Golden rule management ala Berkun

Really nice exposition of management by the Golden and Silver Rules, by consultant and author Scott Berkun.

In fact, the old Rule gets an explicit mention in #7 of Berkun’s “Top Ten Reasons Managers Become Great.

“Practice of the golden rule.  It’s funny how well known this little gem is, and rare in life people follow it. But I think anyone in power who believes in it, and treats all of their employees the same way they truly would want to be treated, or even better, treats employees as they actually want to be treated, will always be a decent, above average manager. A deeply moral person can’t help but do better than most people, as treating people with respect, honesty and trust are the 3 things I suspect most people wish they could get from their bosses.”

Other reasons he lists: great managers “Enjoy Helping People Grow” and (speaking of ethics) and “Instrinctively correct[] bad behavior within their own team.”

And thanks to my son Rob for referring Scott’s post to me.

“Shareholder Value” and short-term thinking

Can short-term thinking in a business leader be ethical… at least when the survival of the business is not at stake?  Isn’t there something intrinsically wrong about sacrificing the future for the sake of the present?

Valuing the long-term over the short-term is at the heart of a lot of messages that company management gives to employees about ethics.  When we say, “Don’t approve a shipment of peanut paste that you know is tainted,” we are really saying, “We don’t want you to sacrifice the company’s future reputation and sales for the sake of filling this one, immediate order.”

So not being hypocritical about that message in the top-level business decisions we make adds a bit of a challenge in maintaining our “tone at the top,” eh?

And so it seemed ethically obvious when Jack Welch told the Financial Times on March 12, that the “obsession with short-term profits and share price gains that has dominated the corporate world for over 20 years was ‘a dumb idea.’ Welch says now that the concept of “shareholder value” that he championed was never supposed to be a be-all-and-end-all.

According to the Financial Times:

Mr Welch said last week he never meant to suggest that setting, and meeting, profit expectations quarter after quarter in an effort to boost a company’s share price should be the main goal of corporate executives.

On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world,” he said. “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy . . . Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.”

At least, that’s what he says now.

Lawyer sport: nice plea, Bernie

Anybody read all of Bernie Madoff’s allocution when he pled guilty? I pasted it, below.

It sounds like an odd mea culpa. But it’s actually  a neat, precise bit of lawyering. Put aside the lives he shattered, and you can almost enjoy the way his defense team tracks the required elements of the crimes to which he pled guilty — foreclosing any challenge to the judge’s acceptance of the plea — and still closes the door on any broader culpability by Madoff or his cohort.

I like what I saw one compliance guy say – that he’s tired of being asked at parties about Madoff, because it means people are confusing blatant criminal behavior (which criminals will always engage in) with insidious unethical behavior (which may be mitigated).

(Tip for those of us with, um, tired vision — click towards the bottom right corner of the frame below to see the allocution in “full screen” mode.)

[slideshare id=1136984&doc=bernard-statement-allocution31209-090312111816-phpapp01&type=d]

The sound of the tone

A big part of what execs are supposed to do to lead ethics in their companies, is to set and maintain “tone at the top.” That’s part words, part actions, and part the intersection of the two — making it clear that your business action is motivated by, and consistent with, your ethical vision.

Good schooling in how to do that from President Obama, right off the bat.

Put politics and policy arguments aside for a moment, and listen to what he said on January 29, 2009, when he signed the “Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act,” making it easier to make claims for wage discrimination.

So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not just unfair and illegal – but bad for business – to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook – it’s about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, though, equal pay isn’t just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it’s a question of who we are – and whether we’re truly living up to our fundamental ideals. Whether we’ll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put to paper more than 200 years ago really mean something – to breathe new life into them with the more enlightened understandings of our time.

Tip to self: Tone at the top = Explaining an executive action by saying “it’s a question of who we are.”

If you mean it.