By Randall Slikkers
Unethical behaviors generally manifest themselves in three distinct ways. Individual, small group and cultural. