Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)

Economic (141-160)

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Question: (E-141)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 29, 2004

"Don't stereotype group for one bad apple"

A fifteen year old recently said to his father that he could not imagine ever going into politics, because he assumed that every politician was dishonest. Then, he asked this question: how does one become successful when one chooses not to be dishonest while still not wanting to be taken advantage of?

First things first: politics. It can sometimes be shocking to read the dictionary's definition of a term we have all used, often: politician -- "A person who is actively involved in politics, especially party politics; or who holds or seeks a political office." Now, get ready for what is written in the American Heritage in further explanation of "politician" - "A person who seeks personal or partisan gain, often with cunning or dishonest means."

For all of those who serve the public's good, with hard work, loyalty to the citizens of the districts they were elected or appointed to represent (not only their supporters, but also those who may have opposed them) - for them even the definition of politician must be both distasteful and discouraging. When one reads the ideas and ideals of the early leaders of the United States (even before July 4, 1776); there was a belief that integrity and cooperation were to become part and parcel of the new society. Political leadership was designed to create positions for representatives who would serve as stewards for the freedoms that all too many simply take for granted. Political servants would assess problems; and through thoughtful consultation with colleagues, work to remove obstacles so that society might progress safely. Politicians would "work" the issues, and sometimes through compromises, so that it might be said of their tenure in public office that they left "situations" better than they found them.

When an energetic, intelligent, and motivated teenager concludes that politics is so dirty that he is not attracted to it, at all, then those in positions to improve the image as well as the stature of public service need take notice. There are bad apples in all professions. This young person is presenting a narrow, naïve, and often inaccurate picture of leadership in our society. He singles out politics, but he might have "slammed" any number of walks of life. Consider the negative stereotypes of management consulting which is the world of my own work for past 25 years. My job is to build executive effectiveness through the diagnosis of leadership talent and the facilitation of team communication. Our organization works hard to do a good job, honorably, every time. However, one description of those who are "consultants" is that when you ask them what time it is, they will borrow your watch, tell you the time and walk away with your timepiece. Terms like phony, fraud, con-artist, sleaze, charlatan, hustler and deadbeat are too often the kindest phrases associated with those who are often seen more as parasites than real contributors. So, what is one to do to change perception of those who have negative perceptions of a particular role in society?

For starters, tell the truth. Do a good job, be a responsible and responsive citizen, on and off of the job. Take the time to affirm the profession you have chosen and tell stories of those who have done well by doing the right thing. Bragging about chiseling and beating the system provides further evidence to those hearing such stories that dishonesty is the preferred approach. Fraudulent behavior is not what our world need. There are good people in all walks of life and our society, public and private sectors, need energetic, intelligent, and motivated individuals to follow in our footsteps - learning what once was good and could be good again. Sometimes, being a little naïve is refreshing. For those who choose to take advantage of others, simply because they are vulnerable, confirms that such a short-view of life is not right for long-term success. One wise person suggested that he would rather "buy the Brooklyn Bridge than be remembered for having sold it" which probably implies that he would rather be remembered for having been taken in by a sharp deal maker than being classified as a self-serving manipulator. Me too! It is time for more individuals and organizations say and show - to one another - that integrity matters and it pays.

Question: (E-142)


What do you recommend for college and university professors who are encountering high-tech cheating? I read that a San Jose State University tax professor discovered a student at New York University had received an award for a paper that she, the professor, had written two years before for a law conference.

Professors have encountered plagiarism since students first decided to cut corners to achieve success without work. Today, with the internet and the incredible amounts of valuable information at one's finger tips, it can be attractive and even seductive to use the hard work of others - because it IS so easy. Regardless, it is wrong and everyone knows that, students and professors. The challenge has changed very little: finding the culprits, disciplining them and making sure that all parties engaged in this fraudulent behavior know that they are really cheating themselves and those with whom they will be coming in contact, for the rest of their lives.

To make the point, consider the medical student who is supposed to prepare a term paper reflecting her research of effective diagnostic procedures for early detection of cancerous tumors in infants. With the Web providing a convenient source of materials, let's assume this short-cut effort was not discovered. She gets a high grade on the paper and strolls into the next class, with little substantive information (or practical application) about how best to employ effective techniques. Now, just for the debate, roll the clock forward a few years. Now, this board-certified pediatrician, treating your grandchild, failed to identify the symptoms and a young life is at a very high risk of dying. So, how important is integrity in the classroom, from pre-school through graduate studies.

According to Becky Bartindale's research, officials at universities across the United States are looking for ways to reverse what seems like an epidemic of unethical behavior. Anonymous surveys of high school and college students reveal that as many as 75% admit to cheating. Cheating techniques include writing answers on the inside of cap bills, smuggling information on graphing calculators and trading answers by text messaging on cellular phones. With just a click, students can find thousands of essays and term papers, free and for a price, on 250 websites, from "AceYourPaper" to "SchoolSucks" - and a host of additional providers.

What makes the situation even more horrible is that too many teachers do not want to address the "un-pleasantries" of confronting students with plagiarism and other cheating charges. Dealing with academic dishonesty is the worst part of the job for many teachers.

However, there is hope. At San Jose State, Dr. Julio Soto, an assistant professor of biology and some colleagues were able to reduce cheating. They discovered that in those classes where they provided instruction about plagiarism, violations were reduced. In classes where students received no instruction, students cheated twice as much, even blatantly. Recommendation: leaders (teachers) need to clarify the ground rules, keep the message out front, and then celebrate integrity.

Question: (E-143)

"Military Personnel and Outlandish Mutual Fund Fees"

There are reports of some mutual fund companies using retired military officers to make sales pitches to recruits, encouraging them to purchase financial products with outlandish commissions that take 50% of the investor's contributions in the first year. What kind of greed does this represent? Where is the integrity? These companies are taking advantage of the very people who protect our nation and our freedom. What types of people prey on young soldiers?

Young soldiers are vulnerable in the days and weeks before they are sent into harm's way. They depend upon those around them to guide them - wisely and with care. So, what is in the minds of those who are ready to fleece them? Greed and selfishness have taken over and those involved should be driven out of business, immediately.

According to Marcy Gordon, Associated Press, on September 9, 2004, members of the House of Representatives voiced outrage at pressure put on military recruits (many of whom were about to be sent to war zones) to buy what they said were overpriced, unsuitable mutual funds and life insurance.

50% commissions disappeared from the civilian market in the 1970's and are now exclusively sold to military personnel. An Ohio congressman, according to Gordon, cited reports of groups of recruits being "marched into compulsory briefings on veteran's benefits by salesman pretending to be financial planners who quickstep them into signing up for what turns out to be long-term insurance." These briefings are organized under the Pentagon's policy of having financial management classes for personnel on bases. Some young soldiers without dependents are paying more that $100 a month for life insurance on top of the relatively inexpensive policies they already have as members of the military.

