Force multiplier

If your boss doesn’t seem to care about your timely completion of online ethics education, it’s probably because her boss doesn’t care about it.

And if her boss doesn’t care about it, it’s probably because her boss doesn’t care about it either. And so on, all the way to the CEO.

Ethics & Compliance Officers can try to convince everyone that ethics education is important, or they can focus on the CEO.

Fulfill the pledge

A Girl Scout saw a contradiction between her pledge to make the world a better place and her task of selling cookies.

Girl Scout cookies contain palm oil, which has been linked to child labor and climate change. From her perspective, selling these cookies couldn’t possibly make the world a better place, so she decided to make and sell her own palm-oil-free cookies (and give the profits to her local troop).

If your organization asked you to engage in activities that contradicted its values, how would you respond?

Offer a testimonial

Are you an employee who had a positive experience with your ethics & compliance department lately?

If so, share your experience with others. You can discuss it at the next staff meeting, or write a blurb in the company’s newsletter, or even post about it on your company’s internal social media platform.

There is someone out there hesitating to speak up, and your sharing might be what convinces them to ask for help.

How to notice improvement opportunities

Today, create a 5-minute meeting in your calendar.

Make it a recurring meeting at 4:55 PM every workday. You are meeting only with yourself.

For 5 minutes, reflect on the day and ask: “What could we do differently to improve our culture?”

Chances are, you won’t find an answer to that question. It’s not the point of the meeting. The point of the meeting is to build a habit of asking that question.

Within a few weeks, you will start noticing, in the middle of the day, things that you could do better. You will know that you have time at the end of the day to reflect on them. A few more weeks and you won’t need the meeting at all. You will have become the type of person who effortlessly notices ways to improve your workplace culture.

High and low fidelity

“Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t lie.”

That’s a phrase my CEO repeats regularly at town hall meetings. It compresses our code of conduct and our policies into a neat reminder that we seek always to do the right thing.

The problem with compressions is that they are low fidelity. “Don’t lie” doesn’t tell an employee what to say or who to ask for help. The high fidelity recording is the actual policy.

So, of course, we need both.

Hat tip to Seth Godin.

Share your decision-making process

A business leader recently asked me how she could increase her trustworthiness with her employees. Her business has had a difficult time in the last 18 months, which has forced her to make difficult decisions, and she now can feel a divide growing between her and her team.

My advice: put in writing how you make your decisions, and share it with your team.

Sharing your decision-making process increases transparency, which in turn increases trust. Putting that process in writing can only be done if you are clear about what drove your decision, and your clarity will transfer to your team (even if they disagree with the outcome). Once documented and shared, your decision not only becomes a reference for the future, it becomes open to attacks, something most leaders dread. However, this level of vulnerability is essential to building trust.

Most leaders understand that their job is to make decisions. Too few understand the importance of sharing how they make them.

The minimal viable audience for ethics education

The concept of minimal viable audience (MVA) works well for most businesses. You don’t have to convince everyone that your product is right for them. Instead, you can focus on customers who already want what you have to offer.

When you try to please everyone, you risk creating an average product. This might be why ethics and compliance education, pushed to all employees, is often considered mediocre (and not that effective). What if instead we focused on the MVA?

The MVA for E&C education can often be our supervisors. They usually represent 10-15% of the employee base, having on average 8-10 direct reports each. It’s easier to tailor education for this small group, and it’s easier for them to pass the information on to their direct reports, whom they know well.

I’m not suggesting that all E&C education should be in the form of supervisor-led training (SLT). But I do believe that SLT has its place, and that not enough companies are making a good use of it.

Choosing between two “rights”

Ukraine is facing criticism today because of its suspected use of petal mines near Russian positions.

Ukraine has been invaded and it has a right to defend itself. It probably feels that it has an obligation to defend its citizens by all means necessary, including using landmines that it promised not to use 25 years ago by treaty. Ukraine is facing a difficult choice: protect its citizens’ lives or uphold a treaty. It’s a difficult choice because Ukraine has to choose between two “rights”. It’s much easier to choose between right and wrong.

Which leads me to ethics training in the corporate world (remember, this is a business ethics blog, not a geopolitical one). Most off-the-shelf training use scenarios where employees must choose between obviously right and wrong solutions: “Should John look the other way when Mike skips a critical safety test on the assembly line, or should he report it?” This type of training might create some awareness but it doesn’t do much in terms of critical thinking.

Surely your company faced a difficult decision in the last few months. It was probably one where the “right thing to do” would impact one stakeholder favorably and another one unfavorably. Why not have leadership share with employees how they made the call? What arguments and consequences did they consider? Why did they land with one course of action over another? This type of transparency generates trust.

And consider using that scenario (or a similar one) in your training. By asking employees to make and justify their own call, you will sharpen their skills for the next tough decision.

Magnify your gratitude

I suspect readers of this blog know the importance of saying thank you.

But there are subtle ways you can use to magnify your gratitude. Here are some that I found in this article:

  • Use positive adjectives when saying thank you: “Thank you for being so diligent in completing this task. You kept the project on track.”
  • When people ask for your help, thank them for reaching out to you. Yes, they are adding to your full plate, but more importantly they are offering you a chance to contribute.
  • Is a colleague updating you on a long-term, time-consuming, high-visibility project? Offer to help them with a small task, like scheduling the next meeting or preparing the agenda. Volunteering for this 5-minute task will not only make your colleague feel appreciated, it will provide much-needed stress relief (it’s much needed, no matter how small the relief is).

And by the way, dear reader, I appreciate you.

HT to Corporate Compliance Insight

When you help one parent, both benefit

The Democrats just launched the Congressional Dads Caucus.

Some critics on social media have attacked the initiative because, they claim, we still haven’t done enough for working mothers.

It is true that much more still needs to be done for mothers. However, it seems to me that mothers have struggled more than fathers in part because our culture did not, for the longest time, considered fathers as equal partners in parenting. By offering paternity leave, counseling services for fathers, on-site childcare, and flexible work schedules, fathers can be more present in their children’s lives, and provide much needed support for mothers.

In the current political climate, I don’t expect politicians to solve this issue. But I do believe that employers are in a good position to help mothers by helping working fathers.

Can your workplace do more for parents?