Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)

Economic (221-240)

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Question: (E-221)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 4, 2006

"Keep college football game in perspective"

During recent college "bowl" games, several referees made poor calls. For example, those wearing striped shirts announced an "off sides" against the University of Iowa "Hawk-eyes" that stopped their valiant efforts to tie or win the game against Florida's Gators. How can there be integrity in outcomes when errors by referees are allowed to stand?

Regarding mistakes in judgment calls that "cost" a team the chance to win, consider the wisdom of a major college coach. He said, after a very disappointing loss in the last few seconds of a game, due to a controversial call: "We did not play at a high enough level to absorb surprises or disappointments." By implication, this mature and thoughtful coach was suggesting that had he and his fellow coaches done a more effective job and had his team played a better game, one or two or even three contested calls would not have changed the outcome of the game. He did not blame the referees. He accepted the outcome, handling the disappointment appropriately. Regarding the referee's "blown" call you referenced during the Iowa-Florida game, has the situation been addressed with integrity? Did those in charge behave responsibly?

Until fairly recently, college football appeared to be a game, providing a Saturday afternoon diversion for students, faculty and alumni. Today, intercollegiate sports, especially football and basketball, are big business with mission statements, stakeholders and gigantic cash paydays. University sports programs expecting to remain competitive use superb brand management, marketing expertise, multimillion dollar contracts for coaches and media-savvy venues to "showcase" talent for the professional ranks. The gridiron classics are today about television revenues, national rankings and recruiting. With cameras now validating and challenging decisions by referees, will it be long before playing fields and uniforms are wired with electronics to monitor play on the field? Are we taking sports games and trying to make them, especially football, into a flesh-and-blood violent video game, complete with a rewind mechanism, called replay? Humans, including referees, make mistakes.

The "bowl-season" games account for a month of contests between teams, too many of which lack convincing won-lost records. These "bowl-games" appear to be advertising-driven television time-fillers, tailored to the needs of couch potatoes with purchasing power. Loyal alumni are encouraged to buy tickets, providing a backdrop of fan-noise during student-athlete auditions for professional scouts. How many legitimate bowls can there be with a hundred and twenty big school programs? Not as many as have mutated, which may account for some of the poorer "calls" on the field. What kinds of incredible pressures are being placed on those who coach, play and referee? Is it really about blown calls or guaranteed revenue generation? This question is not about imperfect referees as much as it is about seeing sports in the right proportion.

Question: (E-222)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 8, 2006

"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it"

What builds character?

Disappointment and failure are at the top of the list of what builds character. A wise executive suggested that he learned more during one nearly disastrous year than during five years of relatively uncomplicated success. "Adversity does not build character; it reveals it." Such observations suggest that problems are little more than occasions to rejoice, for no other reason than the marvelous character-building learning curve such circumstances provide. Therefore, individuals ought to welcome problems because they confirm they are still alive and able to continue learning and growing. However, being hit by multiple hurricanes (literally or figuratively) in rapid succession represents character-building moments which may also present significant tests of physical strength and emotional endurance. Responsible risk-taking, including learning from failures, is the beginning of character-building wisdom. Providing an appropriate context for addressing disappointments and failures by caring parents facilitates their children's endurance, better enabling them to prosper in hard times.

Character is a by-product of many stresses and it seems reasonable, then, that more challenges must be better. This logic works, but only up to a point. When the waters of challenge and frustration get neck high, threatening death, relief is essential. Yes, developing character requires enough strength and fortitude to tread water until either the floods subside or a life-guard offers assistance. The waiting game with its ambiguity, even when accompanied by hope and faith, still takes a toll. Threatened, by a variety of challenges, humans need time to rebuild strength and confidence. Slowing down long enough to think and plan often turns out to be the most efficient way, at least in the long run, to respond. Harried lives should never be guided by hurried decisions and actions. Character, forged in the fires of fear, uncertainty and doubt, requires courage to risk and the willingness to learn from failure.

Character requires strength and optimism. Exhaustion makes cowards of many. To live at the ready means taking adequate time for rejuvenation, reflection and preparedness.

  • Vacations provide welcome relief, sanctuary from emergencies; including some of the excruciating demands even of daily routine. Those unable or unwilling to "idle their engines" risk burn out and poor decision-making, missing golden opportunities to leverage insights that build character.
  • Quiet space reduces stress for some while others seek a hide-away that provides a change of pace, whether nearby or far from home. Even powerful engines are allowed to cool down. Should humans operate differently?
  • Contingency planning increases confidence and optimism, building character, an attribute of integrity.

Because character is the ability to carry out the resolution long after the initial burst of enthusiasm is gone, then disappointments and failures are stepping stones to success with character.

Question: (E-223)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 11, 2006

"News junkies demand news and demand it first"

Who is responsible for the blunder announcing a dozen West Virginia coal miners were alive, when, in fact, all but one were dead?

Actor Jack Nicholson, portraying ruthless Colonel Jessup, in a movie entitled "A Few Good Men" said the following in response to interrogation about his culpability for actions taken by individuals under his command: "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" He was defending his actions that lead to the murder of a young Marine. To the very end, his responses to the hideous events were simply that, in his world, people die. Colonel Jessup provides a clue in answering your question about who is responsible for the dissemination of misinformation.

This is the truth about who is responsible for this media disaster: it is you, and if not you in particular, then it is "news junkies" who demand news, immediately. News executives understand that "being first" with breaking news attracts larger audiences, increasing profits. Information hounds stay with the channel that gives them immediate gratification, using the simple reasoning that news is on the air now, 24 hours per day, and they have to be updated, constantly. News organizations sensed a feeding frenzy in West Virginia, directed hordes of reporters to descend on Tallmansville, West Virginia, wanting to be first with whatever events were unfolding with 13 coal miners caught in an explosion and trapped (and later killed) by toxic gasses.

With little respect for the families of those whose loved ones might be living their last hours in a tomb hundreds of feet below, microphones and cameras invaded privacy. Sensational, news-junkie-friendly updates (accurate or not) became the currency for those competing for "me first" updates. Church bells and anxiety transformed simple hope into reality and garbled messages from emergency workers wearing gas masks emerged as indisputable facts. And, who placed this pressure on reporters to get the news out so quickly? It was those who wanted to know, now, what was happening. Such immature expectations create circumstances that were and are impossible to address appropriately. Not to be on top of the situation causes watchers to flip channels; and who can afford to lose market share and profits?

