Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)

Economic (201-220)

1-20 | 21-40 | 41-60 | 61-80 | 81-100 | 101-120 | 121-140 | 141-160
161-180 | 181-200 | 201-220 | 221-240 | 241-260 | 261-280 | 281-300
301-320 | 321-340 | 341-350 | 351-360 | 361-370

Question: (E-201)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 31, 2005

Sports striking out on drug abuse policies

The corruption in sports, by drug abusers, seems now to have been papered over with sealed evidence. Looks like those in the legal system, who dropped 40 of 42 charges about steroids, have placed their heads in the sand. What are your thoughts?

Chances are pretty good that some small number of individuals will be paraded in front of the public as "bad examples" and they will take the heat for years of violations of many who will never be charged. Cheating will have been allowed, by the ticket-selling owners and the players' organizations. Record books will have not reconciled the hypocrisy and sleaze of tainted athletes who profited from "chemically-enhanced" performances. Fans flocked to record-smashing, eating and drinking heavily in the modern-day coliseum.

The "juiced" balls, bats and muscles that created sensational games are simply a reflection of the public's demands. For the immediate gratification of those who demand superhuman feats, individuals risked their lives. Some died. These life-threatening and culture-numbing performance-enhancing drugs are not unique to sports. Society has jumped on board.

Many today are hooked on the "drug-of-constant-activity" -- filling every moment with stimulation created by noise, color, data, interactions and fantasy. Volume replaces logic in conversations. Fancy packaging conceals lack of quality and preparedness. The amount of information, including commercials and pop-ups, blasted at individuals, numbs senses regarding priorities and perspective. So, is it any wonder that sports fans expect a three-ring circus to surround sporting events?

Aspiring athletes know the difference between being selected and missing the cut can mean the difference between new-found riches and a return to the poverty of their youth. They want to perform well and they need to; but not at any cost. Many young athletes squandered their educational opportunities, to play for the institution that paid for their time, only to be returned to the dead-end lives they knew before their four or five years of collegiate competition.

Leadership is needed now. Congressional investigations along with the various institutions involved, must hold all parties 100% responsible. Owners and players are locked in an economic tug-of-war that will destroy fair competition and the health of a whole generation that chooses to play the "drug" game.

All sports stakeholders can help to improve sports events:

  1. Fans, be clear: drinking more decaffeinated coffee will not solve this problem. Set realistic performance standards and show respect for honest and clean competition.
  2. Owners, stop giving frenetic and irresponsible fans what they demand. Drug-induced performance is a zero-sum game. Everyone loses.
  3. Players associations, think longer term: protect our gifted athletes.
  4. Higher education: it is time to be clear on the purpose of sport and the role of academic institutions.

Question: (E-202)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on August 17, 2005

"Too many lazy board members"

How can a column on integrity sustain itself for four years?

Individuals and organizations create the need to emphasize the obvious. "I feel like a doctor in the middle of a measles epidemic." No, it is more serious than that. "I feel more like a one-armed paper hanger with hives." Open up any newspaper or simply listen to the news. Rascals are rampant and integrity is missing.

Not-so-tongue-in-cheek, writing for the New York Times, Floyd Norris, on Friday, August 12, 2005, says that "inept boards need have no fear" - at least, not yet. He cites Krispy Kreme, certainly a company with a poorly performing board of directors, even after approving an investigative committee to assess its ineptitude, offers disappointing conclusions. The special investigators state: "The board did not oversee management's processes and decisions with an appropriately skeptical eye; was far from exemplary; [exhibited] a lack of timely, meaningful information; and, did not forcefully seek more detailed and timely reports from management." Even with this kind of indictment, here is the conclusion: "There is no basis to believe that any outside director did anything that he or she 'knew or believed' was clearly in conflict with the best interests of the corporation or approved a transaction from which he or she received an improper personal benefit." Such a low standard is all the law requires, the committee concluded.

Should such low standards be acceptable, then lazy and careless directors, according to Norris, have little to fear.

Unless or until organizations are willing to regulate themselves, governments will. Another of my sources of information reports that fewer talented individuals are eager, or even willing, to serve on boards of directors. Financial liability is the issue. Strong, well-educated and experienced professionals do not need to be subjected to the risks related to shareholder lawsuits. Pressures have become incredible for individual members of boards to make certain that their organizations are meeting ever-growing and more complicated compliance standards. Trust and integrity are at the heart of the issue. And, what has been reported at Krispy Kreme and other firms lowers confidence in boards of directors who purpose is to protect shareholders and stakeholders.

The dilemma is clear. Lazy folks, who want to be on boards, are not protecting corporate assets; ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities. Competent individuals are reluctant to accept board appointment and face an ever more hostile public that has reasons to believe that all too many in high places are behaving irresponsibly.

Most board members are doing their jobs effectively or they set themselves up to receive media attention. Irresponsible board members erode trust in capitalist markets that underpin our society, forcing regulators to add more rules. Integrity restores trust.

Question: (E-203)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 7, 2005

"Katrina shows dark side of human behavior"

Does the lawless behavior of New Orleans urban gangsters mean that American society is one storm away from anarchy and an even further loss of integrity?

Yes, it does. Looting and robbing are behaviors controlled by social constraints and laws. Selfishness, cruelty, criminality and dishonesty are often referred to as the "dark side" of human behavior; held in check, for most people, by healthy and constructive interpersonal relationships along with civil and criminal regulations. Penalties for criminality sustain stability.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, gangsters are using guns to plunder their communities, intimidating victims. These are nasty people, but not that different from felons who are rich and powerful corporate executives convicted and sentenced for fraud and malfeasance. High-ranking individuals from Andersen Consulting, WorldCom, Enron and HEALTHSOUTH were found guilty of unbridled greed-driven criminal behavior. They stole money in broad daylight, using sophisticated accounting practices. Society has serious integrity issues that need to be addressed, soon: among the rich, the poor and those in between.

The hideous actions of these thugs, preying upon the helpless at their most vulnerable moments, have been made clear by a responsible media. Anti-social behavior cannot be tolerated or explained away. Firing rifles at life-saving helicopters, attacking vehicles transporting medical professionals to and from hospitals and using the cloak of darkness to rape and murder are indefensible actions. Tired and frightened, hundred of thousands of hurricane and flood victims have no lights, no communications, no water, no food, no police and little hope. New Orleans urban vultures and others in rural areas along the Mississippi and Alabama coast have seized the moment to plunder. Viciousness must be universally condemned, whether looting stores or gouging citizens with outrageous profit-taking; whether for food, water, medical supplies or gasoline. Bandits come in many forms.

The Katrina Hurricane of August, 2005, reminds us of the fragile line between dignified human behavior and the violent life of the animal kingdom. Lions, dogs, hawks, snakes, gorillas and sharks hunt for food when they are hungry, must feed their young or protect their turf. When humans are frightened, frantic, thirsty, hungry, or abandoned, then anger and violence are likely consequences. Dire circumstances provoke dramatic reactions. Those who choose to profiteer in times of pain are bottom-feeders.