The problem is real and the guilty parties are easy to identify: unscrupulous mutual fund and insurance companies that prey on the unsuspecting; retired military professionals who use their previous walk of life to gain the confidence of the youthful members of our military (which makes them more like "wolves in sheep's clothing"); and, the military organizations themselves that are not policing those who are taking advantage of those who are about to risk their lives for our freedom. The fund and insurance operators know that they are crooks. The ex-military individuals who are participating in this scam cannot look with any pride on who they have become - shills and frauds. Certainly, the military leadership that has allowed this injustice to occur cannot rest until controls are put in place that will prevent such pillage of the innocent on their watch.

Congress is aware of the problem and has committed to address it. Sometimes patriotism can come in a simple action related to contacting your Congressional Representative and asking that this issue be addressed and that our military personnel are provided better counsel, more respect and protection from all types of slime who would attempt to take advantage of their lack of sophistication related to finances and investments. We owe them our concern and this is one way to show our integrity.

Question: (E-144)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 6, 2004

"Shame on TSA thieves"

What is your reaction to reports that the new, more qualified, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners have been stealing, millions? If we cannot trust the integrity of those who check our bags, then how can we be confident that they will protect us?

Yes, you are right. There are problems with some employees of the Transportation Security Administration. However, it would be my assumption that the overwhelming majority of screeners are doing a commendable job and that they are eager to make travel safer. After all, if travel is reduced, so too their jobs. So, it is in their best interest to create a safe and secure travel climate, domestically and internationally. Once again, the news is that a small group has behaved badly. They have been discovered and they will be prosecuted. Yes, this is an issue and should be addressed.

There was a report, by Bob Port, in the New York Daily News that a conspiracy by some screeners to routinely harvest (steal) expensive watches, bags and laptop computers from checked luggage. In September, 2004, Homeland Security announced it will pay $1.6 million to settle claims filed since late 2001 by 17,600 angry air travelers. Another 8000 claims are pending. Some of the victims included television soap star Susan Lucci and comedians Chevy Chase and Joan Rivers.

"What is particularly troubling to me is that those responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the airlines would be engaged in pilfering the luggage of airline passengers," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. "If they are busy looking for items to steal instead of checking for explosives, what does that say?" These conspirators (screeners) were stealing so much, said prosecutor Richard Brown, that "these guys were just incapable of fencing the property fast enough."

Over and over, this Integrity Matters column repeats a theme from the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership: "It should be common knowledge that free markets must regulate themselves or governments will." The Transportation Security Administration must continue to refine its recruiting, vetting, training and policing of itself. Having been created to address a national emergency created by the terrorists who attacked the United States of America on September 11, 2001 - TSA had little time to adjust to its critical role and gigantic challenges.

Common sense actions can be taken by travelers to protect themselves from questionable (unsavory and dishonest) screeners. Solicit input from your travel agent and/or from those whose travel "smarts" you respect. Know the rules for packing and shipping. Wear smart clothing, including shoes that will go through security with ease, and be prepared to be selected for a more in-depth search. Shipping valuables does not seem wise, especially if they can be "carried on" and kept with the traveler. Assume the best of those who work in airport security. Keep careful watch of valuables. Maintain your own personal and travel integrity. Graciousness applies at airports. When on the plane, speak to the people around you because they are your partners in any emergency that occurs for whatever time you are traveling. Integrity does matter.

Question: (E-145)

"Vioxx, Merck and Integrity"

Was Merck's move to recall Vioxx an integrity move or just another example of a big company covering its backside?

Judging motives in others is difficult and your question is important. There may be significant (and expensive) efforts by the attorneys involved in the class-action lawsuit to determine what caused Merck to recall the Vioxx drug. Recent evidence about the drug's adverse side effects may have begun to outweigh the potential benefits, either as a profit-maker for Merck or for those arthritis sufferers who learned about the liabilities, including cardiovascular risks.

Interesting, the following words came from David Brown of the Washington Post: "The abrupt withdrawal last week of the best-selling painkiller Vioxx is an event rich in ironies and lessons that may ultimately lead to a rethinking of the way drug safety is evaluated in the United States." Vioxx, taken by 1.3 million Americans, was removed from sale worldwide on Thursday because recent evidence pointed to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading cause of death. Unfortunately, this proof of danger did not come until five years after this drug was licensed and fully three years after the first hints of a problem.

When billions of dollars of revenue are at risk, the incentives for bringing out a "hot and profitable" product can be tempting. Merck now faces several lawsuits, including a class action filed September 30, 2004, alleging the company made false and misleading statements about Vioxx's safety. According the Los Angeles Times, in an editorial published October 1, 2004 entitled A Symptom of FDA Laxity, this much can be said: "Whatever the company's motives, its decision to withdraw Vioxx should cast scrutiny on at least two problems inherent in the nation's system for assessing and monitoring drug safety."

Problem # 1: Assessing Drug Safety - Promising the "arthritis suffering" public, in advertising and commercials, that this new Vioxx product was a marvelous solution, a super aspirin, may have been misleading. It has been known that the cardio-vascular risks were real. The Food and Drug Administration, according the LA Times, has slipped in its enforcement of its own rules. "When the FDA determines a drug company has made a misleading ad, it first issues a warning letter; then it imposes a fine if the ad is not pulled."

Problem # 2: Monitoring Drug Safety - "The second problem is the nation's almost exclusive reliance on drug companies to police the safety and efficacy of their own drugs. Although the FDA requires drug makers to demonstrate the superiority of their medications to placebos before they can release them, the agency lets drug companies monitor their own products' dangers after they've reached the shelves. The FDA could help solve these problems not only by enforcing its own rule but also by requiring doctors and hospitals to report 'adverse events' when patients use drugs."

The FDA's current hands-off approach to drug companies doesn't just endanger consumers; it hurts investors, who shouldn't be caught by surprise over a drug whose dangers have long been clear. Jerry Avorn, who in August, 2004, published a book, "Powerful Medicine: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs," had this to offer:

The use of Vioxx by people who did not need the modest amount of stomach protection it offered "has cost billions of dollars that could have been better used for other purposes in our health care system," he said. "There is this newer-is-better mentality, and this is why we can't afford health care."

Today's answer to your question is that it is too soon to know whether Merck acted responsibly by pulling Vioxx from the market at the earliest point where the evidence made this compelling, or whether Merck had long known of the problem and had hoped to escape this level of scrutiny until trapped by the march of public information. This truth will become clear in the weeks and months just ahead. Merck's market value and image have suffered and enormous blow; we will soon know whether this was one event documenting the risks inherent in the pharmaceutical industry, or whether this management was guilty of acting against the public interest prior to this recent disclosure. Regardless, integrity matters.