The impatience and immaturity of contemporary culture created the circumstances for this hideous treatment of humble West Virginia coal miners and their families. This is an integrity problem that can be solved with graciousness, respect and discipline - not only for victims, but also for the institutions committed to quality news reporting. Allowing professionals to do their jobs requires integrity-centered behaviors, including patience and graciousness.

Question: (E-224)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 18, 2006

"Some lawmakers show poor integrity skills"

Vicious verbal attacks, including accusations of racism and sexism, by partisan United States Senators, in the name of vetting a current candidate for the Supreme Court, fly in the face of both civility and integrity. Can these inquisitions be stopped?

Destructive behavior will continue, maybe even get worse, until those who are behaving inappropriately are tossed out of office. For some number of years, now, assessing the capabilities and the character of those willing to assume high office have turned into jousting matches between and among partisan politicians. Their behaviors are akin to rival gang leaders demonstrating just how much of the territory they control and the consequences for those who attempt to invade their turf. Common sense, communication and civility are gone. Self-serving questions and innuendos are designed to humiliate not only candidates, but, by association, those who have nominated them. This life and death scorched-earth approach injects so much anger and resentment into the process that important relationships are marred for a long time, if not forever. Congress has now brought "feuding" center stage. Bickering attracts attention. It is getting worse and our society is being poisoned by it.

Unfortunately, abrasive interrogation behaviors are being tolerated, even embraced. Senators' actions in the vetting process are being televised, live, capturing the reactions of those being scrutinized along with members of their families. Suddenly, justifiable investigative inquiries become public ambushes, complete with character assassinations. What is our society allowing to happen, not only to the candidates themselves, but also to their spouses and family members? The legitimate vetting of a loved one now appears, or almost is, more like standing (sitting) in front of a career-stopping firing squad. How far must these public whippings be allowed to go, in the name of seeking truth to find appropriately qualified candidates, before few will even offer their services? The children of these talented individuals cannot be thinking and feeling very positively about the government (including people, like you and me) that allows their loved ones to be treated so shabbily. Does seeking the truth have to come at the expense of dignity and integrity? No.

What prevents United States Senators and Representatives from behaving appropriately? Ego, power and money! Getting back and getting even were childish responses that our parents taught us were wrong. Those who have power, want more power and are in position to "get back" at old or new adversaries - and are willing to "push their weight around" - are sabotaging the society they were elected to defend. Cruel behavior can be stopped at the ballot box. Pay attention to these important information-gathering proceedings, noting who behaves how; then vote for integrity and decency.

Question: (E-225)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 25, 2006

"Pension cuts show a lack of loyalty"

American corporations are dissolving pensions. Frontline employees commit careers to organizations only to see their loyalty and integrity kicked to the curb. Can this be stopped?

When retirement payments are dissolved with accounting trickery and irresponsible behavior, and the government does not step in, free enterprise is at risk. Executives hire employees to produce and provide quality products and services. Employees deserve fair wages and adequate retirement benefits. Responsible organizations are good stewards of retirement accounts enabling structured savings to become well-earned individual safety nets. Unfortunately, too many organizations have reneged on pension payouts. More are threatening to dissolve these accounts, risking the health and security of vulnerable employees; destroying trust and optimism.

These dishonest stewards of promised-dollars appear to be powerful capitalist "renegades" who know the loopholes and have abandoned legitimate obligations to their employees, current and past. This is wrong and they know it. They are ignoring the social contract between labor and management. Fortunately, most employers do not take unfair advantage of employees and do preserve and distribute pension programs.

However, on Monday, December 5, 2005, from Kernersville, North Carolina, Deb Reichmann, of the Associated Press, wrote, that President George W. Bush "called on American businesses . . .to live up to their pension promises, saying too many companies are not putting away enough money to protect the retirement benefits of their workers. The President said federal rules governing pensions are confusing and misleading and allow companies to technically play by the rules without funding the promises they make. In the end, taxpayers wind up footing the bill because of federal pension insurance."

Corporate leaders are being allowed, by law, to sidestep responsibilities. In addition to rising pension insurance costs, trust in the business leadership sinks, even lower. And, who is eager to work hard without proper respect for leaders? No one!

A 2003 case-study of Delta Airlines mentioned one significant obstacle to the airline's continued success: labor-management mistrust. " Delta was once known for treating its leaders and employees the same. More recently, executives have given themselves huge awards while insisting on job and wage cuts from workers. Delta also created individual trusts for 33 executives to isolate their enhanced pension benefits from creditors if Delta files for bankruptcy, adding to the mistrust."

What can be done to restore pensions and trust in the free enterprise system? Voting only for those who the right protect the vulnerable. Because the pensions of those we elect to Congress are secure, isn't it reasonable to assume that those who want our votes would work hard to secure pension-security for us? Learn the status of your pension and demand passage of protective pension laws, immediately.

Question: (E-226)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 1, 2006

"No law to stop sale of phone records"

Sophisticated pirates access cell phone records, selling the contents, indiscriminately. Is this illegal? It lacks integrity, right?

Today cell-phone calling records are for sale on the internet, violating privacy.  So, how did it get started?  Perhaps it began with a domestic crisis.  An anxious spouse suspected the wayward actions of a partner.  Not wanting to hire a private detective to spy, a less costly alternative was available: the information broker.  If you want to know who someone is contacting on a cell-phone, that information can be bought for under $200.  How is the information gathered?   In the largely unregulated world of cellular phones, the con-artist, once again, reigns supreme.  

It works like this:  someone wants to know the calling activities of a certain individual.  That name is given to an information broker.  A professional liar (sociopath) telephones a phone carrier, poses as the person whose information is being sought and asks for past calling records.  Slick operators define these activities as "pre-text interviews" and companies like Verizon and Cingular seem powerless to stop them.  Damning private information, of many kinds, is made available to bludgeon opponents.