Before condemning the citizens of a city, state or region; because a small percentage of people are adding to the chaos, take the time to look carefully at the faces of the victims. Listen to their stories. If you are able, then offer assistance. Encourage prosecution of criminals. Regardless, pray for the victims to manage their losses and their health, enabling them to regain hope that integrity is alive along with compassion.

Question: (E-204)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 28, 2005

"Prosecution of corporate criminals offers hope"

With more and more convictions, including large fines and prison sentences for corporate bigwigs, do you see integrity on the upswing?

Not yet. However, the appearance of right behavior is definitely in the spotlight. More convicted felons are being forced to pay for damages and serve jail sentences. A few of those serving time have been quoted saying that they are sorry for their irresponsible and criminal behaviors. Perhaps the motivation for these public confessions is contriteness or simply good theater, bordering on social and political correctness. Certainly, those who have prosecuted the "bad folks" have been able to leverage their righteousness and law-supporting actions into visible and powerful political platforms. Media coverage seems to have assisted prosecutors seeking additional political power.

Photo opportunities are not lost on an often confused public looking for the next Lone Ranger to save them from outlaws. Out of the muck of these publicity-seeking and self-serving "public servants" comes improvement for society. Some bad apples are sent to jail. Maybe this blast of "corrective behaviors" will have a lasting effect. My realistic side says this is the current fad that will lose steam, as it has before, only to reappear when too many sleazy operators are exposed. Rounding up the crooks and punishing a few tends to assure many people that slick operators have been taught a lesson and that they will change. However, the history of human nature would challenge such assumptions. 18th Century "land thieves" were replaced in the 19th Century by "robber barons" who are today's financial and legal wizards overseeing "pyramid schemes" complete with stock manipulations, insider trading and frivolous lawsuits.

Major corporations have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to the Securities and Exchange Commission. These settlements have been in connection with federal securities class action fraud suits and state derivative suits. The latter two suits are all about money, not rebuilding integrity, establishing justice, but are about punishing wrongdoing.

In theory, at least, any monetary recovery in the federal securities class action lawsuit should be divided among the shareholders to recover personal investment losses allegedly caused by the misleading disclosure. All too often such awards enrich plaintiffs' attorneys and very little is divided among the shareholders who have been harmed by irresponsible and criminal corporate officers. The shareholder derivative lawsuit, which was a tool traditionally used to attack alleged insider corruption or questionable corporate transactions, now is routinely used as an alternative way to pursue claims of misleading and dishonest disclosure. Financial recovery, unfortunately, goes first to plaintiffs' attorneys rather that the corporate treasury. In both cases, the actual corporate wrongdoers, the officers of the organizations often do not pay the fines; do not admit to any wrong doing, allowing insurance companies pay the judgments.

Such a process does not warm my heart very much. It is common knowledge that the justice system, at least in the United States, enables almost anyone to file a lawsuit, sometimes irresponsibly, and settle, out of court, allowing litigants simply to avoid the hassle and the high costs of legal activities. Powerhouse drug manufacturer, Merck, has announced that it will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the attorneys and the plaintiffs, never acknowledging legal responsibility (or moral accountability). How can that be good for society? Such "legal and financial skating" will not build trust between and among stakeholders in society.

A friend of mine has a clear and persuasive argument regarding the importance of integrity. He has served as a chief financial officer for several public and private corporations. Most recently shortly after being hired by a public company, he uncovered accounting irregularities, promptly informing the Board of Directors' audit committee and the firm's independent auditors. The audit committee then retained special outside counsel and an independent forensic accounting team to conduct an internal investigation. The company self-reported the internal investigation to the Securities and Exchange Commission, based on the extensive investigation and several senior officers of the company were terminated. Immediately, the company adopted significant changes in its accounting and internal control procedures. Yes, one person can make a difference. He was and is a whistle-blower. He knew that his actions would indict his fellow executives and members of the board. He persevered. Having stood up to isolation, resentment and threats, he is living proof that sometimes it appears that no good deed goes unpunished

Throughout the year-long ordeal, the whistle-blowing chief financial officer maintained the highest level of integrity. He was uncompromising in rooting out the problems while adhering to his strong sense of integrity and honesty. He challenged those in charge, despite the fact that his own position was "on the line," all the time. He wanted to "do the right thing" for the shareholders, employees, and himself. He is the only remaining senior corporate officer still with the company. Obviously, integrity has won the day, proving that justice can still prevail.

Question: (E-205)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 14, 2005

"Arrogance stems from fear, low self-esteem"

What causes people to be arrogant?

Entitlement, fear and low self-esteem are three causes of arrogance. Fortunate birth circumstances are not self-made. Those who snobbishly live off of the hard work, sacrifice and successes of previous generations come across, with or without merit, as being entitled to privileged position, power and prestige. Even sports fans, who wrap themselves in the victories of their teams, come across as haughty, deserving admiration simply because "their team" posted more victories than my team. The sports example is especially painful for me, having been a life-long Chicago Cubs fan. The Cubs give me little reason to gloat, boast and even bring up my team's name, except to fellow suffering "Wrigley Field Warriors." Humility trumps haughtiness and discourages arrogance.

Fear of "being found out" regarding dark secrets of incompetence, uncertainty and doubt drive many to overcompensate. A wise mentor said: "the most expensive thing that a man has, not a woman, is his ego." Boys battle over toys, running speed and brute strength. Such pursuits are costly, exhausting and often dangerous. Women really are smarter and they know it, which may explain why they live longer. Humiliating others, picking fights to demonstrate prowess and being stingy, especially when tipping service people, is a window into a bitter soul. Those who are in "over their heads" turn to bluster and bullying to camouflage their fundamental feelings of inadequacy. Another of my curmudgeon friends said to remember that your ego is not your amigo.

Low self-esteem, blamed on mediocre parenting and humble beginnings, has been over simplified by those who wish to sidestep accountability. Having listened to dozens indefensible justifications from those who lack confidence, it is true, adults cannot abdicate responsibility for how they feel and act. Clients seek input from our firm, Dimension Five Consultants, to enhance their interpersonal and organizational effectiveness. When challenged, by us, to adjust certain counter-productive behaviors, some choose to make excuses. Some were too tall and stood out while others were too short and missed being recognized. Too fat, too skinny, too poor, too rich, first child, middle child, born in the city, reared in a small town, English was a second language, English is the only language, father left family, parents stayed in horrible marriage and the list goes on. Sooner or later, adults must get over it and move on. Life is filled with opportunities for those who are willing to risk, reach out and grow. Crutches are for the crippled, not the lazy. Being rude is irresponsible. Condescension does not reflect integrity, but graciousness does. Showing respect for others, regardless of their economic, cultural or social position, is the mark of maturity and civility.

