In The News: Former Penn State President Spanier gets jail time in Sandusky case

This grossly under-reported story should alarm top executives of all organizations. Though the sentences were relatively short  — two months in jail plus another two under house arrest — the fact that former President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Sr. VP for Finance Gary Schultz will actually be imprisoned for failing to properly address allegations that ass’t football …

COMMENTARY: The Peculiar Concept of “Ethics Laws”

Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful …

COMMENTARY: The Greyhound Principle: Stretch Goals in Business 761.1

A common management strategy to spur achievement is to set aggressive performance objectives that, like the mechanical rabbits that pace racing greyhounds, push employees to maximum effort. Using “stretch goals” can be successful, but unreasonably high performance goals often spawn dishonesty and irresponsibility. Believing that “it’s a matter of survival,” a disturbing number of employees conclude that distortion, deception, and even …

OBSERVATION: “Our moral obligations and the expectations people have of us do not go away just because we ignore them.” – Michael Josephson

I once saw a cartoon depicting a CEO speaking to assembled management team at a conference table: “We have some difficult issues to resolve today. Before we begin, Ms. Gladstone, will you please hand out the moral blinders?” It may make the decision easier but it doesn’t make it better. We can’t escape moral responsibility  through legal loopholes — our conduct will …

OBSERVATION: The Ethics of Numbers — Hitting the numbers without meeting the goals.

In the last decade, the ability to track and measure almost any factor of business performance on a daily, even an minute-by-minute basis, has resulted in an even greater emphasis on setting quantitative goals to assess effectiveness and drive effort. The concept of “hitting your numbers”  is a dominant theme in many organizations. The problem is, sometimes without the knowledge …

WORTH READING: Get Smarter! Start the New Year With the Five Best Books I Read in 2011. What books are on your list?

Here are the best five books I’ve read this year. They are so good they are all on my top-ten of all-time list. In the comment section please share the names of the best books you’ve read this year and if you are willing add a sentence or two on what you found so good about each book. The Happiness Hypothesis by …

OBSERVATION: The Ethics of Profits and Success

In business, profits and return on investment are the dominant measures of success. Good businesses understand that profitability is indispensable to viability, but they see profits as only one measure of success. Smart executives know that a good reputation, trust, quality products and service, customer loyalty, and employee pride can make major contributions to profitability, but any success achieved will …

COMMENTARY: Good Ethics Really Is Good Business 749.4

  A challenge I frequently face while consulting with senior executives and boards of directors of public companies is a belief that their primary mandate is to make profits and enhance shareholder value. Thus, ethical principles like honesty, fairness, and caring are proper guides to decision making only to the extent that they can demonstrably improve profitability or incorporated into …

A Good Company and a Sharp Ax 745.3

Ben was a new lumberjack who swung his ax with such power he could fell a tree in 20 strokes. In his first few days he produced twice as much lumber as anyone else. He was making quite a reputation for himself but by week’s end, he was less productive. One friend told him he had to swing harder. Another …