Identity theft is the work of these sleazy operators who use criminal behavior to "fool" cell-phone suppliers into providing them with confidential information.  Currently, there seem to be no laws to thwart these activities - at least, not yet. Today, cell-phone records are being compromised.  Tomorrow, can we expect the same for medical records and then bank records?  This corrupt practice reminds me of a cornerstone principle of the Bracher Center's integrity-centered leadership counsel:  It should be common knowledge that free markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight.  In this instance, the culprits are getting away with inappropriate (even if not yet illegal) actions.  Such abuses must be stopped before they permanently damage universal connectedness through the worldwide web.

A computer consultant said:  "When using the internet, assume that what you have written will, or at least can, be accessed by those you would least prefer."  As one of our business clients repeated to his employees:  "Never say or do anything you would not approve being printed on the front page of the newspaper that your mother reads."  Instant global connectedness allows constant surveillance by the proverbial "big brother" in the form of pervasive electronics.  Words and records, once placed onto the internet, remain there, forever. Only integrity-centered oversight will prevent this marvelous creation, the worldwide web, from enabling criminals to destroy the people and the systems it was designed to improve. Vigilance is the price of liberty.  Propriety builds stature.  Integrity-centered behavior exhibits graciousness; respect for individual privacy and the discipline of self-restraint.

Question: (E-227)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 22, 2006

"High school exit exam a test for teachers, too"

What about the integrity of requiring seniors in high school to pass the California graduation exam?

Without quantifiable standards, progress cannot be measured. Without progress and improvement, performance levels drop. Eroding standards spell disaster. Future contributors must have the intellectual tools to sustain and improve the world they will inherit. They must be able to assess food quality, medical services and transportation safety; as well as constructive technological breakthroughs. Preparing young people to function effectively in the 21st Century is the responsibility of today's educational leadership. Sitting in a classroom does not make one an informed person anymore than standing in a garage makes one an automobile. When learning has taken place, it can be verified, and should be.

Many years ago, one of our clients was building his third successful software company, and had hired our management consulting firm to fine-tune the leadership skills of his key people. He chose to introduce me with the following words: "Jim Bracher is the smartest man I ever met who was not wearing overalls." Yes, you read the words correctly, "not wearing overalls" - the uniform of choice for those who make their living tilling the soil, at least in the Midwest, where our client (and I) had been reared.

After his remarks, my question, in front of his team, was: "Is this a compliment?" He assured me that it was, because he had never met a dumb farmer. He then asked if I had ever known a dumb farmer. When I said I was not sure, he made the point that farmers who are not alert, flexible and hard working will likely go out of business - which means they aren't farmers any more. Smart and successful farmers deal with circumstances that are often unpredictable: weather, pests, bugs, price fluctuations, expensive equipment, fuel costs and labor. Those who cannot handle these challenges go bankrupt. Farmers face consequences. Their need for knowledge and the ability to function efficiently and effectively - in many areas - separates the real farmers from the pretenders. They profit from the positive consequences of preparedness.

Having to perform at a high level is non-negotiable - for students, teachers, technologists, consultants or farmers. Performance demands start when young people seek a certificate of graduation from secondary school. The complexities of simply surviving in society will not get easier. Students facing their tomorrows - whether they continue formal studies or join the work force - must balance knowledge with application of math, science, communication skills and social awareness. Integrity-centered leaders will enable the next generation to cope and succeed, auditing their progress and providing supportive tutoring where required. Learning for survival and success is no longer an option, it is a must.

Question: (E-228)

"Doing What is Right"

How can United Airlines, or any business, large or small, justify paying top-brass big bucks after declaring bankruptcy, while cutting employee salaries and cannibalizing pension programs?

They cannot and should not. When stories come out that those who already have a great deal are leveraging the sweat and sacrifice of those with much less, it is time to demand a wholesale rethinking of how society is operating. Many years ago, while riding on a train between New York and Philadelphia, my seatmate turned out to be Mr. Washington SyCip, from Manila, The Philippines. Fate, providence, dumb luck - whatever, my traveling companion, as it turns out, is a global figure, wise and humble, insightful, incisive and gracious. We spoke of many topics and when we went our separate way, that day, he handed me his business card. Only later did I learn that Wash sits on advisory committees of many American institutions and scoffs at Western ideas of instant democracy applied to poor countries, which have failed to reduce poverty.

SyCip is on the advisory boards of two high visibility American universities: Harvard and Columbia. He also provides counsel to the American International Group, The Conference Board, The Council on Foreign Relations, The Asia Society and, until recently, The Chase Manhattan Bank and the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies of the University of Pennsylvania. One phrase he uses over and over: "Education is the most effective economic equalizer." He has told me that the present disparity in educational standards between expensive private schools and the public school system, the gap between the rich and poor remains wide. So, whether or not one agrees on every issue with Wash, his ideas require intelligent, sometimes mind-changing, thinking.

Over the past decade, he and I have shared many conversations about values, integrity, society and building the future. What he said in June, 2001, when receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Philippines, should encourage all leaders, everywhere, to get serious about responsible social and economic stewardship, immediately. After graciously thanking the University of Philippines for honoring him, he then provided courageous challenges to those in his nation to work for improvements, immediately. He spoke very directly to educators, business leaders, social organizations and government servants (elected and, appointed) and the voters themselves to take stock of the downward spiral and to do something about it. Excerpts from his speech:

"The Philippine situation was particularly difficult after World War II. Next to Warsaw, Manila was the most damaged city. To become an independent nation, with an empty treasury, destruction everywhere, conflicting ideologies not resolved and loose arms all over the country, was quite a Herculean task.

It was natural that we turned to the former mother country, the United States, for economic and financial assistance as the Philippines was the only colony that fought so bravely for its mother country. This was not surprising as it was already a commonwealth and independence was assured when Pearl Harbor and Clark Airbase were bombed. The public schools, with the help of thousands of American schoolteachers scattered around the country, had achieved a literacy rate that was the envy of our neighbors.

In any nation, peace and order is the first task of government. Then it must manage the economy responsibly so that all sectors of society are motivated to exert their utmost to achieve equitable growth and create jobs, food, and shelter. Education and health care must be made available to all citizens, particularly to the bottom group.

In all countries, the upper class can take care of themselves! But only when the poor moves up and a middle class emerges is political democracy meaningful and sustainable.

Where the poor sell their votes and elected representatives or appointed officials are influenced in their decisions by monetary considerations, democracy may be a farce and benefits only those who have the means to exercise such influence-which is the upper class!