Letter to the Editor, published November 8, 2005:

Ego deterrent to good business

I have read with interest the business column by Jim Bracher and agree with much of what he says.

Ego is truly an impediment for men and women. I'm not sure about the part where it says women are smarter, because I have seen many women who play the backstabbing game more viciously than men. Maybe the problem is that these women have tried to become "manly" in adopting some of the more combative aspects of the male character.

Back to my point. Ego is the great destroyer of men and women and careers and marriages and any other type of relationship. My ego is pretty strong, but not to the point where I will lie, cheat or do things that will harm others personally or professionally. I have been told I lack a killer instinct, and I thank God every night that it is true. But where that limits me in the dog-eat- dog world of business, it helps me in other areas of life. If you can identify the "killers" and weed them out of the organization, and get people to play by the rules of human decency, the organization would become more collaborative, more functional, more communicative and more productive (although performance issues are still performance issues, and need to be addressed). This is so simple, yet so hard for people to understand.

David Hubbard

Ogden, Utah

Question: (E-206)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 21, 2005

"Find a way to reach out to those in need"

What is the right response to victims of disasters?

Political, economic, cultural and natural catastrophes shake the foundations of our lives; creating powerful emotion-charged memories that last a life-time. However, it is important to recognize when we are observing the pains of those about us, it is incumbent that assistance, in a wide variety of forms, is offered. The reaching out can be as personal as prayer or as public as sending money, being available to listen or serve in ways to heal and restore safe places to live.

The watercolor below, created by Ms. Sally Smith, was inspired by her reaction to 9/11/2001. Immediately after the New York City terrorist attack, Sally was unable to make contact with a member of her family, a teacher whose classroom was very near to the Twin Towers. Feeling helpless, like a "dinghy adrift" - she painted until she re-established contact and found, once again, hope and confidence, the dependable mooring of family, communication and hope.

Shortly after 9-11, my wife, Jane and I visited Sally's gallery in Carmel, and were moved by her story about when, how and why the painting came into being. She said that when one does not know what to do to help those closest to them, or even if they are alive or dead, it feels like being a small boat, without moorings, a dinghy adrift. A few weeks later, she phoned us and paid us a very special compliment, saying that she would be pleased for her art work to hang in our offices. "Your counsel was immensely helpful to my husband, and I hope this image can be equally so as you continue with your work." A little while later, Sally presented us with her painting, a visual reminder that each of us can be a source of reassurance for those with whom we come in contact. We can serve as a dependable mooring in a world that sometimes appears to have simply gone mad.

So, how does one become a dependable mooring and avoid becoming a dinghy adrift?

"You sometimes have to give before you get." Human beings are responsible for "protecting those who cannot protect themselves." Victims, anywhere around the world, for any number of reasons, need caring people to find be there for them, not just victims of hurricanes. If you are able, then offer assistance. Pray for the victims that they might manage their losses and their health, enabling them to regain hope that integrity is alive along with compassion. Become a dependable mooring for those who are adrift. Traumatic events occur everywhere. Being a resource to others is another way to exhibit integrity. With apologies to the original writers: "do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

Question: (E-207)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 2, 2005

"Your bumper sticker says a lot about you"

What are people saying about their values when they place gross bumper stickers on their automobiles?

Everything we do communicates! Intentionally advertising who one is or what one stands for on a crude or callous bumper sticker can be short-sighted, naïve, even counter-productive. Case in point, the message on the back of a large sports utility vehicle: MOM'S TAXI: Get in. Sit Down. Shut Up. Hold On. By itself, this message suggests no conflict. "Mom's taxi" operates on her terms, so with no pun intended, it is Mom's way or the highway! However, just to the left of Mom's license plate was a large chrome symbol, the outline of a fish, announcing that the owner-driver was a "public" proponent of Christianity. The driver-owner of this vehicle must not have seen inconsistency between the phrase "shut up" and spiritual values that encourage thoughtfulness, encouragement, compassion and graciousness. Even what appears to be light-hearted humor communicates; sometimes more than might have been intended. After all, do spiritually-grounded people tell others to shut up? So, how effectively is this "mom" exhibiting congruence between what she says about her personal spiritual values and what she does when driving her vehicle? Is this cute or sad?

Beyond bumper stickers, think about the images and messages we present to the world. How we dress, speak, stand, sit and walk - each communicates our openness, confidence, including perceived competence. Humans are a living and breathing bulletin board, announcing who they are and how they operate to anyone who sees, smells, touches or hears them. Words used, gossip repeated, jokes told, slurs uttered and certainly actions taken are windows into individual human souls.

Growing up in our family meant that we heard, repeatedly, certain behavior-influencing themes. Though they were longer than bumper stickers, when their wisdom didn't stick, we risked getting a bump. Examples:

  1. You will be known by your associates, so pick top quality friends;
  2. Smile, because you wouldn't want your face to freeze in a frown;
  3. Say nothing if you cannot say something good;
  4. Work harder; when you can't work smarter;
  5. Arrive early so others won't have to wait for you;
  6. Tell the truth, because it is the right thing to do and is easier to remember than a lie;
  7. Never trust those who expect you to compromise your values.

Congruence between what we say and what we do is important because it reflects our integrity. Living up to integrity-centered behavior standards is hard work. What bumper sticker is worthy of your reputation? Remove those that fall short.

For the record, writing this column was a helpful reminder, for me, and a challenge to do better.

Question: (E-208)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 12, 2005

"Red tape clogs the construction industry"

Why are there so many government agencies and red tape associated with building, almost anything?

Integrity; or the lack thereof, seems to explain the increasing number of regulations established to monitor the construction industry. The log-jam of our court system is related to the gigantic number of lawsuits arising from conflicts between those in the construction trades and their clients; many of whom become ex-clients. Misunderstandings are not the same as misrepresentations. Delays are different from deliberate slow downs. Incompetence and construction sloppiness risk lives, waste time and money and, when not addressed forthrightly, destroy trust, encouraging litigation. Politicians and civil servants, in en effort to control violators, feel pressure to refine and extend regulations, sometimes damaging the free market upon which it depends.

Given the ever-increasing size of the construction industry, it is not surprising that rules and regulations have been compounding, increasing the workload of civil servants. Monitoring construction is a critical government responsibility because it involves protecting society and keeping it healthy and safe.