Question: (E-146)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 13, 2004

"What ethics are involved with legal drugs"

Ethical Minefield: our society has access to legal drugs that can improve performance. How ought they be used? For example: should pilots take speed to enhance their flight skills, especially when they might be tired, unrelated to work schedule?

Thank you, readers, in advance for responding to my request for some input. Now in my third year, writing the Integrity Matters column, your assistance is needed. What is your thinking about using drugs - legally, of course, to improve performance? There are five areas of concern provided below, reflecting my concerns about integrity-centered behavior. But first, allow me to provide a little background information regarding how a drug, with multiple applications, can, when used, create integrity issues.

Sharon Begley's comments in the Wall Street Journal, on Friday, October 1, 2004 illustrate the issue: "Some musicians and nervous public speakers take beta blockers (a heart drug) to vanquish stage fright. Modafinil (aka Provigil) is a stimulant approved for narcolepsy, but it has an underground following among those who want to feel as alert and rest after five hours of sleep as after eight. Ritalin, for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, improves concentration and the ability to plan, make it popular among healthy adults who simply want an edge in multi-tasking."

So, where might this "seeming technological magic" lead us? Will society be improved by "better performance through chemistry" - having uncovered golden opportunities to leverage scientific discoveries? Or, will these "breakthroughs" open the way to life-altering abuse our bodies and minds and hurl us down a morally-bankrupt slippery slope, where the ends always justify the means? Our society, nationally and globally, has already told athletes that performance-enhancing drugs that modify a level playing field are illegal. Should similar rules apply in other areas of endeavor as well?

  1. When a legal drug has applications (perceived as constructive and positive) in areas other than the disease or problem area for which it was originally designed and created, should it be banned or controlled? Here is an example. If a drug can improve memory and increase short-term data recall, ought students, who may or may not have studied for an examination, use the drug to score higher and potentially cause their standing in the class to qualify them for scholarships and awards? And, if certain parents were especially concerned that their children might not perform well enough to qualify for certain institutions, then what is the integrity issue if those parents provide the chemicals that enhance test-taking skills for their child?
  2. During an election campaign, with the use or abuse of personality-modifying drugs, a candidate's volatility and lack of focus might be concealed and thus mislead the voting public. How can those who vote be confident in the person they see versus the person who may be hiding under the canopy of "chemically-shaped" behavior? What are the risks to the communities and societies represented by these "cosmetically-created" images of leadership?
  3. At what point in the supply chain should these legal drugs be controlled? Is the prescribing physician responsible to prevent abuses? Is it the job of the druggist? What is the responsibility of the drug company? Should Congress pass laws to guide the use of these important and powerful substances?
  4. Or, should we assume that individuals will regulate themselves, the members of their families, their circles of friendships and their personal and professional relationships, distinguishing between what is appropriate and constructive and that which is inappropriate and destructive?
  5. What should be done to communicate that, yes, integrity matters? Please send your responses to us at: or mail directly to The Salinas Californian.

Question: (E-147)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 20, 2004

"Before asking for money, ask these questions"

I have been writing my thesis in the context of a group process-leadership method. The lead instructor-professor of this method, my mentor, who trained me, has asked me if she could use part of my thesis to include in her training manual; asking if she might use my research in the book she is currently writing. She is earning quite a bit of money with these training programs. Would it be appropriate to ask her to pay me a certain amount, because she is using a great deal of my work? I am concerned that she would feel put off or that my request might be unreasonable. What is the right thing to do that would reflect integrity?

The "integrity" answers here will relate less to immediate cash flow and more to relationships and professional courtesies associated with academic research and the earning of advanced degrees. Working with a mentor, in this context, could require supporting her high quality research as one informal method for demonstrating appreciation for her efforts as your valuable advisor. Inside academia, you will need to understand and work with both the formal and informal contracts that exist between students and teachers.

Also, you may find answering these questions will determine the level of integrity of the relationship you have already built with the professor. Timing and protocol will likely be important not only in what you request, but also when you ask. Please address these nine questions:

  1. What are the legal and customary processes by which research assistants relate (professionally and financially) with professors? You may want to seek legal advice. Remember that legal aid costs less than private attorney's fees.
  2. Do you intend to work with this professor longer term?
  3. Have you already received your advanced degree?
  4. How important is this mentor-protégé relationship to you, longer term?
  5. Is your frustration created by your own impatience or does it reflect a series of violations of your intellectual and professional integrity?
  6. What are the risks to your career (academic and economic) if you confront the situation?
  7. What harm comes to you if you ignore your frustrations?
  8. When you reach the level of your current mentor, what will be your operating principles with reference to working with students and asking them to share their research with you?
  9. How will you expect them (those learning from you, who someday might become your competitors on many levels) to reward you for equipping them for success, academic or otherwise?

Once you know the answers to these nine questions, you should be clear on what to say and when to say it and well as what to do and when to do it. Mentors are precious and should be treated with graciousness, respect and loyalty. They have, for many of us, made the difference in our lives. Whether in academia or business, wise counselors are hard to replace. Integrity requires thoughtful and relationship-building actions.

Question: (E-148)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 27, 2004

"Speeding, Integrity and Law Enforcement"

I am 16 years old and adults confuse me. On certain roads and freeways, as you know, the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. When my father drives that speed, he gets honked at and yelled at. Drivers simply blow right by. He often drives 72 miles per hour (in the 65 mph zones) and the police officers drive by his car, paying no attention to his speeding. So, what is the law? And, what is the grey area for speeding? Who has the integrity problem: my dad, the other drivers or the police?

Regarding being confused by adults, me too. You are an observant young person and your questions deserve thoughtful responses. Speed limit signs provide you and others with the legal driving requirements, and they are enforceable, by those very officers who may not have stopped your father in the past. Perhaps they were responding to a non-crisis call which did not require lights and sirens. When police officers are directed by dispatchers to act promptly, they may have no time to write "routine" speeding tickets. However, and for the record, based upon my conversation with a police officer, you would be wise to drive at or below posted speed signs, not once in a while, but all the time.

Technically, 65 miles per hour is the legal limit on many highways and freeways, but, given weather conditions, traffic patterns and safety, other factors can reduce safe driving limits. In a phrase, "use good judgment, regardless of the posted speed." Drivers are expected to respect and obey the law. Definitely, no one is to endanger others with "recklessness behind the wheel" (often fast and possibly out of control driving). As you know, speed signs vary from 10 miles per hour all the way to 70 miles per hour in some parts of the country. This wide range is provided to reduce risks for drivers related to curves, hills, intersections, residential neighborhoods, school and hospital zones, and congested areas, reflecting higher concentrations of people. Since one of the responsibilities of those who wear a badge is to protect members of society from reckless endangerment, some of their work includes monitoring how folks operate motor vehicles. Please remember that driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Those who abuse driving privileges can have their licenses revoked. Should their behavior cause harm to others, then the legal system can administer harsh penalties, from expensive fines to time spent behind bars in jail. You may remember some rhyming wisdom: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime." My corollary is: "If you can't afford the dollars to pay the fine, then keep your attitude and speed in line."