Fifty years ago we were ahead of almost all the other East Asian countries in per capita income, literacy rates, education and health standards-and most measurements of economic well being. Why are we now at the bottom of the list? Changing presidents, legislators and other elective officials have not helped us.

The gap between our upper class and the bottom group has widened. The Economist magazine has identified Latin America as the region with the greatest income inequality. With our common Iberian heritage, we have the greatest income inequality in East Asia and the lowest savings rate. To quote from Business World; "If we look at the distribution of income over the years, evidently no improvement has been made for the past half a century. The rich have become richer while the poor remains to be 'impoverished'."

The US has more lawyers that the rest of the world while we have more lawyers that the rest of East Asia. Should we not have more engineers and mechanics?

With our "freedom without borders", should we be concerned that the freedom to discuss, debate and demonstrate may result in procrastination and postponement of urgent decisions that are needed to solve ordinary daily economic problems like collection of garbage?

Let me also share with you some of my thoughts on basic problems that we have to solve:

  1. I am greatly bothered by the declining educational standards of the public schools. Countless studies have pointed out the need for government resources to be concentrated on improving basic education and reducing drop out rates. Emphasis on math, science and physics in public schools will enable our bottom group to upgrade their skills and compete both within the country and in job markets abroad. Education should be the most effective economic "equalizer". But with the present disparity in educational standards between the good and expensive private schools and the poorly equipped public schools, the gap between the rich and poor cannot be reduced.
  2. I am greatly bothered by our failure to adopt a consistent and long range policy on our population problem. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies comments as follows: "rapid population growth slows down economic growth, thereby affecting increases in average incomes. The heavy concentration of large families among the poor also means worsening inequality."
  3. I am greatly bothered by the inequalities of the present tax system. Employees are paying their proper taxes while their employers are not-this further widens the income gap. A successful Filipino doctor in Philadelphia, a graduate of this university, was shocked at how little income was being declared by his former UP classmates who were living in luxurious houses and taking frequent vacations abroad.
  4. I am greatly bothered by inefficient and inadequate government services that should benefit the poor - irrigation and farm services, garbage collection, water supply, low cost funds for housing, efficient and affordable transport in both urban and rural areas, and effective health care.
  5. I am greatly bothered by the lack of concern by the upper income group on corruption in all sectors of the government - in fact such corruption in the judiciary and legislative and executive branches would not be possible if the rich do not provide the funds!
  6. I am greatly bothered by the upper income groups who try to escape from our difficulties by moving much needed capital abroad rather than investing in the country. Here again, it is the overseas workers who bring in the much needed foreign exchange while the upper income groups take out the funds.
  7. I am greatly bothered that there is no Muslim in the Senate. With name recognition needed to win a national election in the Philippines, or in Tokyo and Osaka, should we not seriously consider constitutional amendments to assure election of better qualified persons? When two out of the last four presidents were disposed off not by the usual accepted means, isn't there some defect in how we choose our national leaders?
  8. For many years I have also commented on the unfairness of the tuition policy of the university as it unnecessarily benefits the upper class. Why should people who can afford to send their children to private high schools pay less tuition when they come to UP? For university education, it would seem but proper to charge the full cost of education to those who can afford it - so that tax revenues can be used to improve education for the bottom group. Have you thought of how much a poor nation like the Philippines has lost when those who receive subsidized education migrate abroad?

There have been 10 members of my immediate family that have been beneficiaries of UP's low tuition policies when they could have paid the full cost of the excellent education the university provided them. To make up for this, I would like to make a donation of 1 million for each of them for a total amount of P10 million for the university.

May I suggest that this amount be used to meet the needs of our economy in math, science, information technology, and engineering or in university endeavors which will reduce poverty?

I hope that recent developments will finally convince our upper income groups that demonstrations are just the beginning of a process that should reduce their own privileges, increase their tax consciousness and upgrade their ethical standards."

Washington SyCip challenged leaders in the Philippines to raise standards, including the members of his own family. Can we demand less of people in the United States? On our website, we speak of: "A world has been created where the prevailing structures promote the politics of convenience over the commitment of leadership. Too large a part of the business community still enjoys the excesses of luxury as it drifts from quick deals to devastating dishonesty." The economic engine that propels our free markets requires longer-range thinking that next quarter's earnings and the annual bonus payouts for those at the top. Trust is central to success between individuals, societies, businesses and nations. Commerce thrives on honesty and withers when stakeholders ignore and disrespect one another. What Mr. Washington SyCip outlined as the mandate for the Philippines might easily be translated as a blueprint for the renewal of integrity in America. It should be common knowledge that free markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight. Early leaders of the United States coined a phrase: "Live free or die." The phrase for current times might be: "Do what is right or leave, because integrity is what really matters."

Question: (E-229)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 8, 2006

"Students full of optimism"

I learned you recently spoke on a college campus about integrity in leadership. How were your remarks received?

On February 10 and 11, on the suburban Chicago campus of Elmhurst College, my alma mater, student-leaders asked me to discuss their "integrity in leadership" concerns.

Regarding feedback: "Jim Bracher's presentation for our students on Integrity in Leadership was insightful, relevant, and a motivating call-to-action as this generation prepares to enter the workforce. His extensive expertise, knowledge, and research of the subject of integrity are clear, while his enthusiasm for the subject and dynamic presentation style paint an interesting and thought-provoking picture which students can relate to and learn from. After his presentation, I feel a renewed appreciation for the concept, and feel better equipped to live and lead with integrity and grace in an ever-changing world where values aren't always a top priority." - Ms. Jaclyn Sorci, '07 - Immediate Past-President - Student Government Association - Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois

Student frustrations seem the same as they were forty-two years ago when I started college: food, grades, discipline, the future, people with power - business or politics - and autonomy. Some of their other concerns:

  1. What can be done to blunt student apathy?
  2. How does one discover an integrity-centered place to work?
  3. What does it take to get those in power to listen?
  4. How do you, Jim Bracher, maintain enthusiasm for the integrity message in the face of tremendous resistance by a society that appears self-absorbed, oblivious, or worse, unwilling to even pretend to care about doing the right thing?
  5. What is an honorable profession, now that law, government, religion, education and business have been tainted by scandals?
  6. Who exhibits integrity - and how can we identify them when we meet them?
  7. Can powerful people be trusted?
  8. Did your efforts in social issues, in the 1960's make a difference, long term?
  9. Why should we put ourselves under stress? Pressure has ruined the lives of lots of folks we see, who are older. Many of them seem to lack financial security. Even some of those who might be well-off appear bitter and frustrated.

