Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on January 29, 2003
"Boss showed respect for
My brother-in-law is considering whether he should
quit his job over what he calls an integrity issue. It
seems his boss, the owner of a small company, left town
without telling him. He left him in charge without my
brother-in-law knowing that the owner was out of town
and out of reach, even should an emergency have arisen.
The owner had a compelling personal reason, but did not
take the opportunity to inform my brother-in-law. While
recognizing that the owner must trust him with the business,
my wifes brother felt exposed because he was in
charge, but in the dark.
I feel he is making a mountain out a molehill and should
be satisfied with simply requesting that it not happen
again. What do you think?
Yes, your relative may well be making a mountain out
of a molehill. In fact, he may be on the brink of trading
a moment for a career. Obviously the boss
trusts your brother in law. He probably likes him, too.
Perhaps we can help your brother-in-law see the situation
more clearly if we separate the issues:
No. 1: He has earned and received the respect
and trust of the owner. He was left in charge!.
That is a significant compliment. It means the boss
trusts your wifes brother.
No. 2: There is a problem regarding an employee
being left in the dark about the whereabouts
of the boss. As an outsider, it is my speculation that
some aspect of the relationship between your brother-in-law
and the boss needs improvement. Obviously the boss handled
this business decision poorly. It may not be an integrity
issue, but it is a management issue that needs to be
fixed immediately. Wise leaders know that they need
to remain accessible in the event of an emergency, especially
when they place someone else in charge.
A long time ago, a mentor advised me that it can be naïve
or even unreasonable to assume that all personal and professional
relationships can be developed and sustained at the same
level of intensity. He was right. During a quarter of
a century in the management consulting business, some
clients were closer professionally than personally. They
liked our executive counsel services, but
chose not to be as close outside of our client-counselor
relationship. They paid our fees, but did not necessarily
invite us to family events, such as weddings.
In contrast, other clients became more than business
friends--actually more like family. In those
instances, our personal friendships have continue today,
long after our professional relationships ended.
It is seldom wise to blow up a friendship.
Perhaps further dialogue will explain the behaviors, at
least for this situation. This problem between friends
can be turned into an opportunity to strengthen not only
the relationship, but also the business and its management
practices. Integrity is the key stone and is the only
practical path to follow to fix whatever is
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 5, 2003
"Ask questions of company
I manage a local retail store that is part of a large
regional chain. I report to a Regional Vice-President,
but have no direct contact with corporate headquarters
in the Midwest. I like my job. However, in the wake of
all of the recent stories about corporate corruption and
greed on the parts of company executives, I would like
to assure myself that those people steering my ship are
really interested in the passengers.
Is there some simple way to evaluate the integrity of
the president and the senior staff of my company?
Yes, there is a very simple way to evaluate the integrity
of your companys leadership. You determine the integrity
of leaders by asking the right questions and not tolerating
the wrong answers.
Here are nine of the right questions:
Is it generally understood by employees
that they are expected to do the right thing? Is it
in the atmosphere of your culture to do the right
Is your company involved in local
Is information about the financial
health of your company readily available?
Do meetings almost always start and
end on time so that participants can fulfill commitments
to others and not be forced to cascade
Do your customers know that you have
the authority to make things right for
them when mistakes happen?
When anyone in your company (including
senior executives) under-performs repeatedly, are
they given due process and then, if necessary, replaced?
Does your company pride itself on
paying its suppliers in timely ways?
Do you have confidence that your president
would never direct those who report to him to fudge
numbers under any circumstances? (You will know the
answer to this question by the ways in which your
boss directs you to report your sales and profits,
every month, every quarter and every year.)
Do the individuals who lead your company
exhibit congruence between what they say and
what they do, as well as what they say about what
If leaders are not consistent and predictable in the
execution of their duties to the point that you can generally
predict what they will do and how they will go about doing
their work, then some portion of the organizations
values, if not most of the values, are being violated.
Such inconsistency can be death to integrity.
Now that you have read these nine questions, it is unlikely
that you need an answer sheet. If you are not satisfied
with your answers to several, if not all, of the questions
listed above, there could be integrity issues at your
Hopefully you believe, as I do, that: Integrity
is the keystone of leadership. It is reflected in discussions,
decisions, directives and diagnostics. Leadership emerges
from listening, exhibits character in behavior, and leverages
energy with integrity. Integrity is the stabilizing factor
that sustains effort and causes energy to create the canopy
for accomplishment. Integrity enables the achievement
If we are in agreement about how important ethical behavior
is in leadership, then, you know that the actions of every
member of your company, from front line employees to the
executive team, confirm or deny INTEGRITY.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 19, 2003
"Check before you list charges"
I traded in a car in well-above-average condition, but
with 40,000 miles on the odometer. When later I saw the
car on the lot, it had only 12,000 miles on the odometer.
What should I do?
1. Assuming that the automobile is your former vehicle
and not simply a look alike.
2. Assuming that you read the odometer numbers correctly,
and you have a bill of sale that clearly reports the actual
mileage of your former automobile.
3. Assuming that you can be sure the person who purchased
the car from you has had the car in his or her possession
(with no opportunity for a prankster to adjust the odometer).
a. Go to the owner that purchased your vehicle and explain
you are concerned that someone has placed you and his/her
organization in a potentially complicated and/or legal
b. Clarify that if the vehicle was yours and has been
adjusted, that you are aware that the Better Business
Bureau would expect to have such information reported
to them, and you expect the owner to act immediately or
you will be compelled to do so.
You might explain that when we cannot trust the numbers
on the odometer, what other "trusts" might have
c. Violations of "contracts," creating a level
of mistrust that can permeate a profession, industry,
community or an entire society, will interrupt the effective
flow of goods and services. This interruption impacts
productivity and profitability.
When individuals and groups lose confidence in the integrity
of a business or any institution, then governments will
be compelled to take action and add regulations..
d. Changing odometers is illegal. It is expensive for
our society. It hurts business for everyone. If you cannot
convince the leader of this enterprise to make the situation
right, then our criminal system can.
Letter to the editor: (February 22, 2003)
The Feb.19 "Integrity Matters" business column
by Jim Bracher was needlessly long and, in my opinion,
offered poor advice.
The response should instead have included these actions
for the questioner:
Check the vehicle's VIN to make sure
it is the same car.
Check the odometer again to make certain
you read it correctly the first time.
Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles'
investigative division regarding the findings and
request that they investigate.
This is what a good citizen should do when confronted
with a potential violation of the law.
Going to the new owner, as was suggested, could place
the questioner at needless risk.
There is no way of knowing what the new owner's reaction
might be, especially if the new owner regularly engages
in illegal practices.
It is also not the questioner's responsibility to provide
the new owner with a lesson in ethics.
Any lesson to be taught should be taught by legal authorities.
Response to Widigen Letter (02-24-03)
Mr. Larry Widigen offered insightful suggestions in dealing
with automobile odometer "roll back" activities.