On the subject of integrity, who is in possible violation? Possibly, no one! My police "counselor" told me that when the flow of traffic is perceived as smooth and safe, a grey area may be tolerated. Based upon the intelligent driving of those who know they are exceeding the posted speed limit and the officers who observe that the traffic flow traffic appears safe - then all parties involved could be behaving appropriately. Rules and laws that offer some flexibility, based upon self-regulation and good judgment, afford a mature community the privileges of freedom, even behind the wheel. What we also know is that when courtesy, safety and good judgment are central to driving habits (or most any other kind of behavior) then trust replaces rigidity.

So, for now, young and learning driver, watch your own speed, follow the law and improve your own driving skills. Be sure to let your father know you are observing his driving and that you know that integrity matters, even when the police might not have the time to legally "ticket" him, yet.

Question: (E-149)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 3, 2004

"Students get on-the-job integrity training"

I work in a store that sells expensive coffee and we are incredibly busy, all the time. Sometimes, out of habit, we make a regular coffee instead of the decaffeinated that was ordered. This can be particularly dangerous for pregnant ladies, older people (who may be on pacemakers) or others who have heart issues and can't handle caffeine. But, of course, we're so busy, and it's hard to waste a drink. The ethical thing would be to remake the drink, but sometimes it was so hard so we simply claimed we didn't know, when, in fact we did? What do you think?

This question came to me through a business class with which I am engaged, as a guest instructor. The business professor, Ms. Suzanne Kroeze, enabled me to participate in "distance learning" efforts at California State University at Monterey Bay, fielding both questions from students and responses from students to their fellow students, in an effort to expand the integrity conversation. The learning has been tremendous, for me. My confidence in the next generation and its ability to know and do the "right thing" continues to grow. Allow me to illustrate.

First one student and then another offered these responses:

Response A: "Fix your mistake, make another coffee. Be certain that customers get what they pay for. When a mistake can cause health problems for others, it is imperative that those responsible take action. When people pay good money they expect and deserve what they ordered."

Response B: "Think ahead. A health crisis caused by caffeine puts the company at risk. No company means no job. Take care of the customers and they will take care of you."

Response C: "When activities get crazy, slow down or risk negative consequences. Take a deep breath and stay focused, one task at a time."

Response D: "You can legitimately tell a customer of the mistake and allow them to make the decision. Owning mistakes is mature and communicates integrity."

Response E: "Think about the number of times the same problem arises and consider color coded cups to keep the different coffees separated. In the meantime, do what is right for the customer."

Readers, take heart. These five responses are from university students. My assumption is that these students are workers at the same time that they are enrolled in classes to complete their undergraduate degree. They have been taught right from wrong and do not want to be placed in positions where they feel forced to compromise their values to save a dime or make a buck. They do care about doing their jobs properly. They are aware of the importance of integrity in all aspects of their lives, including work. Fixing coffee, answering phones, preparing meals, sending out communications, caring for other people - character, honesty, partnership and graciousness are critical. Being consistent, truthful, encouraging, honoring obligations and showing respect - these are attributes that the next generation already understands. So, for those currently in leadership and ownership roles, it is important to encourage and support the integrity-centered behaviors this new workforce already understands.

Question: (E-150)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 10, 2004

"Your moral compass points in right direction"

A customer, where I am employed, asked to be helped by one of my colleagues, who was not at work that day. He then approached me for help, clarifying that he was looking for a high-end washer and dryer. I then demonstrated several pairs of washers and dryers that would meet their needs. I must have spent over 45 minutes with this customer. I did everything I knew to be an effective sales person from establishing a rapport, demonstrating my product knowledge on all of the appliances. It appeared that some trust was built, he asked for my opinions, most importantly, "I closed the sale."

However, at the point of sale the customer approached me asking if we worked on commission. I replied by saying yes, and I would make sure that my colleague, whom he had asked for originally, would receive full credit for the sale. The customer then said, "No, I want you to have the commission because you helped me choose my appliances. All that your colleague did was answer the phone, confirming that this company did sell appliances, clarifying the address."

At this point I was faced with a conflict of interest. My ethical dilemma was who should get the commission? I am student, need to make money and want to do what is right. But, missing a commission can be difficult. However, my colleague asked me, the day before, if I would assist her customer, the person who would be shopping on her day off. I told her that I would be happy to help. I gave her my word. Therefore, I ended up giving her the sale (the commission I had earned) without the customer knowing.

Considering the customer's comment; what is the appropriate action to take?

You know what you promised to your colleague. You also appreciate the sincerity of the satisfied customer who wanted to commend you for your thoroughness and professionalism. How you choose to share your wealth is your decision. An old friend reminded me that "what goes around comes around." When individuals live with integrity, being good for their word, they establish their values (what they believe) and their standards, really their character (how they conduct themselves, even when no one is watching).

So, there is only one question to ask: what kind of reputation do you intend to build? Once you answer this question, you will know what to do with the commission.

The customer knows how well you functioned on his behalf. You delivered knowledge, professionalism and timeliness. You were there when needed by the customer, handled the situation professionally and graciously, not lamenting that you were covering for someone who was not available. And, you demonstrated that you know your product line. You confirmed to the customer that you earned the commission. Congratulations!

Your question of what to do reflects your own admirable "moral compass" - that internal set of operating principles that guide your actions. A deal is a deal. A verbal handshake, between and among integrity-centered individuals, is as ironclad as an "attorney-worded" written contract. For you, integrity matters. Assuming the same of your colleague, and you will know a lot about her values and integrity in how she treats the commissionable-income; then you are strengthening your own reputation. On more than one occasion, these words we repeat: "Integrity-centered leadership is the only reliable foundation for long-term success!" - In this instance, you have chosen the high road because you know that Integrity (really) matters. Be patient, success is already yours, the economic rewards will follow, because you are good for your word. Any responsible leader would be proud to have you as part of the team.

Question: (E-151)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 17, 2004

"Phelps owns up to error"

Michael Phelps, the golden boy of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, with eight medals in swimming, was arrested for drunken driving. What kind of integrity is he showing?

Michael Phelps made a serious mistake during the first week of November, 2004. He is 19 years old. He carries a global profile and has stained it. However, according to how he has responded to his immature actions, he is a winner in the way he has acknowledged his mistake He has demonstrated his courage in speaking with the very young people who look to him as a role model. Allow me to illustrate.

