Archive for the ‘ Differences ’ Category

Ethical Behavior in Leadership

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal”. – Aldo Leopold

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Avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.

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Examples of non-ethical behavior in business and leadership are all around us; and recent well-publicized ethical breaches in organizations have brought a great deal of attention to the issue of ethical behavior – from political campaigns filled with half-truths or outright lies, and distortions to support a viewpoint; to examples of business tax evasion; to politicians submitting fraudulent expenses. The lack of integrity around the world is alarming. Even Patricia Wallington writing for CIO identifies that 82% of CEO’s admitted lying about their golf scores.


Ethical behavior is essential in leadership – good leaders have integrity, honesty, and are inclined to do the right thing (which is not, necessarily, the easy or quick choice). Ethical leaders will display self-confidence, and the people around them will be more inclined to work for a leader they know they can trust to make the right decisions. A paper published by Johnathan K. Nelson, George Mason University explains that ethical leadership is associated with a number of desired outcomes related to employees at the individual and group levels, including willingness to exert extra effort and help others; better task performance; increased job satisfaction and commitment to the organization; perceptions of an ethical climate; optimism in the future of the organization and their place within it; perceptions of task significance, autonomy, and voice – including a willingness to report problems to management.

But how can we work to become ethical leaders?

Before we look at how we can become ethical leaders, we need to look at a bigger-picture approach of identifying ourselves as moral people. Jonathan K Nelson’s paper goes on to identify key traits of ethical people:

  • Ensure that ethical behavior in their private life is consistent with the moral standards they publically promote. Ensuring that their actions are not hypocritical of their words.
  • Take responsibility for their actions.
  • Show concern for other people.
  • Treat others fairly and with respect.
  • Use personal and organizational values to guide their behavior and decisions.
  • Implement decisions that are objective and fair, based on fact and not opinion.

Ethics in leadership, however, goes beyond simply acting as a moral person. Being an ethical leader includes recognizing that employees are looking for guidance in their decision-making, and they need to recognize that they have power of influence over the behavior of others. Ethical leaders:

  • Demonstrate examples of ethical behavior and ethical decision-making.
  • Explain decisions not only in making a business case, but in ethical terms as well.
  • Discuss ethical issues in their communication with employees; and encourage ethics-centered discussions, where they can encourage subordinates to speak up about their ethics-related questions and concerns.
  • Explain ethical rules and principles.
  • Give subordinates a say in decision-making and listen to their ideas and concerns.
  • Set clear ethical standards and enforce those standards through the use of organizational rewards, and holding people accountable when standard are not met.

EthicalSystems.Org also provides gives us some ideas we can apply to our leadership role to empower us to act more ethically on a day-to-day basis:

Got Ethics Post It 2

Make ethics a clear priority
Ethical leaders make ethics a clear and consistent part of their agendas, set the standards for those around them, set examples of appropriate behavior, and hold everyone accountable when those standards aren’t met.

Make ethical culture a part of every personnel-related function in your organization
Leaders need to work hard through the hiring process, training new employees, and continuing performance management to bring in the right employees in the first instance, and then help them to work within the organization’s underlying values on ethical business.

Encourage, measure, and reward ethical leadership.
Ethical leadership from the top down is very important – not only because it creates an environment in which lower-level ethical leaders can flourish and grow – but ethical leadership at the supervisory level will guide and encourage followers’ attitudes and behavior.

Ethical leadership, at all levels of an organization, not only encourages employees within a business to act with moral integrity and make the right decisions by providing the right guidance and support on decisions and empowering employees to raise concerns when they feel something isn’t right, but this in turn will support the ethical view of the business, both internally and externally. Ethical leadership has an associated positive effect on employees. Ethical leadership supports the organization in their stead within society ensuring that the business as a whole is able to operate ethically and fairly.