Unfortunately, not all business transactions are conducted
with high-integrity individuals.
Even so, Mr. Widigen's "by the book" approach
could be so efficient that interpersonal relationships
could be permanently injured. Our contrasting approach
offers the owner an opportunity to correct any mistake.
Each of us wants to be a good citizen, practicing integrity-centered
decision-making. Regardless of our responses, there are
consequences. Each individual will want to weigh the costs
and then proceed appropriately.
Obviously, there are many legitimate approaches to solving
problems. We recommend that each reader remembers: "Integrity
is one of several paths; it distinguishes itself from
the others because it is the right path and the only one
upon which you will never get lost." -- M.H. McKee
We appreciate reader input.
For INTEGRITY MATTERS
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on July 26, 2006
"Dismissal leaves store clerk
Last year, when I graduated from Hartnell, I got a job
at a local clothing store. After some initial training
I was put on the sales floor. I enjoyed the work. I
like taking care of people's needs.
Although I wasn't getting much feedback from my
manager, I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Customers
were always thanking me for the way I helped them. Then,
last week, I was suddenly fired over an incident that
has left me hurt and confused.
A lady had come into the store looking for a particular
brand of cotton top. We didn't carry the
brand for anything else similar in style. I knew
that a shop in the mall had what she was looking for
and so I told her where she could find what she wanted. I
then asked if she had seen our sale items or if I could
help her in any other way, she said she was just interested
in the blouses, thank me and left.
My manager, who had overheard my conversation with the
lady, came up to me and told me she wanted to see me
in the break room after my shift. Two hours later,
before I was going to punch out, I went to see the manager. To
my shock, when I met the manager she handed me my final
check and told me I was being let go effective immediately. I
will never forget her words when I asked her why. She
said "you never, ever, refer a customer to a competitor". I
was so stunned. I don't even remember what
I said in my defense. I just remember leaving
the store a nervous wreck.
Is it possible that general business practices say that
self interest comes before the best interest of the customer? Please
tell me this isn't so.
This should not have happened, yet it provides
a lesson: simply being right is no guarantee that
we will not have some "bumps." As to
your Boss, everyone understands that these are demanding
times. Generating revenue is tough. Likely, your
former boss was feeling tremendous pressure to generate
immediate cash flow from customers, despite not having
exactly what the customer wanted or needed. Unless
your former boss had instructed you that you were never
to refer a customer to another supplier to fulfill their
needs (a poor policy, by the way), your boss was wrong
to terminate you for this. From a customer's perspective,
you made the right decision and are living with the consequences.
When your own integrity is on the line, there is a piece
of wisdom that you might choose to read, over and over.
It appears on our website (www.brachercenter.com) "Integrity
is one of several paths; it distinguishes itself from
the others because it is the right path and the only
one upon which you will never get lost." -- M.H.
You chose to meet a customer's needs by telling
him or her the truth. You maintained your personal
integrity and might possibly have created a customer
for life for your former employer. Short-sighted
bosses, those who are driven only by today's
profits at the expense of longer-term relationships,
are not the "stuff" of which legends have
been built. They miss opportunities to create legendary
service by focusing exclusively upon today's financial
results. Bosses of this type terminate individuals
of your caliber. Long-term, businesses that operate
this way lose out. Longer term, please be confident
that you will win-- as will the many customers that you
will continue to attract and retain.
You are now in a very good position (having encountered
a short-sighted, self-centered and greedy boss) to look
with greater precision for the integrity-centered leader
and organization that will respect and reward your focus
on the customer. Most of the time, with the majority
of people, integrity is important. Being honest
is rewarded. Good leaders are working hard to equip
each of their employees so that every individual will
feel comfortable doing the right thing for the right
You have learned that one particular organization
is not a good match for you. Be happy that you have
learned this so soon upon graduation. You are now
better prepared to proceed with confidence that high
integrity situations do exist which will welcome you,
promote you and regard you as true partner in their efforts
to serve the customers effectively.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 26, 2003
"Professional faces ethical
I am a professional in a specialty that is carefully,
monitored by a State Board of Licensure. I am bound by
the ethical rules of confidentiality and operate as a
private practitioner, educator to licensed professionals,
and supervisor of internships for the State Board of licensure.
Recent demands from health insurance organizations now
put my colleagues and myself at ethical risk are: client
confidentiality. While we understand that our clients
want to use insurance for health related service, we find
ourselves in the untenable position of feeling "bullied"
by MANAGED CARE to breach ethics and give access to confidential
information. Even as we discover the risk and terminate
agreements to accept certain insurances, we are facing
demands to allow Managed Care staff access to records
for past services to their insured.
How can we behave with integrity, protect our client's
confidentiality and answer the demands of an entity that
asks us to breach ethics that are already monitored by
our State Licensing Board?
Your concerns about integrity cross multiple boundaries
and must be addressed one issue at a time.
Ethical issues: Once an informed patient
asks the counselor/doctor to release information to
insurers, the ethics issue disappears. When an informed
patient signs a form authorizing the counselor/doctor
to furnish information to insurers, this signals to
the doctor/counselor that the patient has chosen to
utilize funds from a third party (insurance). Then
the counselor functions with a lowered-obligation
of privacy-confidentiality, and the insurer is now
able to be involved in the case. This is called informed
consent and is both ethical and legal. In this way
insurers can protect themselves against those who
would abuse the system. It does, however, open the
door to some potential for abuse of information.
Legal concerns: It is likely that
you and your colleagues belong to a professional association
that exists, in part, to strengthen your profession,
protect your rights and maintain the integrity of
those who are licensed colleagues. Quite likely the
executive in charge of this association has access
to attorneys who can assist in defining needs and
creating recommendations to address concerns regarding
conflicts of interest and compromising situations.
Seek advice and provide input, lest those who are
paid to represent you miss the message. It seems that
unless you are able to function (consistent with your
ethical priorities), your productivity and high quality
service will decline, along with adequate income to
support the professional association founded to assist
you in the carrying out of your professional expertise.
After all, it is from successful members of your profession
that your association is funded.
Financial implications: Obviously,
you must understand all of the requirements of your
state's certification procedures as well as the code
of ethics of your profession or you could lose your
privileges to practice in your chosen profession.
Loss of certification has enormous financial ramifications.
Morally, legally and financially you would be wise
to know, in detail, from whatever organization is
responsible for professional ethics, the best approach
that enables you to remain in compliance with any
and all professional obligations.
Summary thoughts and suggestions: First, unless or until
these issues are resolved, the only way for you to guarantee
strict confidentiality is for the client to pay for your
services without the benefit of third party insurance.
Those who can afford this may choose this rather than
enable an insurer to know their particular problems. This
seems, unfortunately, to push hard up against the concept
of equal rights to privacy, for everyone. Second, your
ability to remain effective with the practice you have
developed (and at which you hope to continue to earn a
good living) depends upon your success in securing legal
protection, whether from your association, your state
licensing entity or the legislature of your state.