When plumbing does not work because of faulty equipment and/or incompetent installation, and is not rectified in a timely manner, what satisfactory recourse does the customer have but to turn to the government? When property owners are willing to exceed standards that have been properly established, what choices do frustrated neighbors have but to seek legal sanctions? Unfortunately, the 6% - those who cause the majority of the problems - make life tough on everyone. Pieces of wood that should match and don't are painted to hide a problem, creating a fraud. Structural errors, that might later cause deaths to those crushed by falling beams, are masked in name of coming in on time and within budget. And the list goes on. Government employees realistically assume the worst, and police the entire construction process from planning to final approval. The temptation is real and attractive for public servants to overuse their authority by creating extensions of policy, further complicating the processes. Then, when these same agencies discover they were yet again conned by the cunning, they redouble their efforts to control the situation; creating an ever-widening circle of stifling red-tape.

Predictably, sincere and dedicated government bureaucrats cause the "building regulations" gauntlet to become increasingly frustrating and unpleasant. However, there is a rock-solid solution: integrity-centered behavior. It should be common knowledge that free markets, including the construction industry, must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight. However, legitimate oversight is not license for abuse by government agencies. A free-market economy prospers, even better, with integrity-centered partnerships, across the board; fostering honest communication; building trust. Self-regulation and a binding verbal-handshake trump cumbersome laws and costly penalties.

Question: (E-209)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 26, 2005

"Integrity takes on a spiritual value"

Is integrity a politically-correct subject?

Not yet. Integrity, like religion, is cumbersome topic in certain social situations. Of interest to many, integrity, like spiritual values, commands consistent follow-though by a much smaller number. However, those who live integrity-centered lives think seriously about the behavioral consequences of their core values. Core values are those beliefs considered non-negotiable, shaping operating behaviors, and are unshakable. Integrity-centered individuals formulate constructive principles to guide their actions toward consistency; thus predictability.

Responding to the following twelve statements can help clarify what you believe, pinpointing appropriate ways for you to operate, personally and professionally. Understanding what one believes, about social interactions, informs actions, leveraging principles of integrity.

  1. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
  2. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
  3. We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
  4. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
  5. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
  6. We have abused power and called it politics.
  7. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.
  8. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
  9. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of the courageous and wise, those who framed our binding institutions, calling it enlightenment.
  10. We have overcompensated on behalf of the next generation, to smooth their paths, and make it a lot easier for them; asking ourselves and others why they are weak, lack self-confidence and come across as uncommitted.
  11. We support a society that builds people up only to tear them down; losing along the way a culture that encourages, teaches, nurtures, forgives and moves forward.
  12. Seven deadly social sins to be avoided: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; and, Politics without principle.

Because integrity appears to be the only common-sense solution for a society in need of renewal, it must become the norm, emerging as politically, socially and economically appropriate and correct, at all times. Recent catastrophes confirm the need for integrity-centered leadership. Whether terrorist-driven or caused by nature, responsive, competent and integrity-centered leadership is essential. Tidal waves, hurricanes or floods hit society in many ways, from Wall Street to Main Street, more often appearing as price-gouging, patronage, partisanship, perversion and plunder. From the corridors of power to the powerful corridors we walk every day, our words and our deeds are the glue that holds society together or destroys it. Modeling integrity is everyone's responsibility. Our children and grandchildren are looking to us for constructive, integrity-centered leadership, and never before have they needed it more.

Question: (E-210)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 19, 2005

"Rape, murder rate worst for a lack of integrity"

Where do you place rape in your lack-of-integrity ranking?

Rape is the worst, right next to murder. In a world too often uncomfortable distinguishing between right and wrong, despicable actions like rape and murder must be condemned and stopped. Very few actions defy all rules of civilized behavior, but rape is one of them. Rape, sexual violence against another human, is carried out by individuals with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior, leaving victims scarred for life.

Rapists crave power, viciously dominating victims to satisfy their depraved sexual-gratification desires. When innocent children are violated, the awful becomes the unthinkable. When antisocial and illegal behaviors are ignored or simply tolerated, even while being superficially condemned by those in authority, society suffers. The tolerance for sexual abuse contaminates humanity.

Is a married male who rapes a young female any less or more criminally liable than a gay who violates a person of the same sex? Sexual violation of another person is not a life-style preference issue; it is a legal matter; raising questions about integrity, morality, respect and the judicial system that must prosecute it. Conducting "witch-hunts" may be a convenient and "politically-correct" response to sexual abuse; however, "life-style" litmus tests will not take the place of rigorous and uncompromising policing of sexual violence. Persecuting scapegoats is not delivering justice.

Can integrity-centered human beings condone the behavior of those who use their position to sexually violate others? Modern society protects wetlands from violence. Should boys and girls, or adults, be provided lesser levels of care? Animals, trees, oceans, streams, public facilities and air travel are protected from smoke, fire, alcohol, and the pollution of loud noise and pornography. The crime of rape must be condemned and eradicated.

Responsible individuals offer integrity-centered answers to these four questions:

  1. Who can justify looking the other way when convicted rapists are not confined and monitored?
  2. What kinds of leaders tolerate inquisition-like interviews about life-style preference, further clouding the issue of criminal behavior, while avoiding the legitimate dialogue about social and interpersonal integrity?
  3. How civilized is a society that has, for too long, challenged rape victims themselves, as perpetrators of the crime, when they find the courage to confront rapists?
  4. When will rape victims be praised for seeking justice by dragging "closet socio-paths" into court?

Where will you stand when asked to support those who would end rape, everywhere, forever? Perhaps rapists should be spotlighted and brought to justice in ways similar to those being used by media giant, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Her personal and professional mission is to protect society from child molesters, legally and permanently. Learn from her and take action, now. Integrity Matters.

Question: (E-211)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 7, 2005

"Oil firms face questions for high gas prices"

Do you think the recent outlandish gasoline prices reflect integrity in the oil business? What is legitimate profit?

Price-gouging is destructive. Legitimate profit is what responsible business people and their honest customers determine is a fair price. Integrity-centered buyers and sellers are willing to protect the longer-term viability of the other. Either too much or too little profit causes hardships. Preying upon those who find themselves in harm's way is wrong. Medical service providers would not raise prices during an epidemic. Society would never stand for that. Supply and demand explanations about high-priced fuels are followed by the blame game, otherwise known as "we are victims too" with the fault lying at the feet of those in the Middle East who control prices. A good number of Americans are hopping mad about the high fuel costs and have demanded the oil companies be investigated after their industry-wide recent quarterly reports of incredible profit-taking.

The Congress of the United States has begun hearings regarding the recent price run-ups and will determine who is guilty of what. Tens of millions of drivers concluded that the oil barons wanted to charge "whatever the market would bear" - and they did. Powerful people, sitting in lofty places, were reporting tremendous profits, creating burdensome fuel costs for the masses. One of the phrases emphasizing the integrity-centered leadership message of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership: It should be common knowledge that free markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight.

According to MSNBC News Services, as early as September 22, 2005, "The United States Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether gasoline price profiteering has occurred and [whether or not] oil companies have constrained refinery capacity to manipulate fuel prices." Trust and respect are essential for commerce to flourish with minimal regulations. The issue with big oil is about price and integrity.

