The role of the board in building an ethical organisation
Research shows you can have an organisation where ethics training has been implemented, where individuals are of reasonably sound moral character, and where there is a detailed code of conduct, yet there is still unethical behaviour. The challenge is: what can we do to create a more robust and resilient ethical culture?
This is very much a live issue for board members, who are being called upon increasingly to govern organisational culture – essentially people and their behaviours. Given that most people are decent, they therefore need to convince themselves their action are acceptable. Research shows how a decent person may accept their own or their colleagues’ unethical behaviour through a process of moral neutralisation, enabling them to square the wrong action with their moral framework. “Everyone does it.” “It’s just a small thing.” “No one will know.” “I need to provide for my family.”
Dr Margaret Byrne at UGM Consulting, says it is the organisational climate and the norms of communication that typically determine whether someone will remain loyal to their ethical belief system or convince themselves that it’s acceptable to do the wrong thing. For these reasons, it is vital to build a communication climate where it is accepted and indeed normal to challenge, confront, question and disagree.
Elizabeth Proust, Chair of the AICD, recently identified creating a culture of disclosure as an important part of creating an environment where mistakes are acknowledged – not swept under the rug – and where wrongdoing is detected and addressed, or ideally prevented.
If you serve on a board, what are you doing to assess and address the organisation’s potential for ethics failure? This Director’s Circle will look at these issues in a short presentation from Margaret Byrne addressing:
- the challenges facing organisations and why most approaches have so often failed to deliver;
- he serious risks this poses for directors who will be held very publicly to account if there is an ethics failure.
- plus some more productive ways of tackling the issues
Her presentation will be followed by table discussions and a hypothetical case study. A light supper and drinks will be provided.
Presenter: Dr Margaret Byrne
Margaret has a BA and MA from Oxford, and postgraduate qualifications in adult learning from Bristol University. In 2005, she completed her PhD, exploring how leadership potential is identified in meetings in ways that can disadvantage women’s career progression. She holds three awards for innovation in the design of executive development and change management programs. Margaret is known for the way she balances intellectual rigour with a passion for practical outcomes that make a measurable difference to leaders and their organisations. She has worked and consulted in China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, UK, USA, New Zealand, France and Italy, as well as in four Pacific nations. She is a qualified and highly experienced executive coach. As well as consulting, Margaret conducts research and has published widely in print, film and online formats. Margaret has held senior executive roles in two international organisations. In 2007, she was ACT winner of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards in the Corporate Sector Category and a National Finalist. She has had a career-long commitment to developing women leaders.
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