Actions you may choose to take as a concerned licensed
service provider, seeking to strengthen your profession:
A. Clarify your ethical
concerns with the State Board of Licensure (your professional
Association can help).
your rights and responsibilities regarding confidentiality
(your attorney and/or your Association's attorney can
be of immense help in these areas).
your principles regarding the ethical execution of your
duties and measure them
against what is currently provided for those in your profession.
Where there are differences, you have choices: create
regulations that cause the principles to match or choose
to modify your behaviors to live with the existing operating
principles. If these options are not adequate, you can
always select a new way to make a living.
Remember, each and every one of your patients will understand
that integrity is congruence between what you say and
what you do, as well as what you say about what you did.
Integrity is the keystone of leadership in all fields,
including medicine. The keystone holds the profession
together at its most critical junction, where knowledge
and counsel serve the patient... Integrity is the strength,
unity, clarity and purpose that upholds and sustains all
of the activities of any medical provider. Leaders in
all professions exude integrity.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 4, 2003
"Boss's behavior seems harsh"
A friend in Hawaii has announced his retirement at age
55 from his employer of 21 years. He is in sales and recently
told me that his boss put him on written warning for his
performance last year, even though he met his sales quota.
It was because he did not sell enough to one of the accounts
per sales plan. My friend is 55 and cannot really afford
to retire, but felt he was going to get forced out in
a youth movement and did not want his work
record to have on it the word fired!
I do not know all the facts; however, it does seem to
me that when an employee has 20-plus years with a firm,
having always been loyal to the organization, he deserves
more than routine consideration. The behavior of the boss
seems to lack integrity. It appears that this situation
smells of constructive or wrongful discharge. What do
Companies have rights to manage their operations in a
variety of ways. They can legally, hire and fire employees.
Your friend is no exception. With reference to the integrity
issue, we may find answers by first breaking down the
concerns expressed in your letter.
Your friend announced his retirement, and for whatever
reasons he chose this language, it may be difficult to
undo this potentially legally binding announcement.
A written warning is serious matter and may be associated
with breaches of conduct that can outweigh other valuable
contributions. For an outsider to comment on such actions
by management might assume legal knowledge (even labor
precedents) that rest beyond the practice of addressing
integrity in leadership.
A career of 20 years, assuming competence, would certainly
warrant due process. Your friend should have been keeping
copies of every relevant document. If he has not done
so, he should make every effort to secure them. Given
the facts presented, it appears this person would be well
advised to follow a four-step process:
Review his situation with the appropriate personnel professional.
If things cannot resolved satisfactorily, he should outline
his alternatives and confirm them with his attorney.
Seek a solution that does not burn the bridge
for any future career opportunity with the company.
Accept the reality that a solution that in not integrity-centered
could force a separation that has legal, financial, and
Legally, he may have boxed himself in. On the other hand,
integrity-centered leadership could open a door for a
more humane solution.
My insurance company hires aspiring younger people,
those between ages 28 and 40, then we spend about two
years educating and training them in our specialty. We
open our client files to these newcomers to our industry
and we equip them for success using our knowledge and
experience. We pay them while they learn and expect them
to re-pay us with several years of service and loyalty.
Over the past decade, and especially more recently, we
have noticed a very disappointing trend. These valuable
individuals leave us, shortly after their two year orientation
and take with them our contacts and our intellectual property,
seemingly without remorse or guilt. When confronted, their
responses vary, but one theme bursts through all of their
explanations and rationalizations: we are doing nothing
that is illegal.
Is this an integrity issue? If it is, how can we address
it and stop this waste of time and money?
A Concerned Founder of an Insurance Firm
Integrity is at the heart of your story, really
saga, of individuals landing on board your insurance boat,
eating your business food, only to leave your employment
with the mess created by their premature exit. Their respect
for your investment in them (these individuals) is absent.
There appears to be an abdication, on their part, of any
responsibility for returning some portion of the training
costs. When these trainees mention that what they are
doing is not illegal, they seem to be saying that relationships
and accountability are not the cornerstones of the social
contract they are honoring.
How sad for you and how very tragic for these individuals
and the values they are using to build the future.
The tone of your question communicates that you understand
the importance of character in the transaction of business.
The following definition might easily describe how you
Character is the ability to carry out the resolution long
after the initial burst of enthusiasm is gone. Character
shows when decisions are implemented. Character is the
sum total of behaviors and is most completely demonstrated
when individuals perform under pressure. Graciousness
is almost always part of effective leadership character.
Leaders with character drive organizational culture in
Loyalty is a two-way street that has been clogged with
selfishness and self-serving leaders across multiple industries.
You are reaping the whirlwind of brutal layoffs and short-sighted
strategies that have been high-lighted by the media for
a quarter of a century. It has now become a game of who
can take theirs first. For those who play this game, trust
has moved to the back of the line.
Please do not give up on the next generation. From the
letters received here, through the INTEGRITY MATTERS column,
the search is still on for high-quality firms. There are
individuals, many of them, who are looking for integrity-centered
leadership. Their desire is to find a worthy mission and
work toward its accomplishment. They are not afraid to
commit. They are eager to learn. They are willing to give
One of my favorite advisors, a retired founder of an
insurance company that grew quite large, told me that
his key to growing his successful organization centered
in three questions he asked of himself after he interviewed
When you can answer affirmatively to these three areas,
there is an improved chance that the individual will see
the partnership and obligation. Such individuals have
In the meantime, maintain your standards and hold your
course. Good people are out there.
My boss was recently hired from another company, and after
he joined us, several of us have noticed he has a tendency
to fall asleep in conversations. I watched him carefully,
and became convinced that he has narcolepsy. He is in a
very senior position, and this condition could seriously
embarrass the company with a customer, or detract from employee
morale if it occurred in a major presentation to employees.
I confronted him, and he acknowledged the problem, but begged
me not to disclose it to anyone else. He said it is treatable,
and only happens when he forgets his medication (he must
forget a lot!). He is afraid the senior management above
him will terminate him if they learn of the problem--while
I am of the opinion that they will terminate him for sure
if they learn of it from anyone else!
What should I do?
A concerned employee
Your concern is valid, and the fact that you have
already confronted him the first time is commendable. While
you could choose to do absolutely nothing further and wait
to see if anything changes, that seems unlikely
Because you have already addressed your concerns directly
with your boss, it seems more likely that you want to
help the boss and your company. The tone of your letter
suggests that you have a direct reporting relationship
to him, and that you will do whatever it takes to protect
the larger institution out of respect and commitment to
This is an integrity issue as it relates to the honesty
of your boss regarding how forthcoming he
was during his own hiring process. Certain unfortunate
health conditions can cause physical harm to the individuals
themselves and those with whom they might be associated.