Just after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, The Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, September 5, 2005, reported: Gas panic feeds price gouging (Stay calm, report unscrupulous merchants). " Business is business, but with Louisiana in a state of emergency from Hurricane Katrina, gasoline price gouging isn't just illegal, it's unconscionable. Gas stations are entitled to a reasonable profit. As wholesale prices rise, the cost has to be passed along to the motorist. . . . But in one case prices had jumped past $4 overnight. In other instances, prices were rising several times within one day."

The Attorney General of each state welcomes complaints about price-gouging, of any kind, and now, especially fuel. Please report crooked treatment, immediately, because integrity is the foundation for legitimate profits and a healthy business climate.

Question: (E-212)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 30, 2005

"Measure V, Rally Salinas defeat naysayers"

What are your thoughts about Rally Salinas and Measure V (raising taxes to sustain city services, including extending recently shortened library hours)?

Salinas received negative press, locally, nationally and internationally when libraries were closed. The criticism heaped upon the leadership of the City of Salinas was embarrassing; not so much because it happened with reference to closing libraries; but it seemed to strike a self-righteous chord among those outside the community who did not appreciate the budget issues pressuring local districts, like Salinas. The negativity of the coverage spread like wildfire. Civil discourse was displaced by angry harangues, too often sounding like self-serving campaigns unappreciative of the courage required by leaders facing brutal budget crunch challenges.

How effectively the leaders of the City of Salinas went about assessing the budget shortfall and choosing a path forward to address it - those are discussions for politicians and pundits. Who knew what and when and how the problems were successfully resolved - that too is for others to critique. Often, when state governments retain tax dollars that were previously earmarked for local jurisdictions, including cities, the pain is most evident toward the bottom of the revenue food chain: county and city governments. Mayor Anna Caballero made that point frequently.

However, after the election held on November 8, 2005, this is what can be known. The City of Salinas can celebrate because it was able to avert a long-term crisis in public services.

Sacrifices were made by many during the cut-backs as members of the community pitched in with the sweat-equity of dedicated volunteers.

Forthright communication replaced counter-productive rhetoric and dollars were raised, funding a portion of the deficit while simultaneously clarifying and communicating a constructive message of hope.

Courageous decisions were made along the way and a revenue-producing measure was embraced by 61% of the voters.

Salinas' leadership, in addition to the Mayor and the City Council, attracted community-wide loyalty, justifying tremendous pride in Salinas. In comparing the Bracher Center's Eight Attributes of an Integrity Centered Organization - it is easy to see how the charitable spirit of the Salinas community permeated the process. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised through Rally Salinas, funding the shortfall, and renewing civic pride while expanding social awareness. Partnerships between and among the rich and the not-so-rich caused a groundswell of single-mindedness. Rally Salinas challenged those beyond local borders to understand that Salinas did care about its libraries and other human services. The louder the media's voices of condemnation and ridicule, the more firmly heels "dug in" to confirm the integrity and the generous community stewardship of Salinas. Pride "rallied Salinas" and Measure V confirmed that integrity and Salinas won big, again.

Question: (E-213)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 23, 2005

"Owens' big ego cost him dearly"

Terrell Owens' self-destructive behavior got him removed from the Philadelphia Eagles football team where he was being paid millions of dollars. Is he off his rocker?

Whether or not Terrell Owens is off his rocker, one thing is for sure, he has been tossed from his locker, at least in Philadelphia. What a pathetic misuse of talent. Even so, his meltdown provides another occasion to learn about integrity-centered behavior. What did he do that was so wrong? He treated those around him shabbily.

Will Rogers often prefaced his remarks with: "I only know what I have read in the newspaper." Were he living today, he might add: "...or heard on the radio or saw on television." What I know about Terrell Owens - T.O. - is primarily from television and printed stories where he appears with a large number of dramatic contradictions. He is talented and immature; rich and foolish; and, always very full of himself; becoming his own worst enemy. His ego has cost him dearly in tainted reputation and squandered opportunities.

Ron Borges, of the Boston Globe, wrote: "The Eagles' mistake was that they thought Owens would be grateful...that...they'd saved him from a quarterback-less exile with the Baltimore Ravens and [he would] be thankful for their help. Terrell Owens does not see the world as a place where people give him a helping hand toward success. He sees it as a place he dominates by talent and a willfulness that has finally gotten him into some very hot water."

According to one of our successful business clients, when irritation factors outweigh performance - for any variety of reasons, change is inevitable. Terrell Owens ego appears out of control. He offended his company's leadership. He lost his place on his team; possibly ending a promising career. Unfortunately, he is neither the first nor last fool with talent.

Barry Gadbois, in The Desert Dispatch, writes: "Terrell Owens has an athletic gift so amazing that people who live from one paycheck to the next will actually dole out money to see him perform. He was set for life - rich beyond most people's dreams - and riding a bullet train to the Hall of Fame. Terrell Owens held a huge lottery ticket, and the only thing that kept him from cashing it in was his lack of basic people skills.

Those with talent, including money, power, ability and opportunity must:

  1. Show genuine appreciation for God-given talent and opportunity.
  2. Respect and support colleagues.
  3. Honor rules of engagement.
  4. Share the spotlight, graciously.
  5. Model integrity-centered behavior.

Or, risk losing it all.

Question: (E-214)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 21, 2005

"Internet requires vigilance by parents"

Sexual predators are one internet keystroke from making contact with our children. These criminals can destroy lives, harming entire families. School vacations mean more time for children to be on the web, alone, and at risk. What can be done?

Understand the risks: According to Chris Hansen, correspondent for NBC News, November 10, 2005: "In any home where there are young people with computers, there are parents with concerns. Teenagers can spend hours chatting online, but who are they chatting with? On the other end of that instant message could be a complete stranger - or a sexual predator. It's a dangerous side of the Internet, one that's growing and many children are at risk. This past spring, a New York City policeman, a youth officer, was also caught attempting to meet a child online for sex. He pleaded guilty and agreed to serve six months in prison. Law enforcement officials estimate that 50,000 predators are online at any given moment. Michele Collins of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that "One in five young people has been sexually solicited," Her organization launched an ad campaign aimed at educating teens about this crime. "The message that really got home to the teenage girl was that if you're in an online relationship, there's a good chance you might be getting played."

How should 77 million computer-savvy children, who are online today, be protected?