According to the Associated Press: "Six-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps was charged with drunken driving in southeastern Maryland after running a stop sign in his sport utility vehicle. After the 19-year-old was stopped, a trooper said he saw signs of intoxication and arrested Phelps for driving under the influence. When confronted by his behavior, Phelps read a statement of apology.

"I want to say that last week I made a mistake. I wanted to share my feelings and I know that getting in a car with anything to drink is wrong, dangerous and is unacceptable," he said. "I'm 19, but I was taught that no matter how old you are you should always take responsibility for your action, which I will do. I'm very sorry this happened and it was a mistake."

The legal drinking age in Maryland is 21. Police said Phelps was "fully cooperative" and was released at 1 a.m. Friday, November 5. His vehicle was released to a friend who had not been drinking.

Phelps, from suburban Baltimore, won eight medals at the Summer Olympics, including the six first place gold medals.

Integrity is not about saints who operate perfectly, all the time, but about human beings striving to be the very best that they can be, willing to own their mistakes, openly and honestly, when they happen. Over and over, it is from the young that so much can be learned. Case in point, note what young people from local Boys and Girls Clubs said to me about the definition of Character. Character is simply consistency between word and deed. It asks us to answer these questions about how we act, all the time, hopefully, in the affirmative: Do you exhibit congruence between what you say and what you do, as well as what you say about what you did? Do you exhibit the right behavior? The children said that character requires for each of us to respect ourselves and others while being an example of courage that shows what it means to be fair, firm, consistent and kind. Character also can be seen by those who care about other people around them. Finally, character is what people do when no one is watching.

In Thursday's USA Today, November 11, 2004, Christine Brennan brings home the point about the integrity of Gold Medalist Michael Phelps. Over the past few years he has driven to the Boys and Girls Club in Aberdeen Maryland, to talk with the children, moving from the gangly swimmer, as a local boy made good, to an international sports star. "Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would visit them in disgrace."

"When Phelps arrived, less than a week after being arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, there were no cameras, no news crews and no reporters. He did not bring any Olympic medals. He came, he said, to begin an exercise in contrition that he plans to repeat often in the days and months ahead. He came to apologize and try to become a new kind of role model: an example to children and young adults of how not to act, of what not to do."

Integrity matters, even when mistakes happen, and Michael Phelps has proven the children right, yet again. Character is what you do, when no one is watching. Thank you, Michael Phelps, for caring about doing the right thing, in spite of your error in judgment and showing integrity when it really counts; when your own reputation has been stained and only you can fix it with honesty, openness and graciousness.

Question: (E-152)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 1, 2004

"Vioxx case undermines trust of Merck"

How can Merck rightfully claim that it withdrew Vioxx based upon "unexpected" new findings on September 30, 2004, when its own internal documents show that they knew that Vioxx had adverse cardiovascular effects dating back to 1997?

The Merck situation will ultimately follow the script we have seen many times in recent days. The questions are predictable: what did they know and when did they know it? A friend of mine offered this insight: "You may not always be able to make money on integrity, but you can lose a great deal without it." Billions of dollars lost by investors through the resulting stock market price drop are a clear signal that many members of the public have lost trust in Merck's integrity. What caused the leadership of Merck to move slowly, possibly even in a self-serving manner? Was it greed? Was it arrogance? Was it irresponsibility?

Was it greed?

VIOXX was launched in the United States in 1999 and has been marketed in more than 80 countries. In some countries, the product rofecoxib, also known as VIOXX, is marketed under the trademark CEOXX. Worldwide sales of VIOXX in 2003 were $2.5 billion. By the time it was withdrawn, an estimated 80 million people worldwide had taken Vioxx. A memo posted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its website on November 2, 2004, suggests that Vioxx may have contributed to almost 28,000 heart attacks in the US between 1999 and 2003.

Was it arrogance?

On September 30th 2004, Merck issued a worldwide recall of Vioxx, halting sales of the drug in light of unequivocal results from a clinical trial demonstrating that Vioxx greatly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke for those who take the product long term. "We are taking this action because we believe it best serves the interests of patients," said Raymond V. Gilmartin, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Merck. "Although we believe it would have been possible to continue to market VIOXX with labeling that would incorporate these new data, given the availability of alternative therapies, and the questions raised by the data, we concluded that a voluntary withdrawal is the responsible course to take."

Was it irresponsibility?

Merck's response that they only recently learned of the risks of Vioxx will be challenged, seriously and globally. On October 5, 2004, Kenneth B. Moll & Associates, Ltd. filed the first worldwide class action lawsuit against Merck, on behalf of all persons who were prescribed [ ] Vioxx.[ ] From there is a report that Vioxx posed heart risks for years before Merck took action to remove it. Scientific evidence of increased heart attack risk associated with Vioxx was available as early as 2000, say Swiss scientists [ ]. After analyzing the results from 18 randomized clinical trials and 11 observational studies - many completed before 2001 - Peter Juni at the University of Berne, Switzerland and his colleagues believe that the decision could have been made much earlier. "If we can do this kind of analysis, it's difficult to see why it wasn't done by the drug company or the licensing authorities years ago," says co-author Matthias Egger.

Integrity Matters - and especially about medical issues

Merck dismissed the validity of the new study. In their own scientific critique, Merck questions the methodology of the new study, saying Merck had been "vigilant in monitoring and disclosing the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx and that the company absolutely disagrees with any implication to the contrary". Integrity is the backbone of medical care, including the products and services available to the public. This case has already shaken confidence in the pharmaceutical industry. Merck, if guilty of malfeasance, might set back society's trust in the delivery of medicine and pharmaceutical company promises for a long, long time. Integrity matters and it pays.

Question: (E-153)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 22, 2004

"Postal worker’s honesty receives high scores"

Yesterday, a postal employee phoned my office to tell me that I had overpaid the local United States Post Office by $10.00 for shipping a package. It turns out that I had used a twenty-dollar bill, and not the ten dollar bill that I assumed I had. The gentleman behind the counter asked me to accept the larger amount of change (he thought I had used a twenty) and I said I was not comfortable unless he was positive. Well, seven hours later the call came and so did the confirmation that integrity matters - at our Post Office. I drove to the Post Office and there waiting for me was my ten dollars. So, there you have it. What do you think?

Integrity is everywhere, especially when folks like you allow others to demonstrate their higher values and more constructive behaviors. Your question asks what I think and the answer is predictable: most people go to work every day and do their jobs, responsibly. Restaurant employees bring food to tables on clean dishes and they help their colleagues deliver customer-friendly service, over and over. A large number of well-trained physicians listen, with care, to their patients who describe thousands of aches and pains. Caring doctors seek to understand how best to address medical concerns and prescribe health-restoring treatments and medicines. Often these physicians sacrifice personal income just to spend extra time with those who are confused and frightened.