Elmhurst College student-leaders remain optimistic. They smile, study, think, formulate questions, take notes and seem ready to find their opportunities to become productive. As Astronaut Christa McAuliffe said, before dying in the disastrous Challenger Space Program accident, "I touch the future, I teach." Learn from her. Return to your alma mater, or a local college or university campus; teach a class: for an hour, a day, a week or a semester. Go, listen and learn about the enthusiasm of the next generation. Touch the future, teach! Experience their optimism, renewing your own hope.

Question: (E-230)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 5, 2006

"Wealth is in the eye of the beholder"

Is there a right way to teach the next generation to show proper appreciation for the incredible life-style that has been provided to them? How does integrity apply?

Young people often emulate parents, for better and worse. Adults, including mothers and fathers, teachers and other leaders, set the tone for gracious and humble appreciation. They teach integrity and maturity, with words and actions. The race to acquire and master every new toy, small or large, and be first and best, in accomplishment and attire, sets a tone about responsible stewardship. How fast does a computer need to operate? Respect and tolerance are central to the health of a culture. Perhaps the following "author-unknown" story will clarify the problem. It portrays how one father attempted to teach his son to appreciate being really "well off." Pay attention to what the son learned.

One day, a wealthy father took his son on a short trip to poverty-stricken section of the country with the purpose of exposing the youngster to how less fortunate people live. The father and son spent two days visiting and sharing a few meals with a struggling family. The father asked many questions and the son was quiet, making only occasional comments. On their return home, the father inquired, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yes," said the son. "So, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have people you pay who serve us, but they serve one another.We buy our food, but they grow theirs.We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are and how rich those are who might appear to have so very little."

Recognizing different perspectives, including responses from children, can be a wonderful thing. Wealth and happiness are about appreciating what one has. Since humans often teach best what they most need to learn; the time is now to model appreciation and pay attention to the priorities of our lives. Integrity, including showing genuine appreciation, really matters.

Question: (E-231)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 15, 2006

"Integrity requires emotional security"

These are stressful times. Even when I strive to live by your Eight Attributes of integrity- including exhibiting character, honesty, etc. - there are still incredible pressures. What are some effective ways to operate to reduce my stresses; making my life more manageable?

Stress, within healthy limits for each individual, can be positive, motivating and healthy. However, there are seven questions you should answer about yourself regarding how you rate your own emotional security. Without a strong base of emotional security linked to your own emotional integrity, you might simply run in circles and spiral downward. Adding pressures, of almost any kind, when one is already stretched to the limits, can be risky. So, take this inventory, designed by Dr. William Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Clinic in 1920, who offered this wisdom: "Mental health problems do not affect three or four out of every five persons, but one out of one."

His "Seven Signs of Emotional Security" provide a sound definition for self-assessment of one's ability to understand and cope with pressures related to living a full life. How would you rate yourself in these seven areas?

  1. Ability to deal constructively with reality.
  2. Capacity to adapt to change.
  3. Few symptoms of tension and anxiety.
  4. Ability to find more satisfaction in giving than receiving.
  5. Capacity to consistently relate to others with mutual satisfaction and helpfulness.
  6. Ability to direct hostile energy into constructive outlets.
  7. Capacity to love.

Should you not be comfortable with your answers to these seven aspects of emotional security, then you might consider speaking with a qualified professional who can provide assistance.

Emotionally secure individuals exhibit integrity (consistency and congruence) between and among how they feel, think and act. Healthy individuals bring their values from family and home to workplace and social activities. Their seamless integration of their private and public lives causes others to be magnetically attracted to them, trust them and want to be associated with them. Being disconnected with reality along with an unhealthy resistance to natural change often compounds tension and anxiety. When self-centeredness pushes generosity and interpersonal relationships into little more than operational transactions, then practically any conflict will catapult honest give-and-take into destructive confrontation. Genuine loving relationships wither. The stressed individual can experience isolation, bitterness or illness, maybe all three.

Dr. Menninger mentions six essential qualities that are the keys to success: sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom and charity. Interestingly, our Eight Attributes of Integrity - (character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity, and graciousness) - parallel the six success qualities suggested by the famous psychiatrist. Integrity demands congruence between values and actions, providing individuals with strength, stability and confidence.

Question: (E-232)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 22, 2006

"National Web site locates child sex predators"

You have discussed the risks to children created by sexual predators, including cyber-pedophiles, who use the internet. But what can be done when sex offenders live in our neighborhoods, and we are not aware?

Regarding protecting children from cyber-predators, when using a computer in your home; reserve space for internet usage that is in the flow of family activity. Ask questions when the screen presents images or content that make you uncomfortable. Bringing internet predators to justice requires bold and supportive parenting, beginning with being attentive to how young people are using computers or being approached through cyberspace. My Integrity Matters column on December 21, 2005: Internet requires vigilance by parents mentioned that law enforcement officials estimate that 50,000 predators are online at any given moment and one in five young people have been sexually solicited. Parents, families, teachers, neighbors and others responsible for guiding children must remain involved by staying close when young people are online.

Thanks to responsive legislation, an online registry of convicted sex offenders has been created, in the United States. There is a need to know who these sex offenders are and where they live. Are they next door, near your child's school or close to where your loved ones play? The frightening fact is that many sex offenders are still on the prowl. The good news is that you can locate them by accessing a free, website: Family Watch Dog. Telephone: (949) 209-8768.

Family Watch Dog reports that 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew. The typical sexual predator will assault 30 to 60 times before being caught. The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.

Family Watch Dog's aim is to constructively impact these percentages by ensuring that all sexual predators are known. This service exists for one reason: the founders were frustrated by reading news reports about missing young children who had been killed by registered sex offenders. They decided to do something about it.