  1. Stay close to your children using the internet. Televisions have "blocking keys" - but cell phones and computers lack governing mechanisms and are able to run wild - with tastelessness, filth and perversion - directly into the eyes, minds and lives of children.
  2. Exercise parental controls, including installing internet blocking software, preventing a child from giving out personal information. If something feels wrong, then check it out.
  3. Keep communication lines open. When something "unsettling" happens online, responsible adults offer assistance. Predatory activities include: sexual solicitation or the sending of sexually explicit images by someone who knows that the child is under the age of 18; or the receiving of child pornography, by anyone in the household. The FBI cautions that if one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law-enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law-enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer. Internet crime is a crime like any other and should be reported to the proper local, state, or federal authorities. If your child has been a victim of pornography, sexual predation, spam, Internet fraud, or harassment, don't take matters into your own hands. Let the proper agencies handle the situation.
  4. Take immediate action: contact local law-enforcement. Use the CyberTipline at (1-800-843-5678), which is managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which has representatives from the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at its headquarters.
  5. Balance concerns about exposure to inappropriate and harmful Internet involvement against the benefits gained from the constructive gateways it provides.

Integrity-centered parental leadership, including active and informed involvement, is the key. Bold and supportive parents will bring internet predators to justice.

Question: (E-215)

"Golf Professionals and Leadership"

By: James F. Bracher     December 31, 2005

Can a golf-pro teach a CEO something about running a company successfully? The answer may surprise you.

Successful golf professionals not only play well but also relate maturely with many different people, maintaining commitments to the highest principles of golf. They perform excellently, while simultaneously managing others productively. They teach students of all ages constructively and communicate effectively; while simultaneously mastering their own emotional reactions, intellectual and strategic challenges and performance demands. Playing consistently at or below par defines the scratch golfer, but not necessarily a golf professional. Those at the top of the game can teach more than driving, chipping and putting. They are master leaders as well.

First, they understand and model the behaviors required to play golf at a consistently high level. They are golf professionals because they are able to:

  • Control emotions, including anxiety and tension, quieting the mind
  • Stay in the moment, concentrating - leaving bad shots behind
  • Assess circumstances continuously, both opportunities and risks
  • Concentrate, relying on individual routine throughout performance
  • Stick with decisions, visualizing and executing without uncertainty or fear
  • Maintain confidence and rhythm; sustaining balance and calm
  • Remember to see, feel and hit the ball - with confidence and intensity
  • Acknowledge that performance at this level has already qualified those who have the talent and discipline to perform, consistently, at the highest levels. At the professional level, it is foremost about attitude - monitoring and controlling emotions; and, of course, keeping score with integrity.

Second, as managers working with and through others, like other executives, golf professionals exhibit these seven "best-in -class" inspiring leadership behaviors. They elect to be the role model for what is expected from others - all the time; establish goals with clear parameters that encourage innovation, risk and experimentation, leveraging original ideas and creativity. Productive professionals clarify accountabilities, measuring frequently and consistently; reward appropriately for high levels of performance and innovation; and, teach constantly. Leaders replace those, in timely ways, who are unwilling or unable to "be" partners and supporters of high-level client-centered service culture. Golf professionals embrace the entrepreneurial approach with optimism, seeing obstacles as opportunities, with a clear focus on providing goods and services that generate legitimate profits.

You are now halfway through this essay about Golf Professionals and Leadership. Have you discovered many differences between effective golf leadership and general management? The answer is probably no. Ancient Wisdom teaches that "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power." Golf professionals and effective executives master themselves first before presuming to manage others. So what two additional insights might be learned by observing competent golf professionals?

Third, successful golf professionals are also teachers. Like effective executives, they transfer performance excellence to students or colleagues, of all ages, all the time. They know that teaching with impact involves asking the right questions, after having made, and then confirmed, perceptive observations. Golf professionals and other effective leaders make every effort to incorporate these six constructive actions into their daily interactions. They determine the development objectives of the student - assessing physical ability, strength, coordination and capacity; and, evaluate client expectations against current assets - confirming reasonable goals, while setting legitimate improvement milestones that a professional can justify.

Leaders know how to utilize client-specific tools and processes that accelerate learning - always leveraging the uniqueness of each instructor's assets, both intellectual and athletic. These tools may include: video equipment and data to confirm developmental needs, training aids and golf-swing improvement exercises, varied environments - practice facilities versus on-course play and coaching, and always, keeping records to monitor progress.

Golf professionals and executives make sure clients receive what they want as well as what they need; and, they create improvement plan, with milestones, with recovery steps when objectives are not met.

Fourth, and finally, successful golf professionals communicate competencies, capacities and values. They know that communications effectiveness is almost always about congruence between what one says and how one operates. Once again it is about balancing and integrating the demands of the emotional, intellectual and physical. Communicating is about feeling the message, understanding the requirements of the listening audience and then doing the real work of choosing relationship-building words and presenting them in transforming ways. Both the golf professional and the successful executive know their own strengths and weaknesses and are open about them. Since others observe us anyway, and generally have a good sense for where we are, then why not save the stress caused by denial, and simply be more transparent?

Effective communicators ask for assistance, graciously, and are prepared to provide an elevator speech to anyone, at almost any time, which needs to be about 30 seconds in length, that defines the skills and services for which one is paid. Concise introductions are good marketing. They are also excellent methods to lead others toward developing roles and responsibilities that will support the lead function, streamlining and strengthening teamwork, productivity and profitability. In addition, talented professionals recognize that the leader is seldom, if ever, off duty and as a consequence, being the role model is likely to be the most effective way to communicate who one is, what can be provided, and how well those tasks will be performed. As a consequence they continuously refine verbal and non-verbal communication skills, as the demands and expectations continue to rise throughout careers. For the golf professional or corporate leader, the key to success is continuous learning, whether as performer, manager, teacher or communicator. Listening is essential.

In conclusion, leadership requirements are the same for the golf professional, corporate executive, parent, surgeon, teacher, religious leader, farmer, politician, attorney, gardener or technologist. Professionals always do the job with excellence, helping others learn while consistently communicating with sensitivity and graciousness. Leadership, just about everywhere, is about competence, courage and communication. It begins and ends with listening and, always, with integrity.

James F. Bracher

Jim Bracher, the architect for the renewal of integrity-centered leadership, created the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership in 2002, as an extension of his 33 years advising individuals and organizations. Those who have sought Jim's counsel include entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and individuals addressing succession concerns. Jim's leadership development firm Dimension Five Consultants, Inc., of which he is Founder and Chairman, is located in Monterey, California, and was established in 1980. Co-author of the book Integrity Matters with Daniel E. Halloran, 2004.

Question: (E-216)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 28, 2005

"Appearance matters in ethics of public officials"

What should a public official do when faced with conflict-of-interest issues, specifically when decisions require voting that might benefit friends or business associates? Do you believe that integrity-centered leaders ought to recuse themselves in such circumstances?

Elected officials should recuse themselves and avoid conflicts-o-interest. They ask that others invest in them with time, support, energy, dollars and votes. We expect them to operate with integrity. Along with "public servants" who are appointed versus being elected, they all want and need our trust and confidence to retain their credibility. Our public officials are expected, and rightly so, to look out for our interests and not be self-serving marauders who feather their own nests, winking at rules instead of following the law. Fortunately, a majority of those who serve the public do just that - consistently work for the improvement of society, locally and at the state and national level.