Should an individual fall asleep while driving a vehicle,
the costs are difficult to calculate. Obviously, medication
intended to address such ailments must be taken as prescribed,
without fail. Falling asleep during a business meeting
can be embarrassing; falling asleep at other times could
When you mentioned that your leader forgets to take his
medication regularly, you have identified a situation
that could harm the leader, the company and (potentially)
innocent bystanders. Disclosure of health issues is expected,
when integrity is the foundation of the relationship.
If the folks who hired the boss were not made aware of
the situation, they should be, now. In the meantime, the
boss needs to treat his medical issues, all the time.
As for your concern: You can address your own integrity
dilemma by considering these actions:
First, remind your leader that if this news about his
health situation comes to his bosses from anyone other
than him--and one day it will--he risks his own reputation
of being honest with his superiors. Simply waiting for
another falling asleep event to occur is courting
Second, suggest a time (preferably in the very near future)
for the boss to discuss his health situation with senior
management. If the truth is not communicated soon, let
him know that you will be in an untenable position. You
want to be loyal to the leader himself, but you feel a
corporate responsibility to protect your institution from
any harm that might occur for the boss, your institution
or innocent bystanders. What other choices do you have?
Third, be prepared that you may be seen as a whistle
blower. Even though Time Magazines 2002
Persons of the Year were whistle blowers, as the
three recipients can attest, there can be painful and
Fourth, if these actions seem too demanding, then consult
your own legal counsel and ask for guidance regarding
your liability if you do nothing.
Finally, weigh the alternatives and proceed with full
awareness of the risks as well as the rewards.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 19, 2003
"Check track records before
Over the past several years, I have watched our
economy sputter. Big dreams for early and comfortable
retirement for my wife and me have evaporated. We are
partly responsible for the difficulties. We, no, really
I am mostly the one who pushed for higher returns on investments.
We kept reading about these high technology projects that
had tremendous valuations for their stocks. I insisted
that we jump in and enjoy the returns. When things began
to fall apart, the advice my wife and I received was to
stay the course, stocks are a long term investment.
We trusted our investment advisors.
We lost about 60% of our funds.
Was our tremendous loss related to the integrity of those
who sold the investments and counseled us? Was this an
integrity issue for those who were the leaders of the
companies in which we invested? I am willing to accept
responsibility for every dollar lost, primarily because
I must. Yet, there were people (advisors, venture capitalists,
corporate executives and investment bankers) who must
have known more than we did. Many of them bought in early,
watched the stock price catapult, then they bailed out
and left us to go down with the sinking ship.
I am angry, embarrassed and a lot poorer. Whose integrity
can one trust?
Please help because, I am in over my head or maybe simply
a victim of fraud.
Your situation is all too common. You feel taken advantage
of and there are legitimate reasons for your feelings.
You may or may not be a sophisticated investor. You may
or may not have close friends who are wise in the ways
of finance and investments. You may or may not have legal
recourse, even though you may believe that those in control
investments could have advised you to sell before risking
so much of your money.
Here is the irony and the sad truth of a seemingly modern
and wealthy society. Long ago, in the Middle Ages, many
of the leaders of the Catholic Church kept language and
education away from many deserving and capable people.
Instead of educating the masses, the power hungry of this
earlier time kept writing, reading, math and science in
the hands of the few. In that medieval era, the few were
primarily members of the club made up of church
leaders (clerics and bishops). An exclusive club back
then was wrong in the ways it treated those who trusted
it and it is wrong today.
As a consequence of the actions, freedom was kept in
check and a certain theological aristocracy operated pretty
much as it chose. That period of time was often called
the Dark Ages, not simply because people were unable to
educate themselves through reading and study, but also
because the world was lighted only by fire. The Middle
Ages had only the intellectual light offered by those
in power. Any other light was from the fires that warmed
their humble homes, cooked their meals and tortured those
who challenged accepted rules and regulations. A fascinating
book addressing this medieval integrity-crisis is: A World
Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance
Portrait of an Age (William Manchester).
The situation today is remarkably similar. Medieval priests
reading and speaking Latin have been replaced in our era
by balance sheet wizards and magicians of money. Instead
of a Dark Ages being manipulated by well-read theologians
with power and prestige, today we are surrounded by articulate
and sophisticated gurus of finance, banking and capital
They are well trained in these modern times to speak
in a language calculated to be beyond the average
wage earner whose dollars have disappeared. It seems that
many of the best of graduate business institutions
pride themselves upon the fraternity that they helped
to educate. More recently this elite society
has begun including women. These fraternities and sororities
communicate an image of self-perception that they own
and can manipulate the financial transactions of our nation
and a significant portion of the world. Unfortunately,
in many instances, they do.
Financial power, consolidated in the hands of the few,
no matter how well educated, can too easily place personal
greed and club-membership loyalty (to those already "in")
far above integrity. Feelings of exclusivity abound and
those outside the circle may not receive appropriate advice
and counsel. In fact, your story is not unique.
Encouraging beginning or unsophisticated investors to
participate in these inflated valuations, fabricated by
members of the financial wizards club is wrong.
Keeping them in these inflated transactions long after
they should have exited is borderline corrupt. It may
not be illegal, but most assuredly it is immoral. Too
often the off the street investor was losing
a small family fortune while those in the know, who invested
early, were taking high profits and bailing out. These
friends of the magicians of money knew the
game and played it well. Those outside the club circle
suffered reversals of fortunes that left them devastated,
in lots of ways.
If you do not understand the investment enterprise, are
not 100% confident that your counselor really works for
you; then you are playing in a game that offers a low
risk of winning, or sometimes, even surviving.
What has been going on relative to the making of money
is not right. Using insider information, parsing words
and avoiding giving prudent counsel are some of the symptoms
of an elite group run amok. Society will be healthy again
when we reject the fraudulent behavior and reward integrity-centered
advisors, just as the Reformation worked to cure the ills
of the Middle Ages.
Obviously, there are honest professionals in finance
and investments. It is important that you know a great
deal about their skills, credentials and motivations.
The very best way to learn about advisors (financial and
others) is to review their track records with those who
have worked with them before. History is often an excellent
way to predict or at least better understand the future.
On a personal note, I am very sorry for what you and
others suffered during these recent times, specifically
as you sought ways to secure your retirement years.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 19, 2003
"Readers: We need your help"
Dear Readers of INTEGRITY MATTERS
Thank you, in advance, for your help. A few weeks ago,
a coupon began appearing on the business page asking for
your assistance. We are asking you to identify an ethical
company. We suggested nine guidelines. These nine questions
address the way a company operates.
So far, we have received one nomination. Now, who wants
to come in first in a one person activity? Further, who
in their right mind wants to be singled out as the only
ethical leader in our community? So, come on and let us
know the names of those individuals who represent what
is still right about leadership and ownership.
We know that you come into contact with high-quality
organizations all the time. So, please lend a hand. Tell
us the names of companies that exhibit positive qualities
1. behavior (atmosphere for doing what is right)
2. charity (community involvement)
3. open (financial transparency)
4. gracious (respect and discipline)
5. authority (employee encouragement)
6. performance (accountability from top to bottom)
7. partnership (prompt bill payment)
8. unimpeachable (honest reporting of numbers)
9. consistency (congruence between word and deed)
Just in case you want to review the original nine questions,
they are listed in the coupon shown below. We would like
to report in our April 2, 2003, Integrity Matters column
that the readership of the Californian identifies ethical
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 16, 2003.