Your illustration is powerful and reassuring. A postal employee was willing to take the time, making the extra effort, to assure you that he would never take advantage of you, even for an easy ten dollars that you would never be able to trace. Perhaps those who read this column will have some of their basic faith restored in fundamental goodness of people. The message here is simple, there are good people all around us, and we ought to stop and remember them more often. A piece of wisdom, certainly brought home by your illustration, is this: "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. The postal employee that you mentioned understands one clear definition of character; which is what people do when no one is watching.

Some who have been reading our Integrity Matters columns are familiar with an expression called the "verbal handshake" - a straight-forward approach for conducting business between and among those in the produce industry. In the fast-paced world of buying and selling perishable fruits and vegetables, members of this global agribusiness community are able to transact deals, often involving large amounts of money, simply on the basis of oral promises, no written contracts required.

Your question confirms that the mission for each person ought to always be to help restore integrity throughout our society. Each time a person singles out a positive example of integrity, he or she is helping to build and sustain a world in which people do what they say, are forthright in their communications, and a handshake solidifies any promise. Let's keep telling stories like this one and encourage those who do things right, because they too know that integrity matters.

Question: (E-154)

"The insanity of fleecing the folks who have already delivered results"

I read in the Wall Street Journal today that companies are now suing unions for the right to change, i.e. cut or eliminate medical coverage for people who have already retired. When someone has retired based upon a protective structure, how dare a company then arbitrarily attempt to take away important elements at a time when the individual no longer has the ability to improve earning power or obtain alternative coverage? This is disgusting and reflects the moral bankruptcy on the part of such a company's management--don't you agree?

Insane and inconceivable are two words that come to mind; and a third is illegal. This question arrives at my office on Veteran's Day, 2004, - that special time during the year when Americans pause to remember and honor those who have provided protection for the society they have come to appreciate. On Veteran's Day, men and women who have served the nation, in the military, are singled out and offered acknowledgment for having risked or given their lives to maintain a free, democratic and productive society. Everyone, it seems, understands that retired military personnel are no longer expected to fight on the front lines, they have served their nation. We no longer expect them to lead the charge, rather we remember, appreciatively, what they have already contributed. We pause, remember and offer our caring thoughts for their welfare and those of their loved ones.

So it should be with retired employees. With the drive for short-term profits having become the battle cry for some "hot-shot turn-around" specialists, there seems to be no vicious cruelty beyond their grasp. Surely, if and when firms pursue this approach, class-action lawsuits cannot be far behind. This ought not to become a battle between labor and management; however, this type of mistreatment of previously valuable employees could set in motion a potential crisis of integrity between the generations, and create mistrust between and among various stakeholders who are responsible for the economic engine that is the foundation of free enterprise. What gives current management, of any enterprise, the feeling that they have the license to take away the hard-earned retirement dollars of the previous workforce?

There is a powerful lesson left to Western Civilization by the Chinese and it has to do with the respect that one generation shows for the generations that have come before. Their wisdom centers in the ancient view that the health and vitality of a society can be measured by the way in which one generation honors the old, the infirmed and the dead. What respect for the elderly is being reflected in even considering cutting retirement benefits that have been, at least this would be the assumption, legally and morally offered and accepted? The past several decades have been witness to substantial economic growth and prosperity, at least in the West. So, for current leaders in these organizations to suggest changing the rules of engagement for retirees sounds irresponsible, self-serving, short-sighted and cruel. Integrity-centered leadership involves, in addition to character, which is consistency between word and deed, a commitment to partnership, the timely fulfillment of all commitments. The longer this issue of violating the employer-employee trust is in front of me, the more the feeling of cultural horror hounds me. Our society cannot allow such actions to jeopardize those with no recourse. Integrity matters and legal counsel seems worth seeking, now.

Question: (E-155)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 24, 2004

"Monday Night Football"

Did you see the Nicollette Sheridan/Terrell Owens lead-in commercial during Monday Night Football on ABC? They were advertising ABC's hot new program, Desperate Housewives. In California, this show came on at 6:00 p.m., when young children could/would be watching. Are there no limits, anywhere?

As the recovering economy grinds along and the demands for profits and ratings escalate, there are individuals who will "do whatever it takes" to win. Some short-sighted and greedy "deliverers of the bottom line" will compromise values, relationships or promises, justifying their actions as prudent and clever economic necessities. All the while, primetime Viagra and Levitra merchants are smiling on their way to the bank. Our newspapers are filled with illustrations of rich and powerful high-level power brokers only too willing to skirt integrity issues and ignore long-standing expectations regarding propriety. Rich purveyors of cultural mayhem operate unbridled with behaviors that subvert and bankrupt the integrity standards of society. At the same time way too many thoughtless members of the public nod approvingly and sanction such actions, by simply doing nothing about it. This issue is not simply about the stage called Monday Night Football.

A few questions come to mind. Who made the decision to create the "steamy" advertisement? How does this "sexual innuendo" commercial differ from others that fill the airwaves, morning till night? Who is responsible for maintaining FCC standards? What are those standards in the first place? In this particular case, what lifestyle is celebrated and endorsed by this advertisement, by Terrell Owens, the Philadelphia Eagles organization, ABC, and the National Football League? When will concerned comments emerge from appropriate "watchdog" groups?

Rudy Martzke of USA TODAY writes that ABC Sports apologized Tuesday for this "inappropriate" opening of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys Monday Night Football telecast which involved a sexually suggestive locker room meeting between Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens and ABC's Desperate Housewives' star Nicollette Sheridan.

The Philadelphia Eagles organization announced that, "After seeing the final piece, we wish it hadn't aired." If a violation is ultimately determined, penalties from the Federal Communications Commission could include fines. Readers will recall that CBS learned about FCC fines from their Janet Jackson half-time show at the 2004 Superbowl.

What was again lost during this pseudo-clever antic and sexually suggestive commercial was graciousness. ABC's relentless drive to attract viewers again used that old dependable magnet: sex. Are we really surprised?

Without respect and discipline - for all members of society -- in the boardroom, courtroom, the marketing department or the family in its living room -- society suffers. Integrity still matters.

When organizations, large or small, fail to demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders, then external forces will exert influence. When those who should be in charge abdicate social responsibility, in commercials or elsewhere, sanctions and regulations will follow, multiply, and further stifle freedoms. We continue to remind ourselves and our readers that it should be common knowledge that free markets must regulate themselves or governments will.

Question: (E-156)

"What caused the (K-Mart and Sears) merger?"

