ETHICS IN THE WORKPLACE

Speech delivered during the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2016 Fraud Conference, Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel, Ortigas Center, 22 September 2016

 

Good morning, everyone.

Thank you so much for inviting to share some insights with you this morning. I hope I could satisfy your expectations in a big way. In case I fail, just do not invite me again next year. Fair enough?

Allow me first to get a peg about my audience. Please raise your hands if you are forty years old and above… What about those below forty?… Forty is the age when people go crazy. Below forty people are busy with pokemons.

If you are married, or committed, please raise your hands… If you are free and un-committed, hands up please… Now we know whom to pray for so that your love-life curse would be lifted up.

Your invitation specified Ethics in the Workplace. Ethics connotes a set of rules to be followed. But why do we have to talk again about ethics? Is it maybe because rules are the parameters of life, the anchors of happiness and inspiration that assure the soul of the organization? We do not merely follow ethical principles; we breathe the ethics of life. In short, I would like to present Ethics in the Workplace in a more confusing way.

Just sit tight, and relax. You’ll get a coffee break after my presentation. Promise.

[Procopio: “I just feel really good whenever I hear that Procopio is already gone.”]

We cherish the company of those we are happy to be with. We hold on to them. But we avoid like hell those who steal the joy of our lives. We pray that God may take them, the sooner the better.

Happy people are never a threat to others. When people feel the joy of your heart, they will stay with you, and invest their natural best in the partnership or common enterprise. The Law of Consistency is at work here. People readily trust before they doubt; they would rather tell the truth than say crap. People treasure the trust and respect of their neighbors rather than engage in heinous fraud. This is my double belief about life: we are created to be happy; and we are sent to inspire one another. I am not sure if you can spell life in simpler, more compelling terms.

McGregor Burns defined a great leader as someone who brings out the best in others. Success is not about amassing financial muscle big time. [You only invite the attention of the auditors.] Dale Carnegie worked hard to become a millionaire by age 30, the same age he planned to start giving his money away. Imagine the countless libraries everywhere courtesy of the Carnegie Foundation. Steve Jobs concentrated on innovating; that’s what he loved doing. Making money was not his priority. The rest is history.

Only people who inspire others to go the distance will be remembered long after their ashes have been scattered by the winds of time. Real game changers live with infectious joy, their lives truly inspiring.

We are not talking about the office comedy king. He surely makes us all laugh, but when we want something done, we’d rather have him holed up as far away as possible from us. Rather, we are referring to the guy in the next cubicle who goes through his daily grind with the meekness to share in the common effort. He loves the task before him and thus over-extends himself with unquenchable passion. His motivations compel him with an enthusiasm that’s always fresh and raring. These people stand out as the go-to-guys, and with their unassuming ways, they define the soul of the organization.

Porras and Collins in their book Good to Great discovered that the secret of 11 great companies out of 1,436 good companies was leadership; such leadership is characterized by aggressiveness in the business balanced with the leader’s self-effacing take about himself. Their personal values rubbed on the entire organization. Turn-arounds were inevitable. People who cement the soul of the organization are not the biggies, nor the power centers. Money, power, position do not naturally invite trust and respect; they merely command obedience. In the book Code of Champions authored by your speaker, truly inspiring people lift others up with their character, compassion, sense of purpose, balance, faith and commitment.

A cursory glance reveals a competent and competitive corporate landscape, not without the caveats.

Take this: the world is awash with information. 52 per cent of 3,600 decision-makers from 18 countries admit that ‘they do not use their data effectively or are drowning in the information overload.’ Too much info does not assure rightful action. When we reach saturation point, more is mere noise.

Likewise, recent technological advancements have triggered transformation in the business landscape. More technology, more capabilities, more speed, and more stress. And when the human spirit is pummeled, all sorts of shortcuts creep in.

The Philippines has become one of the bright investments haven in the Asia Pacific rim. We are definitely not poor. We are just miserable. And the mad scramble for resources could easily feed our greed and envy. These two hydras wreck havoc on the human soul, consequently our ethical lives.

Today, we dare say that inspiration is the critical need, the most necessary input in any performing organization. At the end of the day, if you don’t have happy inspiring people in your workplace, the prophecy says you’ll end up stuck with problems you wish you’d never had. Admittedly, inspiration is unquantifiable; but it is an undeniable necessity for an ethical workplace.

