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You are your company’s moral compass.

Here’s yet another story that you may identify with – or have yet to experience in your business life. It’s one of those that define your leadership for all to see, sometimes based upon decisions made in the moment – such as this one.

A story of a CEO’s snap judgment call

Years ago, when I was CEO of my record manufacturing company in Hollywood, I happened to walk around the plant into the press room just as Bobby, one of the employees’ favorite coworkers, was offering stolen merchandise to his fellow pressmen from a bag he was carrying.  He halted, and waited for me to react, obviously caught in the act.   Everyone loved Bobby, a hard worker and good friend.  But I fired him on the spot; the only possible response to the situation presented me so suddenly.  After initial shock, a number of employees came to me that day and said that they understood how hard that decision was, but that they knew it was the right thing to do.

How your decisions affect your company

You will find many times during your management years when such decisions are placed before you, requiring quick unwavering response to an ethical challenge to you or your company.  How you comport yourself in these situations is absolutely the litmus test for how your company culture will reflect your actions.  Take home company supplies for personal use?  Your employees will surely follow your lead, no matter what the policy.  Treat personal expenses at company cost, and your sales people will feel just fine doing the same until caught.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Behave without regard for an individual’s dignity when separating an employee who is a direct report, and other managers will feel little compunction to spend the extra time and energy softening their actions.  Alter any accounting result for the sake of making a month look good, and your accounting department will get the message that GAAP accounting is just for show.

It is the difficult decisions that define your leadership

It is not easy to always be the moral compass for the organization, but it is the right thing and cannot be compromised.  And you will continue to enjoy the stories of times taking the high road as retold to you by your employees over time.

  • Mark Wayman


    I face ethical issues with both clients and candidates on almost a daily basis. What happened to integrity? These days people will do whatever is necessary to “get theirs.” Unfortunately for them, I’m the most honest and ethical person you will ever meet. I tell them, “There is a Recruiter on every corner; go find someone else to represent your interests.”

  • Jim Schwarz

    I am concerned that in today’s business climate ethical conduct is an after-thought. Everyone does it so its OK.

    The actions of the leadership team define a company and it starts with the many little examples we present to others. It means that Leadership must act by correcting or leading others in what is the proper ethical standard for the company.

    Its a challenge to face the problem and correct, certainly much easier to ignore it and look the other way. Its hard to address a person face to face and not just email a “by the way note”. It will set the culture and define the company.

  • Gene Konstant

    A great example. I had a similar situation when I fired an excellent
    worker in our publishing company because she continually went into
    a clean kitchen/lounge, made and ate her lunch and left a mess for
    someone else to clean up

    After several ‘conversations’ she still didn’t see the import of respecting
    the ‘find it clan – leave it clean’ code of behavior in the office family – so
    she could not be allowed to stay there disrespectful of everyone else.

    Right on friend!

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