With reference to the integrity issue of public servants knowing the law of when and how to recuse themselves - there are five points that will clarify legitimate reasons to recuse.

  1. The law is clear about what is legal and appropriate regarding who should recuse themselves and how their potential conflicts ought to be communicated. Attorneys whose expertise lies in this field ought to be consulted. Those who face these conflicts would be well advised to learn and follow the counsel of those who know the law.
  2. Clearly, when to "recuse" is a legal question. Long-term thinkers, in both the public and the private sectors, follow the law. The dictionary is specific about the meaning of recuse: "challenge a judge, prosecutor or juror as unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality."
  3. Anyone in a position to cast votes - an elected official granting contracts to those with whom he or she might have a vested interest would appear to be wrong - legally, and, certainly with reference to integrity-centered leadership.
  4. A retired judge mentioned to me that there are two aspects to judgments rendered by judges: one is to be sure to make the right decision; and, two is to be certain that the right decision also appears to have been the right decision.
  5. Public servants are responsible for making appropriate decisions, including when and if to recuse themselves. Decisions to recuse should be based upon the same two-dimensional criteria described by the retired judge. One, avoid conflicts-of-interest; and, two, be sure to make it clear that any perception of conflicts-of-interest have been addressed, proactively, upfront and openly. Integrity-centered leaders operate with openness, which is defined as operational transparency because they know that integrity matters.

Question: (E-217)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 14, 2005

"Warnings on Williams backfired"

Was integrity lost when Mr. Stanley "Tookie" Williams was put to death at San Quentin Prison, in the early morning, on Tuesday, December 13, 2005?

No, integrity was not lost but another life was. In Mr. Williams' two courts of last resort, the Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, his final pleas for a reprieve were turned down. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger then denied clemency; ending his life shortly after midnight.

According to Governor Schwarzenegger, "The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case." As a consequence, his sentence of receiving capital punishment, being put to death for his crimes, was carried out and Mr. Williams is now dead.

The four murders happened in the early 1970's and Mr. Williams, having been convicted of these violent crimes, in 1973, began serving his death-sentence that finally ended 22 years later. Along the way, he renounced his gang-violence ways and wrote books aimed at children concerning the risks to young people who choose similar self-destructive paths. His ability to communicate effectively attracted admirers who later rallied around him. They wrote letters to those in authority demanding that he be saved from his death-sentence. Some communicated through the media, protesting his conviction and then suggesting - perhaps threatening - that if Mr. Williams suffered death at the hands of the legal system then retribution was a likely consequence. These threats, real or not, offered by those who wanted so very much to protect him, may have provided the fuel for the fire that ultimately consumed him.

The justice system of the United States is not perfect; nonetheless, it is still admired all over the world. Those who expect decisions to be changed in response to threats of violence - real or perceived-- undermine justice and the ability of officials to govern. Can any value-driven and sustainable system continue to function with legitimate credibility - or integrity -- when the loudest and most visible voices can undue what those with legal authority have set in motion? Movie celebrities, power brokers, and those with connections reaching across many socio-economic circles wanted to make supportive statements. However, when their frustration and anger turned to threats of violence against the very system that sustains society, then what options were left to those responsible for maintaining the integrity of the justice system? Placed in this "corner" - the integrity of the process had to be protected.

Question: (E-218)

"Threats, strikes and the breakdown of trust in America"

What might the execution of Tookie Williams in California teach transit strikers in New York? And, will they learn in time?


A Death in California

A few weeks ago, friends and fans of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of the Crips, a violent gang, attempted to prolong his life, threatening retaliation were he not to receive clemency. In Williams' two courts of last resort, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, his final pleas for a reprieve were turned down. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then denied clemency, leading to the end of his life at 12:35 a.m., Tuesday, December 13, 2005. Real or not, these warnings from those who wanted so very much to protect him may actually have provided the fuel for the fire that ultimately consumed him. There was some discussion that had he confessed and been contrite, that compassion might have been shown.

The justice system of the United States is not perfect. Nonetheless, it is still admired all over the world. Those who expect decisions to be changed in response to threats of violence - real or perceived - undermine justice and the ability of officials to govern. Those who have been convicted (in courts of law or the courts of public opinion) miss golden opportunities for renewal when they do not confess their waywardness, or activities that would have made them appear to have made errors. Would Richard Nixon have saved his Presidency with an admission of having acted improperly? Televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker and others - have confessed, while denying much culpability - are now back on the airwaves, again receiving millions in donations from their fans. Only those who know the law can determine what Mr. Williams could or should say. However, when the battle lines were drawn, it enabled those in authority to deny clemency; making his execution a certainty.

Celebrities, power brokers and those with connections reaching across many socio-economic circles wanted to make statements in support of Williams. But when their frustration and anger turned to threats of violence against the very system that sustains society, then what options were left to those responsible for maintaining the integrity of the justice system? Placed in this "corner," the integrity of the process had to be protected. Another human being died.

A strike in New York

The city-wide transit strike, strategically-timed during the busiest retail season of the year, is punishing and penalizing millions, to the tune of billions. Challenging or justifying this strike is not my purpose. What precipitated the breakdown in communications and caused battle lines to be drawn, risking millions in fines, lost wages, irreparable damage to images - on both sides - remains unclear to me and only time will enable us to measure the damages. For now, right now, what does this strike mean? One more time, labor and management are not on the same team - and they should be. Those involved, top to bottom, in the delivery of safe and predictable transportation for millions of riders, have a common purpose: customer service. When communications break down and trust is broken, the end user - the commuter - suffers immediately, with residual issues sometimes lasting for decades.

From the front-line worker's perspective, there is deep disappointment, even anger, generated by continuous reports of big shots acting irresponsibly. Top level executives are still commanding incredible salaries with gigantic guaranteed pensions while asking the rank and file to take less in pay and then give up retirement benefits. As Jack Nicholson said in "As Good As It Gets" - when talking to a dog that he had previously thrown down the trash shoot, when the dog was not being responsive to his request: "Where's the trust?"
When employees feel abused (real or perceived) and those who are capable of making things right do not appear to have responded appropriately (whether true or false) - then the crisis is simply inevitable. And, unless some lessons can be learned soon; serious damage will have been done. Unlike the Tookie Williams situation, one individual may not be put to death. However, other damages will occur; including fractured relationships, broken communication, damaged stature, interrupted cash flow - first for the merchants and later the employees themselves and their organization. Bruised egos, on either side, are the least important of the fall-out - but, they too are real.

