published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on September 29, 2004
"Don't stereotype group for one bad
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
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
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.
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.
"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.
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
"Vioxx, Merck and Integrity"
Was Merck's move to recall Vioxx an integrity
move or just another example of a big company covering
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
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
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
is this newer-is-better mentality, and this is why we can't afford health
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.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on October 13, 2004
"What ethics are involved with legal
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?
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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
- What should be done to communicate that, yes, integrity
matters? Please send your responses to us at: email@example.com or mail directly to The Salinas Californian.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on October 20, 2004
"Before asking for money, ask these
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:
- 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
- Do you intend to work with this professor longer
- Have you already received your advanced degree?
- How important is this mentor-protégé relationship
to you, longer term?
- Is your frustration created by your own impatience
or does it reflect a series of violations of your intellectual
and professional integrity?
- What are the risks to your career (academic and
economic) if you confront the situation?
- What harm comes to you if you ignore your frustrations?
- 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?
- 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
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.
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
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,
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on November 3, 2004
"Students get on-the-job integrity
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
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.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on November 10, 2004
"Your moral compass points in right
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
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.
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
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
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
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 NewScientist.com 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
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.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on December 22, 2004
"Postal worker’s honesty receives
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
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
Some who have been reading our Integrity
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
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.
"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
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
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.
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
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.
"What caused the (K-Mart and Sears)
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
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
- Do the people involved understand the
required skill sets to make individual jobs and
the members of their new team productive?
- Are they valued by and bring value to
the merged organization?
- Are those involved aware of and committed
to the vision, mission and strategy of the new
- 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.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on December 8, 2004
"Kennedy assassination game in poor
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
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.
"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
What can be learned from this social (and
possibly economic) misstep?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
think and confirm (with thoughtful and balanced
responses) that integrity matters.
"# 1 Notre Dame Leadership and an
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.
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
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."
and honest role models are needed. Certainly, gifted
visible and powerful examples.
Our society needs visible adults to play by constructive
(including self-imposed) rules and behave appropriately,
because integrity matters.