For further reading on ethics in leadership, the Community Tool Box has an article which clearly defines ethics and ethical leadership; and looks at further suggestions on practicing ethical leadership; and Jack Zenger, writing for Forbes looks at ways to prevent corruption (and in turn, develop ethical behavior) in the top leadership levels of an organization.

Lower Your Standards of Praise

1.  a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection, e.g. “he was a perfectionist who worked slowly”
2.  refusing to accept any standard short of perfection

I am a perfectionist. I mean, I’m not obsessive. The volume on the radio can be odd or even – that doesn’t matter. I do, however, like things to be right, and if I think someone won’t do a very good job, I’d rather just do things myself. I’m the kind of person that will ask their other half to make the bed; and then if the cushions aren’t in the right order, I’ll re-make it.

I’m also practically minded; and I know to be an effective team member, and – more importantly – to be a good leader, I need to overcome my perfectionist tendencies, because in reality not everyone I work with or lead will be able to reach the high standards that I set for myself. Trying to impose my own high standards on the people working with me is likely to frustrate them, and frustrate me. That won’t get us anywhere fast – we’ll be heading downhill in a spiral of “not-quite-right” annoyance. Alternatively, I’ll end up doing it myself, and that’s not an effective use of my time.


I struggled with the concept of letting people ‘get on with it’ a lot, until someone on a training course recently summed this up in one short phrase: “lower your standards of praise”.

Lowering your standards of praise means, instead of only giving people positive feedback when they get things exactly right, you lower the standard of achievement that merits reward to encourage the behavior you want, and then you can work on improving things gradually over time.

Think about when parents bring up children, and they try to teach their toddlers to talk. Of course, if someone wants to ask for a glass of water in adult life, we’d expect to hear “can I have a glass of water, please?”, but a two-year-old isn’t going to go from “mama” and “dada” to asking coherently for a glass of water overnight. Instead, parents start with the basics: “Water”. They’ll repeat the word, and encourage speech, until they get something that closely resembles the result: “Wa-wa”. Close enough! This behavior will be rewarded: the toddler will get the glass of water, and probably plenty of applause and kisses; but they can’t grow up using “wa-wa” every time they’re thirsty, so the development continues, and parents work on changing “wa-wa” to “water”; “water” to “water, please”, and so on.

A blog post on AJATT speaks about lowering our standards in every day life, and learning to appreciate the ‘baby steps’ we take to get to places in life, and then putting that into practice with our more long-term goals. It talks about how you shouldn’t ‘try to arrive at your goal. Just try to go there — and congratulate yourself for it: give yourself credit for only getting it partially right, partially done’. When you appreciate the little achievements, the bigger picture will fall into place.

Ken Blanchard, in his best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, talks about how the manager relies on catching people doing things right – which involves praising people immediately (and not waiting until they’ve achieved the whole); being specific about what they’ve done right – emphasizing how what they did right makes you feel, and how it benefits the organization; and encouraging more of the same.

By lowering your standards of praise, you’re not waiting for people to get all the way to the end of a project, only to be disappointed in the end-result. Instead, you can give positive feedback when they get things partially right, and slowly work your way to the desirable outcome, whilst keeping your relationship frustration-free. It doesn’t mean your end-result is going to be less-than-perfect, but it means that you’re not expecting perfection in the first instance.

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Are You Blind to Change?

The video below by Derren Brown demonstrates a phenomenon called “change blindness,” where a change that should be obvious goes unnoticed.

You can find a similar experiment here, which was done at Harvard. How resilient to change blindness are you? Let’s try an experiment of our own. Something is changing between the flashes in a very obvious way in the picture below. Can you spot it?

Change Blindness - Market

How about in this picture?

Change Blindness - Soldiers

Was it difficult for you to spot the change in each picture? Don’t worry, it takes a while for most people. The longer the flash or delay between the slightly different images, the harder it is to see the change.

This can be the same with people. For instance, you may not notice a change in the demeanor of your direct report until much later, after which might you ask, “has he/she always been like that?” And by then, it may be difficult to understand exactly when the change happened and why. Even small changes in the organization can go unnoticed, until someone checks in on how things are going.

