Compliance Interview

In a recent interview, Mark Pastin discusses a wide range of issues on corporate compliance. Please feel free to offer comments on any of the topics discussed in the video.

 

Welcome

headshot of Mark PastinWelcome to Mark Pastin’s web site. You will find information about Mark and his publications, services and speaking engagements here. Mark started working on ethics and compliance problems in business, government and the professions in the early 1970s. His 1986 book, The Hard Problems of Management: Gaining the Ethics Edge, was the first to take a managerial approach to ethics in business. (See Publications for details.) In his new book, Mark shows readers how to use their own innate ethical sense to create organizational and social change. Make an Ethical Difference: Tools for Better Action was released late in 2013 and is available now at Amazon.com and Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Author Interview

The attached video explains the main themes of Mark Pastin’s new book Make an Ethical Difference. One novel theme of the book is that individuals have an innate ability to make ethical judgments. Pastin calls this ability the “ethics eye.” More on this topic in coming posts as the main themes of Make an Ethical Difference are previewed.

The 5th Biggest Ethical Mistake

The fifth biggest ethical mistake is assuming that a business practice is acceptable because it is a common practice in the industry. Just because a practice is common in an industry does not mean that it is safe or ethical. It all depends on which companies in an industry you compare yourself to. For example, Enron was the most admired company in the energy industry – until it wasn’t. If you are the first one in an industry caught doing something wrong, you often pay the price of the entire industry correcting its practices. Think of the scene in The Tin Men in which two aluminum siding salesmen sit outside a Congressional hearing saying to one another, “We only did what everyone was doing.” If this sounds a bit lame, avoid putting yourself in the same position.

The 4th Biggest Ethical Mistake

The fourth biggest ethical mistake made by leaders is confusing legal advice with ethical advice. The job of legal counsel is to tell you the legal consequences of various courses of action – and not whether you should take those actions. Many of the investment activities that led to the 2008 recession were perfectly legal and also perfectly unethical. The training that makes a good lawyer does not make the lawyer an ethics expert.

The 3rd Big Ethical Mistake

The third big ethical mistake that leaders make is allowing managers in an area suspected of wrong-doing to investigate the matter. Leaders believe they should show trust in the their managers and allow them to investigate accusations. But the chances that the manager is conflicted are too great to take this path. By the way, I discuss ways of avoiding these mistakes in my book Make an Ethical Difference.

2nd Ethical Mistake

In my pursuit of the biggest mistakes leaders make, the second biggest mistake is fixing a problem going forward without owning the problem’s history. This would be like GM fixing its ignition problem going forward without owning the problem in cars currently on the road. This never works but it is very tempting to leaders who don’t want a past problem dragging their organization down. But you have to own the organization’s history to be able to move on.

Question re Ethical Mistakes

What ethical mistakes do you see leaders making? I have an odd view since I only hear from them when they have problems. What do you think?

Ethics Masters and Slaves

In my book Make an Ethical Difference I use the following quote: The master knows the rules without suffering them; the slave suffers the rules without knowing them.”

The Biggest Ethical Mistake

I was recently asked to write something on the biggest ethical mistakes made by CEOs. There are a lot to choose from so this took some thinking.

And the winner is: Judging information you receive by the person who delivers it. I know of no ethical fiascoes, including Enron, that did not have clear warning signs. Somehow these signs were ignored – and not without reason. The information that  enables a CEO to prevent an ethical crisis often comes from individuals who are afraid of taking any risks, whine about everything, and have a chip on their shoulder. I have just described one type of whistle blower. Really sharp CEOs ignore the source and act on the information, often at the objection of the top tier of their management. An ethical CEO is always asking, what if this information, although from a questionable source, is true? Would I gamble the future of the company on it not being true?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 360 other followers