There are three elements to effective ethics training. First, the organization must develop substantive, comprehensive rules of conduct. Second, executives must communicate those rules in a readily understandable and repetitious manner. Providing a dense set of manuals is as bad as trivializing ethics with coffee mugs. Invincible executives skip the trinkets and supplement the paperwork with accessible, interesting online training, as well as in-person
delivered in a dynamic and engaging way. If
read about ethics in a manual, take an online course, and then
a seminar that focuses on real-life cases, the message will come across loud and clear.
Finally, invincible executives insist on monitoring success, according to Walter Metcalfe, chairman of Bryan Cave, one of the country's largest international law firms. They have employees take tests that show they understand their ethical obligations, and they monitor "ethics trends" within their organizations—i.e., how many transgressions occurred in a given period of time and the remedial actions taken.
Stick to Your Ethics—Always
As you strive to maintain an ethical standard of conduct, remember that part of being ethical is being consistent. Unethical people, according to publisher Earl Graves, tend to
a situation for a particular audience—altering or changing their story or their spin on it. If you adopt that approach, you will eventually get caught and your career will flame out. Graves puts it this way: "You can wake me up in the middle of the night, and what you
this afternoon is what you are going to hear tonight. I am not going to feed you bull. I don't have to remember the second time what I told you the first time because it is going to be the same. You can put that in your book." That is the essence of true professional ethics
note on the ethics of the invincible executive. It seems that top professionals can get away with a lot more in their personal lives than they can in their professional lives. Charismatic
from former President Clinton to Rudolph Guiliani, to Jack Welch and the CEOs of several Fortune 500 companies, have survived professionally despite past drug use, extramarital affairs, and the like. While holding your standards of personal conduct to the same level as your standard of professional conduct is very desirable, it quite frankly—and bizarrely—does not seem to be an absolute prerequisite to long-
success. Most invincible executives respect the privacy of others because they expect others to do the same for them. They
those in the
past—as long as the actions in question have not impacted professional performance or created a legal risk at the office.
In fact, those who try to impose personal moral standards in a professional context are often the most vulnerable to attack. Who can forget the hypocrisy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich when he criticized President Clinton's personal morals, all the while having an affair with a staffer? Invincible executives seem to be exceedingly careful not to criticize the personal lives of others. If they do and are clean themselves, they look like moralistic dogooders; if they criticize others while hiding their own transgressions, they are setting
up for a catastrophic fall.