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.

Avoid Ethics Traps: Ethics and Success

Avoid ethics traps. An ethics trap is a situation in which you are forced to choose between your ethics and an organizational goal. An example would be a bid situation in which the other bidders have inflated their experience, and your organization can make it to the next round by inflating its own experience. It is lie or lose – or so it seems. There are many ways to avoid such traps. For example, you document your real experience in a way that the other bidders can’t match. You can also message in your bid that others may be inflating their experience, e.g., by providing references across your claimed experience. You have to find a way to “spring” the ethics trap. A low ethics manager goes along with “market conditions” while a high ethics leader seeks to change them.

Avoid Ethics Traps

This post is part of series on ethics and success.

An ethics trap is a situation in which you are forced to choose between your ethics and an organizational goal. An example would be a bid situation in which the other bidders have inflated their experience, and your organization can make it to the next round by inflating its own experience. It is lie or lose – or so it seems. There are many ways to avoid such traps. For example, you document your real experience in a way that the other bidders can’t match. You can also message in your bid that others may be inflating their experience, e.g., by providing references across your claimed experience. You have to find a way to “spring” the ethics trap. A low ethics manager goes along with “market conditions” while a high ethics leader seeks to change them.

Trademark Your Ethics

This post is part of a series of posts on ethics and success.

If you want ethics to fuel your success, make ethics part of how you work. For example, if you are in a sales position, get to be known for providing customers with honest information. Make honesty a part of your sales edge. If you work on a technical team, be generous in giving others credit for what they accomplish. Just as we have confidence in companies with a reputation for honesty, people will have confidence in you if ethics is your work trademark. Will others try to take advantage of your ethics? Certainly. But your ethical trademark will help you push them back over time as others see their conduct for what it is.

Ethical Allies

Here is a second tip on making ethics a part of your success:

Find ethical allies. Even if you are in general ethical agreement with your employer, you will have varying degrees of ethical agreement with individual employees. Identify those with whom you have a high level of ethical agreement and make them your allies. If possible, include them among the individuals with whom you work closely. While there are many areas in which individuals may disagree, shared ethics makes agreement on other matters easier. The better you get to know your ethics cohorts, the better the chances that they will support your advancement. Your advancement is not at the expense of their ethics.

Ethics and Success

There is no guarantee that doing the right thing will lead to personal success. In thirty plus years as an ethics consultant, I have seen ethics undo more than a few brilliant careers. But I have also seen leaders whose ethics helped make them successful. You may think that rising to the top with your ethics intact is a matter of luck. But my observation is that ethical leaders follow a conscious strategy for building success upon their ethics. Here are a few steps to help you align your ethics with your career goals.

Choose who you work for. If your ethics and the ethics of your employer are in significant disagreement, your career success is certain to be limited. Organizations seldom promote individuals who are outside of their cultural boundaries, which include the organization’s ethics. It is not reasonable to expect perfect agreement between your ethics and the ethics of an employer. But a vegan who works for a meat packing company can expect problems. While most of us cannot change jobs at will, you increase your chances of advancement when you are employed by an organization with which you are in ethical agreement.

There are more steps that will be covered in future posts.

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.

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