Have you been reading about the new company that will combine the "K-Mart blue light special" tradition with the "good, better, best" promises of Sears? It is difficult to imagine any larger cultural challenge for building and sustaining organizational integrity, let alone economic success. Identifying and clarifying common operating values must become priority # 1.

Someone, very soon, will need to clarify and communicate the new corporation's operatingvalues. Organizational Integrity will be possible when all of the stakeholders know clearly how they are to behave, from Wall Street to Main Street and from corporate row to the frontline service representative. If the merger generates more success, then some creative and highly paid "business architect" will likely seek all of the credit. If things go poorly, watch these very same self-serving guru's duck for cover and wrap themselves in the egalitarian "cloth coat" of committee-driven politics. Suddenly, democracy is what these "leaders" will talk about if this merger "goes south" because everyone will claim that they are all in this together, equally, with no one really in charge or accountable.

Those who might have failed in successfully rallying the necessary resources for "perfuming this genetically-altered economic pig" will now energetically participate in the cannibalistic feeding frenzy. When mistakes are made, and such a large undertaking will likely experience many, the two regular (indictment) questions will surface. What did they know? When did they know it? So, what would drive this seemingly counter-productive merger action?

Years ago a valued advisor made the following comment: "Remember, mergers are more about what you give up than what you gain." Some very wise business scholars have analyzed this multi-billion dollar deal and are scratching their heads in disbelief. What prompted two struggling entities to combine their weak bottom lines? What pressures could prompt such differing organizations to join forces under the same roof? What economic drivers forced this "shot-gun" wedding?

How do you spell Wal-Mart?

Now, let's get serious. We know that just about any organizational and leadership combination can be made to work, if all the participating and consenting parties are committed to the vision and mission and are signed-on to a unifying culture. Sears and K-Mart leaders should conduct an audit to make sure that all parties involved know that their respective cultures are now subject to change (giving up the comfortable and familiar) in order to leverage the new possibilities that can be created by mergers and acquisitions.

We have built a consulting practice helping leaders to improve productivity and avoid common organizational pitfalls by securing YES* answers to these four questions. When the response to each of these questions is yes, then no issue can polarize the group or create destructive behaviors. Yes answers confirm that successful individuals know the right way to do the right things, repeatedly, whether in domestic or multicultural organizations. When organizational beliefs are clear and operating behaviors are consistent, then productivity-enhancing alignment is the by-product. Organizational, operational and cultural a lignment enables members of teams to improve longer-term effectiveness along with immediate economic impact. Insight, awareness and discipline lead to success. What are the likely responses of the K-Mart-Sears employees to these four questions?

  1. Do the people involved understand the required skill sets to make individual jobs and the members of their new team productive?
  2. Are they valued by and bring value to the merged organization?
  3. Are those involved aware of and committed to the vision, mission and strategy of the new organization?
  4. Are the participants likely to sign-on to the emerging organization's supported behavior and culture?

For the K-Mart and Sears merger to work, or acquisitions with which you might be familiar, of almost any size, from individuals getting married (merged), to economic giants deciding to combine (acquisition), leaders must step forward and clarify the ground rules (operating principles and values). Everyone who is impacted needs to know what is expected, clearly and immediately. Sometimes a third (new) culture needs to be delineated to integrate the two.

Progress can be measured along the way, but only when the "right" (effective) behavior has been defined. Frequent check-ups can build confidence among those charged with delivering results and the best way to enhance effectiveness is to listen.

Investors, customers, suppliers and the communities in which Sears and K-Mart operate will be watching and waiting. All of the stakeholders will soon know if the leaders are listening and if the commitment of the "merged" enterprise is to acquire, serve and retain customers. The K-Mart "blue light special" tradition has a short amount of time to align the "good, better, best" culture of Sears. Success will be easy to monitor and measure. It is called the consistent and strong bottom line. What fear and greed might have started only leadership and integrity can sustain.

Question: (E-157)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 8, 2004

"Kennedy assassination game in poor taste"

Can you believe this? Just recently, on the 41st anniversary of the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963, an electronic video-game was launched into the marketplace. It enables individuals to re-enact that horrible murder "playing a game" that places these virtual "assassins" in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald was to have been at the time of the shooting. With society racked with violence, must we allow poor taste and insensitivity to sink to this even lower level?

Freedom, free markets and democracy are powerful and complicated concepts. Each demands courage to create, sustain and expand. These inter-related ideals are what constitute the American system. And, when those about us behave differently, while still living within the laws and precepts of our judicial and economic system, then defending their rights becomes our obligation. Early in our nation's history, there were powerful examples of differing opinions, with single-minded commitment to protect those who chose to believe, think and act differently. Perhaps these early leaders were remembering the counsel of Voltaire, the French philosopher (1694-1778) who is quoted: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The expression in the 1960's was simply: "different strokes for different folks" and it worked, most of the time.

Regarding tasteless products, ultimately, the marketplace will speak. Any given product or service will live or die based upon the buying habits of the public. However, the integrity of the selling any culturally-destructive product, it might be prudent to talk about social contracts. In business, the concept of mutual benefit is a common theme. If the "deal" is not good for all involved stakeholders, then there is some likelihood that the "financial proposition" is not sound. This model can be tested for communities, families, friendships, student-teacher transactions, and in a whole world of transactions. Somewhere in the midst of the conversations and activities, concepts like character, partnership and graciousness are likely to appear.

Selling a video game about "murder" is tasteless. To seek another way to sensationalize and "capitalize" on a brutal and vicious event in American history, one that forever scarred the Kennedy family, exhibits no sense of propriety. Throwing into the marketplace yet another reminder of violence, for children and adults to "play" is nothing short of throwing gasoline on the fire of anger and frustration that currently fuel domestic violence, road rage, armed robbery and murder. However, there are controls. Just like turning off a tasteless or inane television program or clicking off the radio's dribble and noise, so too can the purchasing public choose not to buy such "games." We are not required to listen to vicious and hate-mongering music or finance publications that run afoul of constructive values. Personal value systems shape decisions.

Some entrepreneurs are willing to go "over the line" to make a buck. How disappointing. On the other hand, were citizens not outraged we would not know that yes, integrity still matters.

Question: (E-158)

"Financial Planners and Ethics"

The Financial Planners Association (FPA) of Monterey County, California, won't be offering an ethics seminar this year, as reported in the news on December 1, 2004. Even though the course is required for certification, ethics does not seem to be a priority for this group. With all of the financial scandals of recent days, this organization has missed an opportunity. Would you trust these members with your money?


The details of the organization's actions are not clear to me. And, until they became clearer, I would seek financial guidance from folks who were, at least, making an effort to communicate a sense of ethical urgency. When arrogant behavior, or the appearance of arrogant behavior, allows individuals, and associations, to ignore a nationwide demand to "clean up" the collective act of business integrity, then something is definitely wrong with the leadership (or the public relations efforts) of the group.