"Government must help the
I read in our paper that “Quick Tax Loans Cost Taxpayers
almost $2 Billion”. Further, these check cashing
fees add to the cost of getting tax refunds and loans.
And the worst part is that these fees are targeted at
the working poor. What kind of integrity is this? What
is the thinking of those who prepare the taxes for the
working poor as well as those who make available their
financial institutions to assist in carrying out this
high cost activity? Is everything about money, no matter
who is taken advantage of?
Dear Concerned Citizen:
You have raised an issue that is central to the integrity
of our society. We are supposed to protect those who cannot
protect themselves. And, our society is judged by how
we respond to those at high risk.
The working poor are an admirable segment of our society.
At one time or another, most of us had immigrant ancestors
who came to the United States of America as “the
working poor” and found independence and success;
economic and otherwise. Working poor means that these
are individuals not asking for a “pass” –
they have taken a job and they are contributing. They
work in hopes of finding what Americans have always dreamed
about, a better life through effort, sacrifice and commitment.
Taking advantage of this group is awful.
Having done research about this tax-refund and loan process,
where a number of tax preparation organizations, some
being quite large, and certain financial institutions
charge high fees and interest rates, it is difficult not
to be appalled. Their leaders respond that if they did
not supply these expensive services, then someone else
would. Whether they are right or wrong, we should be thoughtful
in hurrying to find a scapegoat. Blaming accountants and
bankers is not productive. The solutions lie in the hands
of those who regulate these types of actions, namely,
our government officials.
Without an upward success path for the working poor our
society, they are left with little hope and motivation.
If you feel, as I do, that this callous manipulation of
our emerging work force is wrong, then contact the Attorney
General’s office in your state. Unless free markets
(in this case, the tax preparers and their collaborating
financial institutions) are willing to regulate themselves,
then governments must. If what is being done is legal,
then find out how to change the laws. Right now, in these
harsh times, we all need one another.
Preying on the working poor, reducing an already small
amount of money that is rightfully theirs, by taking advantage
of their lack of knowledge and sophistication, says allot
about the character and integrity of those who know the
ropes and utilize the loopholes.
Why does it seem like a certain local, large hospitality
organization, seemingly a fine company, can't keep management?"
Dear Local Business Observer:
Some facts never change. Quality leadership and integrity
generally attract and retain the best people. The exception
will prove the rule. There are always reasons why folks
choose to change organizations and that is another reason
to live and work in the United States of America. We are
free to do pretty much what we want.
Without responding to any company in particular; generally,
retention is all about leadership and values.
Books are written about retaining employees. Seminars
and training programs are offered to thousands and even
millions of attendees annually, probably netting the providers
incredible profits. But, that approach may be missing
the mark. Leadership effectiveness is uncomplicated. At
least that is what we have learned during the past twenty-four
years consulting with about 8000 clients.
Most of our executive development and leadership enhancement
consultation centers in training individuals with lots
of responsibilities. They often need to learn to incorporate
three important phrases that were taught to many of us
who remember Captain Kangaroo. He was a pioneer in television
programming that focused on children. He preceded Mr.
Rogers and taught many of the same valuable insights.
His three lessons could save management careers. His basic
approach might catapult leaders (or wanna be leaders)
if only they would learn to think, feel and say:
2. THANK YOU
3 I AM SORRY, I MADE A MISTAKE
Organizations that fail to emphasize these practical and
profound behaviors risk losing a great deal, beginning
with customers, employees and managers. Captain Kangaroo
and Mr. Rogers taught integrity. We can profit from their
I read a national news (Wall Street Journal) front page
article today, Friday, February 21, 2003, regarding a
Topeka, Kansas, energy company (Westar Energy, Inc.) A
small part of that article discussed the resignation of
a Board Member because of being kept in the dark regarding
overcompensation of the CEO. The article also reports
the former CEO as saying the Board Member was simply a
poor performer. Two questions arise in my mind.
First, is it not the Board's prerogative and responsibility
to set the compensation of the CEO in the first place?
Second, assuming the Board Member indeed was performing
poorly, is there not an ethical, moral and perhaps a legal
responsibility for Board Members to take their position
seriously and to perform to the best of their ability?
A concerned investor
Dear Concerned Investor,
Yes and Yes to questions one and two.
Number One, boards are responsible for
the compensation of the Chief Executive Officer, the boss.
Number Two, board members have financial
and legal duties to the stockholders of the company to
take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously and perform
to the best of their abilities.
Fortunately, the majority of members of boards must be
living up to these responsibilities or even more corporate
scandals would be wall-papered across the headlines. You
can safely assume that most people intend to do a good
However, we are uncovering a level of casualness; some
might say callousness, regarding the way too many individuals
are behaving in positions of responsibility. Sadly for
our economy, and our nation, stories of irresponsible
leadership at the top, including the board level, bubble
onto headlines at an alarming rate.
To underscore your concern, let me repeat a story that
was related to me within the last week. A high technology
company was holding a board meeting, with several board
members participating via telephone. Not very long into
the proceedings, a loud swishing sound was heard, above
the usual hum of multiple phone connections. As the meeting
continued, one officer from the company asked the person
phoning in from Colorado if he was on the ski slopes.
The board member responded that he was actually skiing
down the mountain, but had no idea that the others could
hear the noise of the wind, the skis and the snow. The
person who told me of the incident was a co-founder of
the company. He was dumbfounded, angry and disappointed.
Simply put, how can an individual be giving 100% attention
to board responsibilities while playing in the snow? Hopefully,
this is the exception and not the rule.
Unfortunately, the acquisition of wealth can cause some
people to believe that their genius in guiding previous
success stories (whether through skill, timing, a strong
market or simple luck) makes them immune to the disciplines
of listening and focus. Such behavior sets a poor example
for those who are charged with daily operations and it
is a violation of trust between and among stakeholders
(customers, employees, suppliers, investors, etc).
Leadership is about integrity and it never runs away
If you have stock in this company, you have to believe
that integrity-centered leadership prevails.
I found your recent column dealing with nine questions
regarding leadership integrity enlightening and disturbing.
You instruct that we should not tolerate the wrong answers
from bosses on questions that probe at the ethics of their
actions and business practices. I am inspired by your
ideals, but I am cynical enough to think that searching
for a corporate head who could give the "right"
answers to all nine of your questions would be more challenging
than the ancient Greek who wandered around his civilization
in vain search of an honest man.
I want to believe that there are companies out there who
deal with their employees, shareholders, suppliers and
customers completely ethically, but, frankly, in my limited
experience, I'm not sure I've met any. Who should my heroes
be? I live in Monterey County. Do you know of any local
companies that might pass your nine-question test?
