leader choices when there is a need to make tough choices.
For most new leaders or those new to the workforce, the conversation of ethics is not one they’ve readily addressed outside of perhaps that one class in college. Set up opportunities for ethical decisions to be made. Use real life examples and scenarios and consider keeping the test they’re taking a secret while ensuring there is minimal risk if they make a wrong first decision. Testing will show far greater results than merely talking through the ethics discussion.
What feels right or looks right for one leader in one scenario may completely fly in the face of appropriate for another. Rather than claiming right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or offensive, right off the bat, highlight the differences in perspective or reasonings that caused all parties to arrive at whatever was their conclusion. Highlight the differences and learn more about those you lead and the teams they serve. Each of these leaders who become more aware of the differences among those they have the privilege of leading will not only grasp the basis of ethical decisions at a new level, but will be less likely to immediately label those who are different, as difficult.
Different than what you might do if you’re starting a business, when you lead a team and incorporate ethics into your daily routine, you are leading by example. Take it one step further and invite commentary, feedback and questions on how you handled an ethical dilemma. Ask what your future leaders would have done differently. Ask for suggestions from the future of your organization. Incorporating their learning into your leading will develop the leaders you have the privilege of leading and your own leadership skills, simultaneously.
Not everyone you lead is always operating from the same sheet of music. Not only is this true in ethics, certainly, but it shows up in a more pronounced manner in this area. Borrowing from Capism.com, “Expose future leaders to a variety of experiences. The definition of ethics varies among individuals so make sure ethical discussions encompass factors like country of origin and religion. Learning to consider the impact of these factors on ethical decisions helps leaders identify all stakeholders” in myriad circumstances.
Not unlike many topics that seem wrought with gray area, many leaders treat a conversation of ethics like parents might treat a conversation around sex with their children. If you’re not completely clear on your own ethics or on what ethics are exactly, this is a talk subject to a LOT of procrastination. Avoid the temptation to set it aside indefinitely presuming it will just work itself out. The last thing you want to be leading is a public discussion on the news of you or your company’s ethics, standards and values. Start by having A conversation and then follow it where it takes you. Depending on the team you lead, varying questions will arise, and you can take them one at time and over time. The key is to start the conversation and bring the topic to the forefront.
For your Become a Better Leader Challenge this week, plan for Ethics to appear in your next staff meeting or team huddle. Prepare one realistic ethical dilemma to share with the team you lead and talk though how each team member might address it, as well as the way you or the company, would deem appropriate.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.