Management Articles


 

Corporate Ethics, Intentionality & Emotional Intelligence

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE ezine.

My granddaughter is 5. Last time she smacked her little brother and I had words with her, she said, “I didn’t mean to hit him.” A preposterous statement since I’d seen her walk over, pick up a book and whack him with it. But then she’s only 5.

It continued, as I comforted both the offended and the offender.

“You hurt him,” I said. “Look, Jamie’s crying.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” she said.

Intentionality is a high-level emotional intelligence competency. It means saying what you mean and meaning what you say, staying focused and avoiding distractions until you accomplish your goal, and, the hardest part, being accountable for your motives.

When you’re 5 and do something wrong, and deny your motives, it’s to be expected. Heck, they’ll even deny they did it. “What cookie?” they say, with chocolate all over their face. But what about when you’re an adult?

First let’s take a look at my role in this scenario. Stop for a minute and answer this question: What was my job?

Here’s what I think my job is:
  • To establish policies that insure the safety and nurturing of the members of the household as a matter of ethics
  • To make it known what’s the right thing to do
  • To articulate them to the children
  • To actively model them for the children
  • To enforce these policies, rewarding compliance, and correcting non-compliance
  • And to intend to notice whether they're being obeyed or not
The definition of “ethics” being: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles and values. We could even substitute “moral duty and obligation” for “job.” After all, if you have no leader, no ethics, and no moral duty and obligation, you have “Lord of the Flies.”

Or corporate America?

In an article called “What Leaders Need to Do to Restore Investor Confidence,” Harvard Business School professor Thomas R. Piper is interviewed. (hbswk.hbs.edu/pubitem.jhtml?id=3126&sid=0&pid=0&t=leadership) The article is subtitled, “Where corporate ethics are concerned, the buck stops with the CEO.”

Q: While we're on the subject of responsibility, do you buy it when a CEO says, "I didn't know," about questionable practices?

A: I think the strategy of deniability is a very dangerous one to allow to stand. A CEO should understand what's going on in the organization. A company's financial systems are so powerful in communicating what that company stands for—they're not just neutral mechanisms. They tie into compensation and performance evaluation systems, so for a CEO to say, "I didn't know," I think is quite unacceptable. I think either the person intentionally didn't know or, alternatively, wasn't doing the job.

The tie-in is that the CEO’s job description is to know what’s going on and to care about it. Piper then goes on to stress that whatever policies are in place, if they’re just given ‘lip service,’ and behaviors of leaders indicate this, the purpose is defeated. You must “talk the talk AND walk the walk.” Ethics are taught daily, he says, “through the actions and the silence of leadership.”

Can you teach ethics? I would propose that you can’t not teach them. As the saying goes, “you’re being watched.”

Now let’s go back to the Brother-Smacking Incident that occurred under my watch as CEO of the household. I was tired when my granddaughter hit her brother, and busy cooking. I was tempted to ignore the whole thing and pretend we both didn’t know I’d seen her do it. This would’ve taught her that I didn’t care what she did and I didn’t back up my no-hitting policy. She could hit him when I was tired, or cooking, or not in the room. It was worth a shot at any time. She’d figure it out; kids always do. I would’ve given her tacit permission to disregard the rules.

It’s also my job to care enough, continually, to know what’s going on, wouldn’t you agree?

The interview ends with Piper saying, “The issue is not whether or not ethics can be taught, it’s whether the ethics we’re teaching through our actions reflect the ethics that we intend to teach.”

As Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

It’s your shop. How do you intend for it to be?
  • Get clear on your motives.
  • Align your behavior with your intentions.
  • Don’t let your emotions “hijack” you.
  • Don’t let other things distract you.
  • If you say it, mean it, and back it up.
  • Care about HOW people accomplish what you ask them to do.
It’s a high calling, leadership. With privilege comes responsibility. This is Intentionality.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

Place "+" (without the quotes) in front of words that must appear; "-" to exclude articles with certain words; and put double quotes around phrases. For example, fantastic search will find all case studies with either the word "fantastic" or "search" (or both). On the other hand, +fantastic +search will find only case studies with the words "fantastic" and "search". "fantastic search" will find only case studies that with the phrase "fantastic search". Note: Searches will not find words, such as 'management', that appear in more than half of the articles or words less than five letters long.

 


Would you like us to consider your own articles for publication? Please review our submission and editorial guidelines by clicking here.