David Hunter in his book The Servant mentioned an interesting cross-cultural survey. The question was: who inspired you? And why? Surprise: people are not readily inspired by the rich, the powerful, or the brilliant guys. Who inspired you? Answers revolved around parents and family members or people who were really close to us. These are the inspiring people who made differences in countless lives: ordinary people! And why? They are honest and trustworthy, good role models, caring, committed, good listener, makes people accountable, respects people, encourages people, positive and enthusiastic attitude, appreciates people. I have always asked this very same question in my Code of Champions Seminars, and invariably I get the same answers.

There you have it folks: happy people not only tend to be the best people around; they bring out the best in others too. They engineer the soul of the workplace, thus assuring an ethical and compliant lifestyle. Imagine if you have similar champions in your organizations. Now, imagine yourself to be that inspiring champion.

But what does it take?

Let me share with you the Code of Inspiring Champions. Today, these six behavioral paradigms are fast becoming for a good number of organizations the foundation on which they build their organizational cultures.

First: do people trust you? Trust is the foundation of human transactions, personal or public. And trust stands squarely on integrity and honesty, a distinctly principle-based lifestyle. A champion then assiduously CULTIVATES HIS CHARACTER. He does the right thing even when no one is around. Aren’t we wont to say: when the auditor is away, the mouse keeps his books properly? Who is not afraid of the BIR?

Second: are people happy to work with you? We always love and trust the company of those who extended themselves on our behalf. Compassion is the one virtue that cements our connections. HAVE A HEART. It is the Law of the Harvest: you reap what you sow. Extend yourself for others, and they will gladly die for you. Promise. Meanwhile, when people feel that the bigger organization does not care for them, they become nonchalant and focus only on their petty concerns. Selfishness has always been the ancestor of waywardness.

Third: do people find you focused? Happy people invariably have a sense of purpose. They are clear with their goals. They breathe their dreams. No wonder Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life became a bestseller. Champions always AIM FOR A MISSION. They act with quick dispatch; they have no time to linger on dazzling yet confusing business foreign to the agenda. These guys create their own opportunities.

Fourth: Do people compliment you on the balance of your life? We all live multiple lives. We are parents, homeowners, professionals, citizens, believers, lovers, advocates and what have you, all mingled in one unfolding story. Yet we have to attend to all of these disparate concerns. Secret? Be clear with your priorities. Life is like juggling rubber balls and crystal balls. Know which is which; and you banish the fear of living, making it easier for us to stick to ethical norms. Productive people MAINTAIN BALANCE. Off hand, can you mention right now your three life priorities, your three crystal balls?

Fifth: Do people see your courage and wisdom to live? You may call the Almighty with different names, but common sense dictates that there must be a Creator who started this whole complex we call life. And if my very life comes from this Divine Being, then I am accountable to him. Simple observation tells us that when individuals lose a sense of accountability to someone else, they open themselves to corruption. Yet a sense of being accountable to the Creator of Life spells a wider and more profound wisdom about life. And that begets the courage to face daily life. Stephen Covey speaks of the Third Higher Principle when he spread out the seven habits of highly effective people. The truth is happy people PRIORITIZE THE SPIRIT.

Sixth and finally: do people find you always available? Life moves with constant patterns. This is discipline. Inspiring people keep their words, not with passive resignation but with joyful creativity. There is no need for dangerous and wasteful detours. STAY THE COURSE. Keep your commitments.

Champions in life cultivate character. They have a heart and aim for a mission. Champions maintain balance and prioritize the spirit. They stay the course.

At the end of the day, inspiring champions are not born; they are made. The great American poet, Carl Sandburgh once said: “There is in me an eagle that wants to soar, and a hippopotamus content to wallow in the mud.”

Happiness is always a personal decision; it is not a set of conditions.

[The farmer and his wife: “Can I buy your horse?”]

Whoa, not even a horse could last a minute with a cantankerous tongue, a miserable heart, or a sour face. Yet bringing out the imprisoned splendor in our hearts creates an ethical aura in the workplace. Unless you’d rather lose the chairmanship of your Senate committee.

And by the way, has anybody ever told you that happy people make the lives of examiners a lot easier?