Family Watch Dog provides current information, about the location, throughout the United States, of registered sex offenders. To protect your family, your neighborhood and yourself, browse their free website: Enter your address, or the address of those for whom you have concerns, and study color maps pinpointing locations of each registered sex offender living within the identified area. You will also see a photograph and street address of each registered sex offender, along with a listing of their previous crimes. Pass along the link, improving safety and possibly saving lives. Protecting children from sex offenders is exercising appropriate social responsibility, exhibiting integrity-centered adult leadership. The time is now.

Question: (E-233)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 29, 2006

"Finding an honest broker takes work"

Bear Stearns recently bilked investors out of millions. They are paying $250 million dollars in fines and damages, disappointingly without admitting or denying charges. How can I find an investment advisor with integrity?

Until a culture of compliance becomes the norm for how investment houses operate, thievery will continue, enabling money-schemers to con their clients while pocketing incredible profits. When a 26- year old trader complains that his annual bonus was less than a million dollars, then many hard working investors will question the integrity of the financial advisory business. Is it about legitimate customer service or marginalizing decisions simply to claw bonus dollars from unsuspecting investors? Illegal market timing practices by unscrupulous brokers are an industry cancer.

Neither the federal government nor its incredibly complex laws will have a positive sustained impact until society demands and enforces integrity, from the top down and from the bottom up. In the meantime, The New York Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission are challenging financial advisors and investment firms to clean up their acts.

Finding a competent and credible financial advisor in the inter-connected world of investments demands serious due diligence. Securing accurate information regarding custodial integrity is hard work, requiring perseverance. Not only must the credentials of the advisor be transparent, but there must also be full disclosure of how assets are going to be held in custody. Learn with whom your financial advisor might be placing your investments and ask for the same careful assessment to be applied. Here are Twelve "financial advisor" Performance Expectations - adapted from the Certified Financial Board of Standards:

  1. Experience?
  2. Qualifications?
  3. Services?
  4. Approach?
  5. Responsibility and accountability?
  6. Disclosure of sources of income?
  7. Typical costs?
  8. Conflicts of interest?
  9. Public discipline for unlawful or unethical actions?
  10. Written agreement, including references and track record?
  11. Level of comfort and trust?
  12. Scores earned (quality of performance in each integrity-centered leadership attribute, on a scale of 1 to 10) utilizing Bracher Center's Eight Attributes© of an Integrity-Centered Organization?
      1. CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
  2. HONESTY: truthful communication
  3. OPENNESS: operational transparency.
  4. AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
  5. PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
  6. PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization.
  7. CHARITY: generous community stewardship.
  8. GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.

With your own answers to the 12 Performance Expectations, including an accurate assessment using the Eight Attributes© - you will be in position to identify an integrity-centered investment advisor when you:

  • Know what you want.
  • Find out what they provide.
  • Understand how they will deliver your results.
  • Require congruence between their goals and yours.
  • Monitor performance regularly, remaining alert to trends that are inconsistent with desired objectives.
  • Continue to pay only for results that you want.
  • Remember, it is your money!

Question: (E-234)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 12, 2006

"Security tops the 'motivation' list"

What is the most effective way to motivate others?

Human beings need, in addition to food, clothing, shelter, education and training; reassurance, respect, recognition and rewards. Wise leaders incorporate these nine substantive obligatory-responses in order to effectively guide, teach, mentor, parent, direct or represent (whether through public office or private profession). Motivation begins with listening. Over and over, motivated individuals who are enthusiastic and high-performing, say that those for whom they most like to work pay genuine attention to them. Leaders enable those with whom they come in contact to feel reassured, respected, recognized and rewarded. Effective motivators, in positions of leadership, pay for performance and enable those who work with and for them to care for their own loved ones. Appropriate salaries and high-quality benefits, including insurance, education and training, communicate that all stakeholders are important, extending to members of employee families - biological, extended and social.

Listening, leadership and character are the behavioral building blocks of motivation. Perceptive observers, and that includes most of the people with whom we come in contact, know just how much consistency exists between what leaders say and what they do. It is true that one cannot really fool most of the people most of the time. They see. They know. They remember.

So, how does an individual in a position of power make sure that these nine substantive obligatory-responses are being communicated? The answer is simple: learn them, understand them and live them - all the time.

Questions that persons of influence need to be able to answer:

  1. Do those you intend to motivate have access and capability to purchase healthy food?
  2. Are you confident that those for whom you are a steward are able to provide proper clothing for themselves and those for whom they are responsible?
  3. What is the quality of housing of those you have chosen to lead?
  4. Is the education they are afforded adequate to leverage their talent and the capabilities of those they support?
  5. Will the training provided enable them to build substantively for the future?
  6. Is the culture of the organization one of encouragement and nurture?
  7. Do all stakeholders know that dignity and respect are central to how decisions are made and actions carried out?
  8. Is achievement identified and celebrated on a regular and frequent basis, identifying those who have made notable sacrifices and constructive contributions?
  9. Are individuals able to see their value in the form of rewards, whether in terms of new title, greater influence, more money or enlarged responsibilities?

Integrity-centered leaders say "yes" to all of the above. Motivated individuals have come to expect "yes" answers and are more productive when they know those in positions of power and influence know, care and are willing to take actions to address problem areas. Integrity Matters in matters of motivation!

Question: (E-235)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 19, 2006

"Lincoln's approach still rings true"

Can integrity play a role in improving the current global crisis of wars and international misunderstandings?

Yes. Integrity is built, one action and relationship at a time. Although turning the clock back is impossible; studying wise leaders from the past can be instructive. President Abraham Lincoln, the unsophisticated and essentially un-educated country lawyer from Illinois, possessed insights worthy of emulation, personally and professionally. His horse-and-buggy wisdom has application in our rocket-propelled, internet world. - excerpts and concepts attributed to Doris Kearns Goodwin's "The True Lincoln" from Master of the Game.