Restoring Trust

  1. Remember the mission and don't allow ego and anger to misdirect actions. Tookie's fans may have sealed his fate with their perceived threats and bullying. Sometimes it is not doing what we can, but doing what we should. A strike is legal, but in this case, is it necessary to damage the well-being of those who have no "dog in this fight" by making their lives miserable, physically and financially?
  2. Choose communication and relationships over power and control. The customers, the travelers, know what is needed to sustain legitimate salaries and benefits. After all, price-gouging is destructive whether at the gas pump or the pay window. Legitimate profit is what responsible business people and their honest customers determine is a fair price. Integrity-centered buyers and sellers, workers and owners, are willing to protect the longer-term viability of the other. Either too much or too little profit causes hardships. With reference to management's responsibility, it's wrong to prey upon those who find themselves in harm's way. In Tookie's case it was the justice system. In the transit strike it is the commuter and the retailer.
  3. Own errors, on either side, be contrite, and drive for resolution, immediately or risk the ire of those whose livelihoods are being threatened. My grandfather taught me, "If you hurt me, I become upset. If you harm my loved ones, there arises a fury." And, "If hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned" - then imagine the whirlwind that is being sown when families lack the money to purchase gifts for their loved ones because 60% of their income is generated in the December business season.
  4. Avoid forcing the public to choose sides.
  5. Be gracious in accepting the resolution of the conflict.

San Quentin was the place Mr. Williams died. There need not be a life and death, zero sum game, with this transit strike. No one and no organization needs to die here. Partnerships between labor and management, even when they appear to have gotten together in a shotgun wedding, can be long-lasting and constructive. It starts and ends with integrity - mutual respect and listening; always, listening. The pay-off will be renewed trust. And trust is the lubricant that makes the engine of free enterprise run with the least friction and therefore at the highest level of productivity.

Question: (E-219)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 1, 2005

"Mentors' H.U.G.S. help instill values"

Where do values come from?

From whom did you learn your values? Healthy and supportive families establish integrity-centered values by teaching right from wrong, showing members of the next generation how to ask for help, offer suggestions while learning to protect themselves and others. This inner circle establishes rules regarding how long to work with tough challenges and when it is acceptable to throw in the towel. Soon thereafter additional significant influences are provided by teachers, spiritual leaders, adult supervisors, public figures, peers and celebrities. Challenges to these important family priorities start early, bombarding individuals constantly.

Holding firmly to important values starts with awareness regarding from whom constructive behaviors were learned. What were the values that these important role models passed along? How well are you living up to behavioral standards you accepted from those who influenced your life positively? To determine what is still important to you, list the values and behaviors you wish to see in others, and then complete an honest scorecard on your own reflection of those same actions.

Passing along positive values requires socially-responsible individuals to model constructive values. Wise individuals prefer not being judged on their worst days (in how challenges were handled or successes celebrated). Instead they seek continuous improvement, soliciting forthright feedback. When the next generation does not see and feel the sincerity of those to whom they are looking for leadership, they are thrown into a vacuum. To fill the emptiness they often turn to alternative role models; and not always good ones.

Gangs and peer groups fill vacuums.Children are vulnerable. As a professional football coach said, just after his eighteen year old son was found dead of an apparent suicide: "You can't give your children too many hugs." To blunt negative attractions - define HUGS as:

H = Humility. Be honest with those you love by humbly acknowledging your concerns and your shortcomings. Communicate the importance of two-way communication to strengthen family life. Be real.

U = Understanding. Listen carefully to the hopes and fears of youth. Their challenges are different and require the extended support system - the village - to build a strong and self-confident human being. Acknowledge differences.

G = Give. Giving credit is about respecting the efforts of young people who are confronted by the daily values-barrage being waged by the media, electronic conveniences and the ever-present internet. Recognize the difficulties.

S = Smile. Sharing a supportive smile confirms relationship and affection, not necessarily approval of actions. Errors are teaching moments, making home the place where constructive values are built and smiles sustain relationships.

HUGS trump peer group pressures and destructive intimidation. Hugs shape destinies.

Values, observed in our behaviors, were taught to us by those people who cared enough about our success to monitor how well we lived up to expectations, theirs and ours. Values can be constructive or destructive depending upon the agreed-upon priorities of core support group members. Positive behaviors include character, honesty, openness, charity and graciousness. Mentors who support socially-constructive interactions define, explain, model and coach those they are guiding toward honor and integrity. Anti-social leaders also carefully nurture those they are training. Their ideals reward those who become cunning, manipulative, secretive, selfish and ruthless. Values, positive or negative, determine destination. What destinies are you creating for those who look to you for guidance?

Question: (E-220)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 15, 2006

"You consistently tie profitability with integrity and trust. Why?"

You consistently tie profitability with integrity and trust. Why?

Relationships, built upon honoring commitments, are what sustain the long-term success of the enlightened free enterprise system. Enlightened free enterprise demands legitimate, not excessive, profits, simultaneously valuing community, the source of integrity and trust. When trust breaks down, faceless buyers and sellers demand detailed contracts and more costly inspections. When breaches of trust are deep, legislation is demanded. F ree markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight.

Whatever precipitates the need for recalling faulty automobiles or restating corporate financials, uncertainty precedes loss of trust. The Wall Street Journal reports (12-27-05) that "Medical-device maker Guidant Corporation announced Friday that its fourth quarter sales and profit will be well below Wall Street expectations as it continues to struggle to regain consumer confidence after months of warnings about rare malfunctions in its cardiac electrical devices." Guidant's corporate leadership illustrates failed integrity. Its leaders mislead customers, some of whom died and the company is paying a high price for its self-serving greed.

Thinking only about short-term profits is a mistake. The old maxim applies: "Cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me." Many consumers recognize when they are being violated. And, though not vengeful, those who have suffered marketplace mistreatment have long memories and will likely never give the same greedy individuals a chance to prey on them again.

A local businessman is frustrated by those who shop at his conveniently-located retail store to "test-drive" photography equipment, choosing to purchase elsewhere from lower-cost providers. These folks know the price of just about everything and the value of almost nothing. His contribution is not recognized. So, his enterprise is at risk. A society operating this coldly will self-destruct, bankrupting neighbors, while saving a few dollars on purchases.

Five attitudes need to be addressed to sustain enlightened free enterprise. Way before modern economic theories were created, wealthy landowners left food in the fields to insure even the poorest of the poor would survive. Before welfare, it neighbors cared for those at risk. In the hurry to grow margins, a very unhealthy mistrust has arisen between labor and management, rulers and the ruled. It must change.

First, legitimate profit is constructive. Second, workers deserve appropriate compensation. Third, suppliers must be able to earn appropriate returns. Four, families and villages are cornerstones of culture and are worth sustaining. Five, success in the enlightened free enterprise system is about how people treat one another: socially, politically and economically. Restoring trust demands, at least sometimes, sacrificing incredible for reasonable profits while maintaining genuine concern for all stakeholders, demonstrating customer loyalty and social sensitivity. Integrity and trust build long-term profitability.

<< Back