Six Ethics And Compliance Topics That Leaders Can Easily Talk About With Their Teams

Adam Balfour

by Adam Balfour

Leaders, managers and supervisors play such a key role in helping to build and sustain a culture of integrity at any organization. Some leaders might worry about whether they will get the message “perfectly” right or might even wonder what they should talk about with their teams. The truth is that the message does not need to be perfect to make a difference, and a good message delivered by a leader or manager will have an impact because of who is communicating the message.

Here are six short ideas for topics that leaders and managers can easily talk about with their teams.

  1. How To Speak Up At Your Organization – there are likely multiple ways that people at your organization can speak up (through Human Resources, compliance, legal, internal audit, the helpline and, of course, through the leader or manager). Leaders and managers can help share stories about when they have spoken up and encourage employees to use whatever speak up channel employees feel most comfortable with.
  2. Pressure – Pressure is not inherently bad, but it does need to be managed carefully in case the pressure gets too intense and/or people are, or feel, pressured to violate organizational standards or the law. Leaders and managers can remind employees that the pressure to achieve objectives (including their directions) should never mean that it is okay to violate organizational standards or the law.
  3. Psychological Safety – Leaders can help create an environment where people strive for excellence rather than a culture based on a fear of failure. Innovation and groundbreaking ideas are rarely achieved on their first attempt – creating an environment of psychological safety can support on innovation and help ensure people feel comfortable speaking up and asking for help. When leaders and managers talk about their mistakes, share stories about when they have spoken up or asked for help, and recognize others when they speak up, it helps demonstrate the leader’s authentic commitment to psychological safety.
  4. Standards – Policies are not the only way that people in your organization should learn about relevant standards. Talking about the expected standards, why they matter and directly addressing instances where standards have not been met will help bring policies to life and ensure that the standards on paper are consistent with the standards in practice. Plus, a leader or manager can help make the standards relevant and resonate with their team and help ensure the team knows what is expected of them.
  5. Organizational Purpose – A lot of organization’s have a stated purpose that is intended to help the world be a better place while also being a for profit organization. Regularly talk about the purpose, show how integrity is connected to the organizational purpose and ensure that organizational decisions are aligned with the purpose and ethics and compliance program to make sure that the stated purpose is what is practiced by the organization. Mission statements and stated purposes need to be continuously backed by actions consistent with the stated purpose – otherwise employees, stakeholders, business partners and consumers will see through the written purpose and see the actual purpose. Having a clear purpose aligned with integrity will help the organization make decisions faster – there should be no dwelling on the pros and cons of actions that are not aligned with the purpose.
  6. Don’t Let Ethical Behavior Go Quietly Unnoticed – Did someone in your group do the right thing even when it was difficult? Recognize that person, thank them and use their story to show others that you support what they did. Are there spot bonuses or other incentives that you can use to either privately or publicly tell someone that their behavior was noticed and appreciated? While we need to call people out when they fail to achieve standards, we can also do a lot to build and sustain a culture of integrity, build psychological safety, demonstrate real commitment to organizational purpose and standards, and help employee engagement when we celebrate and incentivize people to do the right thing.

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