Can you suggest any books dealing with corporate leaders
or companies that are both financially successful and
operated with integrity?
I have been feeling o.k. about my present bosses and my
company until I read your February 5 column entitled "Ask
questions of company leadership". After thinking
about them and my answers to the nine questions, frankly,
I don't feel so good about my answers or my company. Where
I work fails to meet the benchmarks you laid out in half
of your questions.
No longer can I work in this company in denial. Your standards
are correct and my company falls short. I have a dilemma.
Either I search for a new company with higher integrity
standards or accept that my standards are higher than
those of my company. In the meantime, it would be reassuring
to know that there is some "greener grass" out
What do you suggest?
Dear Individual with High Standards:
Thank you for reading and responding to the February 5,
2003, Integrity Matters column titled: "Ask Questions
of company leadership". Those nine important questions
to ask about business and its leadership are:
1. BEHAVIOR: atmosphere for doing what
· Is it understood by employees that they are expected
to do the right thing? Is the right thing defined in a
code of ethics? Do leaders exhibit the right behavior?
2. CHARITY: community involvement.
· Does your company support charitable activities?
3. OPENNESS: financial transparency.
· Is information about the financial health of
your company readily available?
4. GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.
· Is there an understanding that meetings start
and end on time so that participants can fulfill commitments
to others and not be forced cascade time-insensitivity?
Or, is only the boss’s time important?
5. AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
· Do you have the authority to make things right
for the customer when mistakes happen, and confidence
that your decision will be supported?
6. PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout
· When anyone in your company (including senior
executives) under-performs repeatedly, are they given
due process and then, if necessary, replaced?
7. PARTNERSHIP: prompt bill payment.
· Does your company pride itself on paying its
suppliers in timely ways?
8. HONESTY: truthful reporting of numbers.
· Do you have confidence that your president would
never direct anyone to “fudge” numbers under
9. CONSISTENCY: congruence between word
· Do the individuals who lead your company exhibit
“congruence between what they say and what they
do, as well as what they say about what they did”?
You are right to be concerned about the quality of leadership,
the need for an integrity-centered business climate and
the values that are expressed by those who lead your company.
Yours is not a new concern, otherwise that ancient Greek,
Diogenes, would not have spent a significant portion of
his adult life searching for an honest man. Don't forget
that Diogenes lived from 412-323 B.C. What makes finding
integrity so important is the profound impact it has on
our every transaction. Those individuals and institutions
that embody high ethical principles are beacons of light
and hope for all who come into contact with them.
If you are looking for "saints" to serve as
business executives, your search, like that of Diogenes,
could be disappointing. On the other hand, if you wish
to get a start for clearly understanding those attributes
that cause organizations to be successful over the long-haul,
consider purchasing and then carefully reading an important
book addressing the very best in business leadership.
Built to Last (Successful Habits of Visionary Companies)
by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras will provide an
objective overview of those attributes that have shaped
"best in class" business enterprises.
To find companies in our local area that are integrity-centered,
you might consider checking with the Better Business Bureau,
local Chamber of Commerce or even Dun and Bradstreet.
Should these resources fail to satisfy your need for integrity
information, then watch for responses in this column,
Integrity Matters, for the results of a survey that we
will be reporting here, on April 2, 2003.
We will be inviting individuals in and around our communities
to send us their appraisal of those companies that receive
high marks in response to the above nine integrity questions
about management and businesses.
It is quite likely that there is a lot of "green
grass" (excellent working situations) and that we
will soon be in a position to share such alternatives
As a local business owner, I have always felt that I
have run my business the “right way”. I have
kept my word to my customers, employees and vendors; I
have trained my staff well; and I have rewarded and advised
my people irrespective of gender or ethnicity. I have
followed your columns each Wednesday and, for the most
part, have agreed with your advice. Overall, I think you
are helping people on either the customer or employer
side of the business equation. You are able to clearly
distinguish acceptable from unacceptable behavior. However,
I took exception to a recent column of yours in which
you seemed to suggest that you could apply nine questions
to a business relating to its integrity and that if it
failed any of the questions then it wasn’t an ethical
I believe you should consider two factors: if a company’s
right standards put it at a disadvantage to its competitors
to the point where it can’t survive then nobody
wins. Community involvement you seem to consider as one
of the nine criteria for a company to maintain integrity.
Yes, I agree, yet it is clear to me that heavy involvement
here is a luxury that comes only after profitability and
taking care of employees.
I do well in most answers to your Integrity Questions,
but not all. It seems to me that you suggesting that an
individual not be satisfied with a company unless they
got the right answer to the each and every one of your
Can you cut me a little slack here? I’ve actually
urged many members of my staff here to read your column.
Now that they’ve seen your yardstick for being a
truly ethical company, I’m starting to hear some
grumbling. I don’t want to feel sorry I recommended
your Integrity Matters column, but we have some people
who were quite content with their company (my company)
who now aren’t so sure.
Now, what do I do?
Dear Concerned Leader,
From the way you describe your business and your leadership,
you have every right to be proud of your own high-principled
operation as well as the effectiveness of your company.
Regarding answering affirmatively to all nine questions
about integrity and leadership, please understand that
these are guidelines and not hard and fast rules. When
the Integrity Matters column was asked to establish criteria
for identifying high-integrity organizations, our nine
questions became the starting point.
When a leader or an organization falls short in any or
several of the suggested nine areas, then there could
be opportunities for growth and engagement. Growth opportunities
(sometimes disguised as challenges) seem to emerge often
for leaders to showcase their desire to listen and improve.
When employees, customers and suppliers see an organization
trying to improve (and improving), their levels of confidence
are likely to improve. Engagement with various stakeholders
to help a responsive leader to find ways to improve (in
any or all of the nine areas) brings a new and healthy
partnership for the enterprise. Every participant has
ownership in the progress of the institution, company
or department. Asking for help is a sign of openness and
willingness to get stronger. So, go ahead and ask for
Your reference to “grumbling” is probably
another good sign. Your people are communicating that
they do expect more from you and your organization. Obviously,
they believe you are not only willing to listen, but also
you are capable of doing something about making improvements.
Acknowledge all of this wonderful “grumbling”
as a call for action and prove how right your people are
to believe in you.
You mentioned that community involvement is more of the
luxury of the already successful. Not necessarily! Some
companies decide early-on to “reach out” in
small ways to demonstrate their social commitment in those
communities where they conduct business. In the early
(often struggling) days, “sweat” and time
are what is contributed. This behavior announces to all
who are affected that leadership really cares.
When leaders wait until such commitment is convenient
and comfortable, it may be too late to teach (by example)
that sacrifice is a part of the soul of an integrity-centered
organization. The sooner you set the tone, the sooner
you reap the rewards of commitment and involvement –
both for and with your people, your community and your
own business enterprise.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 9, 2003
"Scoops drive war news broadcasts"
As a former TV News Anchor in both the Miami and Los Angeles
markets, I am well aware that the media prioritizes and
slants stories to gain maximum viewer-ship. However, I
am horrified to see the steps that the networks and news
services are taking in their coverage of the war in Iraq
to outdo each other. It seems that they are determined
to gain, and disperse as much information about our military
actions and strategies as possible. Every network has
a correspondent with some sort of camera at the front.