  1. Courage: Lincoln placed his three most powerful rivals onto his Cabinet; explaining he did not want to deny the nation their service.
  2. Compassion: His issue was slavery, ours is immigration. He sought to understand the positions held by his opponents, avoiding condemnation. He sought to absorb their sorrows and hopes, sense their shifting moods and mold their opinion with the right words and deeds at the right time. Walking in another's shoes was never more necessary than today - nationally and internationally.
  3. Humor: Using funny stories about his personal flaws broke tensions, redirected energies and enabled conflict to find resolution outside rigid thinking. Whether confronting road rage or political intolerance, developing perspective on the sameness of our feeble efforts might reduce tempers while increasing understanding.
  4. Forgiveness: Lincoln behaved as if no person dedicated to making the most of life's opportunities could afford to waste time on personal contention. With the right attitude, even those with whom one might have conflicts can become part of a positive solution, if they are neither humiliated nor discarded along the way.
  5. Graciousness: Lincoln took responsibility for the errors of his generals and cabinet members while enabling them to stand in the limelight, even when he had contributed heavily to their successes.
  6. Perspective: Lincoln saw beyond the hard drinking of Ulysses S. Grant while appreciating the General's ability to lead a war effort. When his Secretary of State, John Seward, ignored his directive, he resolved their conflicts to prevent the nation from losing Seward's talents. He understood priorities.
  7. Self-control: The 15th President wrote blunt letters to those with whom he was disappointed, but seldom mailed them. He recognized the importance of keeping lines of communication open; seeking to repair relationships before they escalated into lasting animosity.
  8. Balance: Enjoying the theater was Lincoln's way of escaping the pressures of the American Civil War that had polarized and very nearly devastated his nation. Constructive diversions revitalize the worn and tired, enabling them to return to their responsibilities, more fully energized.
  9. Social responsibility: The Emancipation Proclamation was always, for Lincoln, about leaving the world a better place. And, so it is, today - choosing legacy over ego!

Question: (E-236)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 26, 2006

"Our society has an obligation to educate"

Time Magazine, April 17, 2006, reports that 30% of American high school students drop out before graduation. Is the integrity of our society at risk with this failure of our schools?

Yes. Effective education enables individuals to solve problems, understand an increasingly- complex society and compete in a global economy. Learning equips current and future generations with building blocks that expand understanding of self, community, culture, business, politics, spirituality, music, art, nature and citizens from around the world. With millions of young people not completing this basic high school education building block; too many risk becoming adrift and will be ill-equipped to function constructively. Others will fall prey to drugs, crime and a cycle of spiraling-poverty and bitterness. Prison statistics confirm that those who fall through the cracks too early often end up behind bars. Feeling intellectually-frustrated and emotionally-stifled, they become casualties of ignorance: not only their own, but also the ignorance of parents, role models and teachers.

Educators are convenient targets to blame when young people are turned off and drop out. And, many of them should shoulder a significant amount of the blame. Research suggests that 20% of all youngsters have some form of a learning disability. Perhaps they have dyslexia or simply a different learning style, making traditional learning processes difficult. So, how many educators are qualified to assess differing learning styles and present materials in ways that capitalize on learning styles of those who simply learn differently? With a 30% drop out rate, the answer is: mot nearly enough! Based upon consulting with 8000 managers and executives during 26 years in leadership development, we identified 20% with classic dyslexic behaviors: painstaking reading, tendencies to "freeze" with numbers and finance, including math, and visual-spatial and verbal disconnects.

Parents of dropouts are accountable, many having earlier created a similar path for themselves. Previous generations were not well-informed about multiple learning styles. Today, when teachers and parents fail to incorporate proven "teaching" methods to respond effectively to individual learning needs - then what can society expect? Wounded pride and continuous frustration can drive even the most persistent people away. Relatively-fragile young people are frustrated and drop out.

Those who earn all "A's" might naturally select teaching, able to sustain academia. The "B'" students can manage business, social and government activities so that society can function. "C" students, along with those who receive some "D's" and even a few "F's", might become entrepreneurs - seeing opportunities where others see obstacles. And, until more responsive and practical education is offered to those who are on the edge of "dropping out"; the young American talent pool will continue to deteriorate along with America's ability to compete and prosper.

Question: (E-237)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 3, 2006

"Quality medicine tied to integrity"

You have discussed in your weekly Integrity Matters column faulty medical devices and your concerns about the health risks created for patients, more than once. Next week I am having a second Guidant defibrillator surgically removed, and a third one implanted. Is this an engineering problem or an integrity issue

Perfection is an elusive goal. However, health providers are held to a higher standard, or at least they should be. Whether it is the ambulance team, emergency room professionals, staff at a physician's office, surgeons, hospital employees, or the makers of the equipment that assists with the diagnosis and treatment of those with health issues - 100% quality is required.

Your situation is disturbing. You have a heart problem and your medical team has advised your working with the same equipment provider, now for a third time. If this is the only reputable manufacturer of the device that you need, your dilemma is obvious. You are caught in the frustrating situation of not knowing how many times you can go through the "drill" - which is likely becoming increasingly stressful without increasing harm to your own health. Anxiety must be hounding you and your loved ones.

Obviously, you have sought medical counsel. What about second opinions, third opinions? Perhaps someone other than the surgeon directing you to this process should assess your readiness - physically and emotionally - to go through this invasive surgical procedure again. Only you can make the decision for what you are willing to endure.

If you were purchasing an automobile, how many "lemons" would tolerate from the same dealer or manufacturer? Perhaps you are simply a statistical anomaly and will be "good to go" with the third installation of the important heart device. Certainly, your report is about quality in manufacturing. It may be about integrity, but, rest assured, there will be those eager to help you file a lawsuit - possibly for a variety of reasons.

My research on this topic would indicate that an overwhelming number of these defibrillators are surgically implanted and work effectively. Your situation is different. The procedure for this replacement is described as minor surgery. My father said, "Minor surgery happens to other people. All my surgery is major because it is on me."

Advice - if possible and not risking your health:

  • consult with other medical professionals, soon
  • get help in finding an alternative product
  • insist on additional performance-testing on the device, should your advisors and you conclude to proceed with the same manufacturer
  • review the results and, when confident
  • proceed

Technology, quality, medicine and integrity are tied together and your life depends upon that integrated connection being solid and predictable.

Question: (E-238)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 10, 2006

"Call it what you want: Plagiarism is cheating"

William H. Swanson is the 57 year-old chief executive of Raytheon, a multi-billion dollar military contractor. He serves on the board at Sprint Nextel. He was just "outed" for plagiarizing. Why would a rich and powerful guy stoop so low? His "Unwritten Rules of Management" were copied - sometimes word for word - from the 1944 writings of another engineer, W.J. King, who wrote "The Unwritten Laws of Engineering." Where is Swanson's integrity?