There can be moments where timing is everything, and the timing of this announcement, canceling an ethics seminar, is simply awful. Perhaps the organization has elected to provide its "ethics training" in a form other than a public seminar. Maybe the steering committee elected to push their "integrity program" into next year. Who knows all of the reasons for the postponement? However, this we do know, the damage may have already been done.

What can be learned from this social (and possibly economic) misstep?

  1. Was the story in the "paper" accurate? After all, reporters make mistakes. So, condemning the entire organization, and possibly even the entire profession of financial planners, in a rush to judgment, may be quite unfair. In fact, one should use care in accepting information, second or third hand, that might denigrate a person or a profession.
  2. What decisions might individuals make regarding all kinds of behaviors that might reflect poorly on their respective professions, families, social groups, etc.? Right now athletes are choosing whether or not to use performance enhancing drugs. Their decisions will be reflected in the record books and in the ways in which their fans honor and respect them.
  3. When personal or professional priorities are communicated, what care is taken to make sure that all messages are clear, accurate and responsive to all stakeholders impacted? Everyone needs to behave with a heightened awareness of individual rights, multi-cultural and social sensitivity. Whether in business, religion or politics, family, community or nation - now is the time to listen, listen and listen. Rash judgments may be intellectually fulfilling, but on the highways, in the form of road rage, they turn deadly. In politics, they divide and wound instead of uniting and healing.

So, the question is really about how we should treat our neighbors, business associates and fellow travelers.

Step one, find out what really happened.

Step two, make up your own mind regarding the compatibility of those actions with your own definition of integrity and proceed accordingly.

Step three: think and confirm (with thoughtful and balanced responses) that integrity matters.

Question: (E-159)

"# 1 Notre Dame Leadership and an Integrity Lapse"

For the first time in my life I am embarrassed to be a University of Notre Dame graduate. Where was the integrity at my university when a high profile football coach, Mr. Ty Willingham, is terminated early, even before he was allowed the benefit of four years of his own recruits? The current President, Fr. Edward Malloy, has gone public blaming the resulting "fire storm" on an ad hoc committee, which includes his already-named successor, and he has implied the "committee" yielded to pressures from some rich "alums" who demanded the firing.

Your question is about the leadership of an economic institution and the integrity of those who acted, from your perspective, precipitously and in unprofessional ways. Notre Dame's senior management seems to have provided its loyal fans and zealous detractors with both a compelling and public illustration of ineffective and corrosive leadership. .

Effective executives often request recommendations from committees. Even so, discussions are participative and democratic. Decisions, on the other hand, are made by the individual in charge, and are made alone. Decisions are autocratic. Notre Dame's president asked for input from his identified successor. However, so long as an executive is still behind the desk, the responsibility for the decision rests with the office holder. If the executive is unwilling to make the decision, and own it regardless of pressures, preferring instead to abdicate to his or her successor, then that executive should step down and allow the transition to occur immediately or simply stop accepting a paycheck. The president of Notre Dame missed this opportunity to lead with integrity. Former President Harry S. Truman was right: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

If this committee was yielding to financial threats by wealthy alumni, then intimidation has won. Regardless, it was the president who carries the responsibility for decisions. Leaders are paid to be accountable. When external pressures and not constructive leadership drive such decisions, organizations will suffer.

So that we do not lose sight, the bigger embarrassment for Notre Dame should be the lapse of integrity and leadership by the president. He abdicated the responsibility of his position and blamed others. Coaches may come and go, but how leaders manage the transition with character, honesty and openness can make all the difference. Notre Dame's business philosophy seems to match other competitive enterprises. They have lost Coach Willingham who enjoyed great respect and was a beacon for the aspirations of many. What a disappointment. It would appear that in the age of greed and victories that Notre Dame is operating just like its competitors.

Regarding your embarrassment being associated with Notre Dame, remember this: what good you found there has not disappeared because of a poor leadership decision. Quality will prevail when those who care communicate. In the meantime, share your concerns with those in positions to do something about them and be a role model for integrity-centered leadership.

Question: (E-160)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 15, 2004

"Athletes need integrity"

What are baseball superstars like Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds (and probably lots of others whose names we do not yet know) thinking about when they use performance-enhancing drugs? Do "homerun" records still have integrity?

Money and fame attract many spotlight-seeking, top-performing, physically-gifted athletes. The integrity of their sport is now being scrutinized because "some" have chosen "chemical shortcuts" to exceptional achievements. These "stars" have chemically rearranged their physical bodies to over-achieve. Greed and glory have taken over. Risking personal health or legal ramifications for their respective organizations appear irrelevant. Their fellow athletes are no longer competing on a level playing field. Baseball has become a performance laboratory for amoral scientists and money-hungry pharmaceutical firms.

The "private-club" atmosphere of the professional baseball players association has not addressed the problems of controlling performance-enhancing drug use. Fans are clamoring for their superheroes to set new records. Owners appear to wring their hands, unable to establish legitimate and appropriate "drug use" disciplines, while simultaneously allowing "dollar signs" to cloud sound judgment.

Some of the most interesting parts of baseball are being trivialized by unappreciative fans. Who cheers for the advancing runners or the finesse of the player reaching second base on a single with sheer speed and timing? Where is the clamor for those pitching a no-hitter or seamlessly "turning" a double-play? Too often the these modern, often uninformed, "frenzied fans" are simply sensory junkies demanding exclusively "show-off" home runs along side knock-down and career-ending slides. This is not baseball, it is becoming more like professional wrestling.

Today's ticket buyers want a "show" that excites them and the players have gotten the message. Who can compete with the pressures of these sensory junkies? The economic realities are clear. Professional athletes have decided that it is worth risking infamy and poor health to become famous by setting records, legally or illegally. And the adoring fans, with their short-sighted demands for their own pleasure and gratification, are perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of these "gladiators" who are ready to trade integrity for money. Unless or until the playing field is level, without chemical enhancements, many records could become meaningless.

With the latest reports of possible (probable) violations of improper drug use, more officials are willing to "weigh in" on the performance-enhancing drug abuse problem. From the White House to various State Houses around the nation, and now to the Congress, the words are clear: performance-enhancing drug abuse is wrong. Let's stop it. And, because of the foot-dragging of the baseball world, federal lawmakers are ready to "pass strict rules" to regulate these abuses.

When will our culture learn this truth? " It should be common knowledge that free markets, including baseball players and their respective organizations, must regulate themselves or governments will." Admirable and honest role models are needed. Certainly, gifted athletes are visible and powerful examples. Our society needs visible adults to play by constructive (including self-imposed) rules and behave appropriately, because integrity matters.

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