Each network or cable operation has military experts detailing
and anticipating our war plans. It seems to me that the
safety of our soldiers doesn’t factor into what
information is put out over the airwaves for everyone,
including our enemies, to see. I feel powerless to do
anything about this situation, but since you provide a
forum for issues of integrity, I wanted to at least vent
to someone who might care.
Anxious about the airwaves
Integrity may not be the issue regarding tactical battlefield
reporting. In fact, we can only hope that information
that reaches the public never places the men and women
of our armed services in jeopardy.
Of greater concern, however, is the lack of integrity
shown by some highly placed celebrity news anchors who,
in their slanted speculations about events, motivations
and strategies, could undermine the legitimacy of our
leadership, inadvertently provide strategic insight for
our enemy, and otherwise give aid and comfort to that
enemy. Throughout the media, it can be difficult to distinguish
between the objective delivery of news (reporting) and
the attempt to influence thought (editorial and commentary).
Worse still, unscrupulous and perverse members of our
media, in their misguided efforts to "scoop"
the competition, have exposed to American families the
wartime slaughter of their sons and daughters on television
before the next-of-kin notification process had an opportunity
to assure simple human dignity. Recently, a case in point
from the Associated Press (by Sandra Marquez) regarding
a southern California’s El Monte High School graduate,
Jorge A. Gonzalez, who upon graduation joined the Marines:
"Rosa and Mario Gonzalez were flipping through TV
channels on Sunday [March 23, 2003] when they saw footage
of an Iraqi soldier showing off the dead body of an American
"When they took a closer look, they thought they
recognized the body as their son, Marine Cpl. Jorge A.
"I said to myself, it's not him," Mario Gonzalez
said Wednesday. "All day Sunday, we were in shock.
We would close our eyes and see those images. ..."
"...The parents said they saw their son on footage
originally shown on the Arab network Al-Jazeera that was
rebroadcast on Spanish-language Telemundo on Sunday. In
the footage, four bodies could be seen lying on the floor
of a room."
"Over the weekend, Al-Jazeera aired video footage
provided by the Iraqi government that showed dead and
captured soldiers. At least two of the interviewed prisoners
said they were with the Army's 507th Maintenance Company,
part of the 111th Air Defense Artillery Brigade."
"The footage was broadcast around the world. U.S.
networks initially declined to show it, but some have
since shown parts of the tape that does [sic] not reveal
News coverage that is live twenty-four hours a day faces
incredible challenges. This coverage must be enticing
and informative, yet simultaneously attract sponsors whose
objectives are to sell products and services. Herein we
find the difficulty. When push comes to shove, will news
organizations choose to supply us with important news?
Market-share seems to influence the shape of the news
reporting. Cash casts a giant shadow.
Our media supply lots of interesting stories, but not
necessarily important information. Further, when the public
demands sensational stories rather than enlightening information,
reporting will likely respond to the “want to know”
mentality instead of the “essential to know”.
Add the economic pressure of attracting advertising dollars
to our society’s incredible appetite for gobbling
up stories and tidbits of fascinating and sensational
news, and one is confronted by a competitive stage ripe
for abuse, indecision and irresponsibility. When the mass
audience applauds and the writers of current events respond
with their media magic, then we may be presented with
the sensational and superficial at the expense of the
substantive and the important.
"Reality Shows" (and sensational stories) that
celebrate our lowest instincts deliver little long-term
value. When a certain Middle-Eastern television enterprise
passed along horrible films of the murder and torture
of our military personnel, most broadcast networks decided
not to “air” the material. Some, however,
decided that we ought to view the horror. This is not
ethical journalism; it is horrible sensationalism!
The responsibility of a news reporting organization is
not entertainment. Giving to people what they want (and
beg for) may not always be what is wisest. Consider the
alcoholic begging for another drink or the drug abuser
seeking one more “high”. If the media, electronic
and print, cannot determine how best to regulate themselves
(on behalf of the society that bestows freedom of the
press), then they jeopardize the very foundations of our
society! Our column, Integrity Matters, has addressed
abuses by many enterprises. Over and over, we caution
individuals and institutions to govern their own behaviors.
The very same must be said about the media: “It
should be common knowledge that free markets [including
the media] must regulate themselves or governments will.”
Seemingly, everyone wants to know how best to remain
a productive citizen and our media can help through responsible
reporting of events. They can communicate a sense of proportion
in how stories are presented and refuse to get caught
up in the rush to sensationalize the news. In the final
analysis, integrity matters.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 2, 2003
"Feedback: 'KNOW AN ETHICAL
We promised to tell you, today, about the responses
to our Ethical Company Survey, begun in The Californian
on February 26, 2003. We received one nomination and
following a phone conference between the nominee and
our Editor, Scott Faust, the decision was to defer
any recognition at this time.
Now, what might a low response or almost no response
Are there ethical companies in Salinas?
Are many of our readers reluctant
or too busy to speak up? Probably
Is our society in general pre-occupied
with the war? Sure
Does current economic uncertainty
scare us? Absolutely
Might there be a better time to
identify ethical companies? Of course
Next time we ask for you to name
an ethical organization, will you? Yes
So for the time being, please accept a sincere “Thank
You” for your interest in our
efforts to spotlight ethical companies. We will return
to the nine questions when
the world settles down with the hope that you will
provide us with a long list of
qualified nominees. In the meantime, remember, integrity
James F. Bracher
Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership
I just learned that my employer has been monitoring
every Universal Resource Locator (URL) that I have visited
on the internet while at work. Of course, 99% of everything
I do is for the Company, but I have purchased books
and DVD's online while at work. In the old days, I would
take an hour of personal business and go to the store;
now it takes me 10 minutes online. The Company gains,
but now they accuse me of using their time and computer
resources inappropriately. What do you think? Am I violating
Dear URL user:
Violating integrity depends, in part, on the contractual
relationship you have with your company. Living and
working with integrity also can be evaluated by the
level of trust that exists between you and your company.
Integrity can also be traced to the level and quality
of your productivity for your company and the responsiveness
and appreciation demonstrated by your company for your
successful performance. After you answer these three
questions, you will be clear about integrity concerns.
First, what is your understanding of what you owe your
employer in terms of measurable productivity? Do you
know what your leader expects from you each and every
day? Are you clear regarding how you are expected to
utilize your work-day? If you are unable to articulate
answers to these questions, then gain that clarity,
Second, do you have confidence that the leadership
of your company, more precisely, your boss, has earned
your trust and that you have earned both your supervisor’s
trust and the company’s trust? Trust is the concrete
knowledge you have that integrity is at the center of
transactions inside your company as well as with the
outside world? Trust is the confidence that comes from
the observation that behaviors expected throughout the
organization are modeled by each and every leader. Unless
or until this trust exists, there will always be an
undercurrent of resentment and dissension which will
erode openness and limit productivity.