Your questions about plagiarism confirm the need for an intelligent and effective architecture of integrity, in many areas of our society. Powerful individuals fall prey to ego, greed and self-inflicted lies. These folks believe their own press clippings. Restoring social and emotional integrity requires a behavior-shaping framework. And here is a reason why: can you name a profession or enterprise that has not been tainted by corruption or malfeasance? Human beings need clear guidelines with meaningful consequences.

Two recent plagiarism stories underscore this widespread disease in our society. Is the issue about cheating or getting caught? For too many it is the latter. Swanson's behavior at Raytheon was wrong and so too the sophomore at Harvard College, Ms. Kaavya Viswanathan, whose now infamous debut-novel, was little more than a cut-and-paste job. Downloading the work of others, without attribution, is dishonest. Yes, mistakes can be made - but not a whole book's worth.

The Bracher Center for Integrity was launched, in 2002, because we recognized that values such as integrity, perseverance, and commitment were being averaged-down in a misguided search for consensus and convenience. It is fundamentally wrong to accept that to get along you always have to go along. The excesses of a few appear to have punished the whole of society, including the moral confidence way too many people. Prevailing structures promote the politics of convenience over the commitment of leadership, quality or integrity. Too large a part of the business community enjoys the excesses of luxury as it continues to drift from quick deals to devastating dishonesty, winking as rules, laws and constructive values are ignored.

According to President Theodore Roosevelt: "The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life."

Any thinking adult understands that "integrity is one of several paths; distinguishing itself from the others because it is the right path and the only one upon which you will never get lost." -- M.H. McKee. The harsh reality is that success comes before work, but only in the dictionary. If achievement was that easy, then everyone would be rich and famous. Integrity, in all activities, is the best policy.

Question: (E-239)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 17, 2006

"Exit exam makes sure that students measure up"

Passing the California High School Exit Exam was supposed to verify that graduating seniors were qualified to progress to the next step of their lives - college, work, military service or whatever. Without integrity standards, how will an employer or a college admissions officer know what someone understands or can process - even with a high school diploma?

Without some legitimate validation tool regarding performance abilities, a diploma's impact is diminished. Sooner or later, individuals need to prove what they know and demonstrate what they can do; which is one purpose of interviews. Those who learn and are able to communicate what they know (possessing a meaningful diploma) will continue to progress. The rest will fall further behind: socially, culturally and economically.

Bright educators, examination designers and wise administrators offer conflicting positions on the most effective way to make sure that substantive learning has occurred. Written examinations pose problems related to the content, design and fairness. Legitimate concerns about bias issues make even setting up uniform standards a nightmare for those responsible for assessing comprehension. Effective education informs, inspires, prepares, nurtures and enables individuals. Even with solid building blocks in the three "R's" - Readin', Ritin' and ‘Rithmetic - students must be able to communicate what they know. If essays or interviews need to be added to the standardized-testing program to accommodate different processing modes, then include them, immediately.

If there is no "qualifying examination" - then the words of one high school principal need to be taken seriously: "We're not going to hold [seniors] accountable and it doesn't set the right tone." (Principal Darren Sylvia, Everett Alvarez High School)

The "real" world has clear standards for integrity that depend upon individual accountability and competence. Standards of excellence do not change simply because they are demanding. To keep a job in a pizza restaurant, as an hourly worker, an employee must be able to perform certain tasks, communicate learned competencies to peers and superiors and pass certain tests; including effective customer relations. To operate a forklift and continue to be paid, there are certain requirements, both physical and mental, that are non-negotiable. And, the illustrations go on and on. A high school diploma must be earned and represent intellectual achievement.

In an ever-increasingly complex and global society, it is not acceptable to say that one simply attended classes. Understanding and applying math and science are not the luxury of the privileged; they are essential for living in web-based, technological and scientific society. Written and verbal skills, along with interpersonal insights, will separate those who prosper from those who struggle. Educational integrity requires that legitimate learning maintain uncompromising standards that can be tested and communicated.

Question: (E-240)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 24, 2006

"Basic ethics should need no instruction"

Monterey County officials are seeking tighter controls regarding the use of county credit cards in the wake of suspected abuses. Is it necessary to spend our tax dollars to train officials to distinguish between right and wrong?

No, and how discouraging that adults need to be treated like rebellious children! According to one report, "training about the proper use of credit cards may be expanded for high-level employees who receive them for on-the-job expenses." What kind of clarity is still needed when credit cards are provided for business purposes? When there is any question about whether or not an expense is business-related, "business" credit cards should NOT be used. A personal credit card should pay any "questionable" expense. Later the charge can be reviewed by appropriate authorizing agents who can determine legitimate reimbursement.

Youngsters understand right behavior. They know when they are asked to go into the store to purchase food; they are not to squander the money on candy and frivolous items. And, so do adults.

The Bracher Center's first two Integrity-Centered Attributes make the point clearly:

  • CHARACTER is consistency between word and deed. Leaders must exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did. An eight year-old from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County told me that character was "what people do when no one is watching." Credit-card abuse is wrong.
  • HONESTY is truthful communication that is reflected by leaders - including public servants - who would never engage in, intentionally, or sanction, misrepresentation.

Using business credit cards for non-business activities is not solved with training. It is resolved at the point of hiring and vetting. Stealing money using a credit card is wrong and against the law. Allow me to make the point of just how ridiculous this issue has become. Enjoying humor and comedy, loving to tickle my "funny bone" - I often watch re-runs of a television comedy series called Seinfeld. In one episode, the goofy character, George, is confronted by his boss who asks George a question: "Did you have sex, in your office, with the woman who cleans our offices, last evening?" - To which George asks who provided the boss with such disturbing information. George's supervisor indicates that the cleaning woman herself reported the incident. With a long pause, George appears to ponder the dilemma and then says to his upset boss: "Was that wrong?" And, then to add more fuel to the fire, George continues with his idiocy: "I don't recall anything specific about a situation like this ever being discussed in my employee orientation." George was fired, immediately. Solid, powerful humor!

Irresponsible behaviors risk reputations and careers!

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