The fallout from the corporate scandals involving World Com, Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing and Adelphia has affected more than the thousands of employees who lost their jobs and the thousands of investors who lost retirement funds. These scandals have also affected all business owners and managers.
That’s George Brymer’s contention. He said these scandals, which fraudulently enriched the pockets of corporate CEOs, “have a large impact on all managers regardless of what level they’re at. We see all these doings by these senior people and it’s created a whole new stereotype for business leaders. Employees are looking at all managers as dirty rotten scoundrels who are just in it for themselves. So, managers are starting in the hole when it comes to building trust with employees.”
That trust is important to business leaders who communicate the company mission and motivate employees to perform at their best to succeed in the competitive world market, Brymer claims. Ethical behavior is not only important today, but it will become more important in the future as our country experiences a labor shortage.
In 2012, the year the front wave of the Baby Boomer generation retires, the nation is expected to have a shortfall of 4 million workers. That will create a situation where wages and benefits are increased and retention of employees becomes more of a priority. Brymer says employees will become less concerned with financial considerations and more concerned with ethical and caring behavior from their leaders.
Brymer saw this need as a vice-president for a Fortune 500 Bank. When he retired in 2002, he started a business to promote ethical behavior among business leaders. His keystone program is a three-day seminar entitled Leading from the Heart, a values-based leadership that encourages employee loyalty. He’s presented the seminar to such industry leaders as Dana Corporation and HCR Manor Care. And, now, he has written a book called Vital Integrities: How Values-based Leaders Acquire and Preserve Their Credibility. The book is used in conjunction with the seminars, but stands alone on its own merits.
Brymer’s vital integrities are:
Envision what the company should be like, share the vision and enlist employees to make the dream a reality;
Inspire others with courage and hope, give them a chance to succeed, set high expectations and publicly celebrate success. Also celebrate failure so people feel comfortable in taking risks;
Give away authority. Employees are most effective when they have the power to influence company decisions and to make their own decisions;
Be credible. If you want honest, caring, passionate employees you must cultivate and demonstrate those traits in yourself;
Master both listening and speaking. Many good workers leave because communication has broken down between management and employees. Choose words carefully and communicate often;
Accept challenges and take risks. Challenge company traditions, practices and processes. Be willing to change them if they are outdated or no longer useful. Take risks to move the company forward.
These integrities make sense, so why are so many corporate CEOs violating employee trust and the value system most of us have adopted? Surely, greed is one reason. Brymer says there is another. “Too many companies are so concerned about the stock analysts and the state of their stock they’ll do anything to produce the results the analyst are looking for.” When Wall Street’s expectations are based on short-term gains and the salaries of CEOs are tied to those short-term gains, we shouldn’t be surprised employees are short-changed.
Brymer ends his book with these words: “..when the phrase corporate governance replaces words like credibility, honesty and integrity, how can we expect our employees to remain aligned to the organization? Today’s leaders must demonstrate their organization’s values—not just in the moment of truth, but continuously and proactively—in order to secure their employees’ trust.”