To combat this blindness, ensure that you are checking in frequently enough with your direct report. But, of course, there’s the risk of looking like a micromanager. When you meet, explain that you are simply there to support his/her success and allow the conversation to flow from your direct report (“Is there anything you need from me?” or “Is there anything I can do to support your work?” are great ways to quickly check in). If he/she is a novice on the task, provide more direction. If not, provide encouragement and autonomy while focusing on the positives.

When it comes to keeping an eye on the organization as a whole, metrics can provide insight on what changes are occurring. But instead of pulling every available metric, focus on the top 3-5 metrics that relate back to your business strategy and goals for the organization.

Since big changes may be happening without your knowledge, dedicate time to discovering these changes and their causes. This can provide valuable insight into what is happening now and what you can do to promote the growth and betterment of your organization.

Images Credit: User jbitel on Imgur

The boomerang generation: When 18 years isn’t good enough anymore

Get good grades they say. Get a college degree they say. Your life will be much easier they say.
I’m not sure who this “they” is but if someone can find them, I have a few friends and millions of young Americans who I’m sure would like to have a conversation with them.
The “they” that most parents may have been referring to was the previous economy, because Uncle Sam’s pockets have been quite drained for some time. He’s no longer the rich uncle that lives outside of town—now he’s more the one that lives in the baseboomerangkidsment.
Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) of 25- to 34-year-olds say they don’t currently have enough money to lead the kind of life they want, and thirty-six percent of this nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ homes in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center.
Also, large majorities (78%) say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements (living at home with mom and dad). So the stigma associated with living with parents is nowhere to be seen with this generation.
And according to the Journal of Marriage and Family, 79% of adults between 18-33 receive financial help, though there are varying reports about this data. I must admit that I fall in this age range and I used to receive some financial help from my parents while I was out of college. Since my cell phone and auto insurance were tied to the same bill, they never passed it along to me—thanks Mom and Dad!
If I had to guess, I would say the majority of the boomerang generation would like to spend the rest of their 20’s and 30’s chasing the American Dream as much as the previous generations. Stagnate wages, higher unemployment, and large student debt have been major obstacles to financial independence for the boomers. Although it has not been easy, much of the boomerang generation is optimistic about their future and financial progress. Many would suggest that they live life “entitled” but I believe many are hungry to begin their careers and add value to the organizations they serve.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at

Party like its 1776!

With America’s recent bid for the World Cup title, coupled with the 4th of July weekend, I’ve been feeling pretty patriotic lately. I’ve decided that my first born’s sons name will be Tim Howard…Jaramillo. After the amazing 16 saves in the recent loss to Belgium in the World Cup by Tim Howard, I can admit that only this would be the appropriate and patriotic thing to do.  And with tTim Howardhis upcoming 4th of July weekend, I suddenly feel inspired to name my first daughter George Washington…Jaramillo. Some of these names, I’m sure, would have to be screened by my wife, but after some pillow talk and cuddling, I think they might be serious contenders.

The 4th of July weekend is a special weekend for so many reasons. In today’s modern America, it means fireworks, BBQ’s, family, and a whole lot of people trying some Pintrest(y) type desserts. We all need to eat a flag cake at least once in our lives, don’t we? Although John Adams never predicted the American hipster, he came pretty close to what celebrations look like today. He said the 4th of July, “Ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” He also wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail that the Second Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to declare independence from Britain on July 2nd, not July 4th….whoops! And most of the signers actually signed on August 2nd and not on July 4th. Just to be safe, I’m recommending July 2nd-July 4th as national holiday(s). Who’s with me?

Whether it’s July 2nd or July 4th, I know one thing’s for sure. There have been incredible men and women who have sacrificed and fought to keep our nation independent. So let’s celebrate and cheer, not just for our nation, but for the folks who make up our great nation.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at

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