Third, are you confident that you will be recognized
and rewarded for going the extra mile as well as for
consistency and dependability? At what point do you
know for certain that excellent and consistent performance
is the key to success in your organization? If you are
assumed to be a partner in the organization, then there
will be very little concern in how you take breaks and
utilize those business tools for personal use. If, on
the other hand, your every effort is under suspicion,
then you can be confident that integrity and trust will
not sustain the types of relationships required to build
a healthy organization.
Now that you have answered questions about the company
in these three areas, are you clear about the integrity
issue? Now, just to make sure we have not overlooked
the obvious, would your boss identify you as a productive
partner or simply a paycheck earner? Are you simply
one of the “slot fillers” who show up, giving
only your time but not investing genuine commitment?
Would your leadership team see you as an individual
dedicated to corporate values or simply one who adheres
to the rules when others are watching?
Trust is about the two-way relationship. Seek clarity
regarding performance and work toward relationship and
communications improvement so that you and your team
members can build the atmosphere that nurtures openness,
honesty, care and trust.
If you determine that this high quality of relationship
exists and you are still monitored for every action
you take, then you may want to rethink your evaluation
or simply begin the process of looking for work elsewhere.
How dare the executives of American Airlines grant bonuses
to themselves without disclosing same, at the very time
they are asking their unions to make major financial
concessions? Of course they can do it--it is not illegal--
but where is the integrity here? Shame on them!
Dear Seeker of Integrity in Leadership ,
Your letter singles out American Airlines executives
as exhibiting conduct unbecoming leaders. You are right
that they behaved poorly. However, they are not alone
in the airline industry, nor are they unique in much
of the current business environment. The executive “perk”
is an innocent sounding word that covers a multitude
of greed-driven activities. A significant number of
these “big shots” have been playing both
sides of the fence in areas of salary, stock, free loans,
gigantic bonuses, travel, disability insurance, health
coverage, and a list of self-serving services that cause
many in their organizations to feel the top brass lives
in the penthouse, while the majority of the workers
feel relegated to the outhouse.
You might also be aware that another airline, Delta,
recently asked its pilots to accept reduced work schedules
without pay to save money. Shortly after the pilots
accepted what they believed was a good-faith proposal,
headquarters declared multi-millions in special executive
bonuses. A short while later, under significant pressure
from their disgruntled employees, especially the pilots,
those at Delta Airlines revisited their earlier bonus
decisions and said they had behaved inappropriately.
The truth is the executives blew it. This level of misbehavior
reminds me of the insensitivities of the French nobility
just before the Revolution of 1789. When the masses
were starving, begging for the basics of life, bread,
French Royalty is reported to have said, “Let
them eat cake!”
It is now and will remain – an issue of integrity.
Productive citizens know that they must have an environment
that creates trust or the fabric of faith in the system
is torn, sometimes beyond simple repair. These “unprofessional”
behaviors are not exclusively about “perks”
for those in the penthouse, they are about greedy and
short-sighted power-brokers abandoning social responsibility
and accountability. Each of us, and most especially
those in leadership roles, are responsible for leaving
society stronger than we found it. Sacrifice, when not
shared appropriately by all of the stakeholders, becomes
unnecessary suffering for those further down the food
We need for our leaders to lead with integrity. Integrity
is the keystone of leadership. It is reflected in discussions,
decisions, directives and diagnostics. Integrity-centered
leaders do not worry about taking care of themselves
at the expense of those who work with and for them.
Leadership emerges from listening, demonstrates character
in behavior, and leverages energy with integrity. Sharing
the good times and the tough times together is what
builds confidence and trust throughout an organization.
Integrity is the stabilizing factor that sustains effort
and causes energy to create the canopy for accomplishment.
Integrity enables the achievement of Vision. Integrity
guides responsible decision-making and effective leadership.
PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY
My boss just called me on the carpet for sending an
email to purchase some blinds for my home. I could have
taken time off to go to Wal-Mart and do it, no problem--but
my workload, I thought it would be simpler to engage
in the purchase on line. Fine, next time I'll take the
hour or so to go shopping--but, now I'm upset! They
are reading my mail! Isn't that a violation of my right
to privacy, my first amendment rights, etc.?
How to navigate technology and privacy
Dear Technology User:
Whoa! Slow down. While private time when at work is
a legal tangle that lies outside my expertise, common
sense and some of my own personal business experiences
might shed light on the problems you raise. Being “called
on the carpet” for what amounts to your making
a purchase, with your office internet connection, may
seem out of bounds, at least in terms of a solid working
relationship. In my own business, when an employee is
busy with personal activities when I need their help,
once or twice, there is generally not a problem. However,
when personal priorities become a frequent intrusion
into my working productivity, then my frustration grows
rapidly. My respect for that employee deteriorates at
an alarming speed. Keep in mind that when circumstances
of a highly productive associate require that they handle
personal issues, there is seldom a problem. Their reputation
has earned patience. Has yours?
Your boss may or may not be singling out your behavior.
Sure, you are upset, but ask yourself: what might have
prompted the dramatic action of calling you on the carpet?
Perhaps there have been numerous violations of work-personal
abuse of time. As has been the case with the introduction
of “casual days,” some people exhibit good
taste and others do not. You know there exist misguided
and often tasteless individuals who use the “freedom
of choice” to dress inappropriately or worse.
Judgment, on the part of some employees, has been so
poor in many companies that external consultants were
hired to teach people how to dress properly. My only
response to this expensive baby-sitting is: “Such
measures confirm that too large of a segment of our
society must be S.O.S. (Stuck On Stupid). So, without
greater knowledge of your situation, it is impossible
to speak with insight. However, you probably know the
level of abuse of company time by others in your organization.
There was a time when individuals were very sensitive
about taking time during the work day for personal priorities.
Also, in days gone by, there was an understanding that
the time would be made up. Similarly, “way back
in the 70’s and 80’s” the owners and
operators of the business gave back time to employees
when extra hours were required. After a couple of longish
days, folks were invited to take a half-day for themselves.
It was a two-way street of give and take and share and
help. Such actions built trust and increase productivity.
Let me share one final thought regarding your concerns
about your rights to privacy and email. To obtain clarification
about what is legal and appropriate, whether about your
purchase of items for personal use on company time,
or having the company monitor your email, human resource
professionals and legal counsel should be able to bring
light to privacy and first amendment rights. You should
be aware, however, that any email you send exists not
only on your computer, but also on the Company’s
server. It is more like a letter sitting open on someone’s
desk, than a sealed first class letter.
In the meantime, remember that integrity is congruence
between what you say and what you do, as well as what
you say about what you did.
Home Page | About
Us | Ask Bracher | Services
| Resources | Contact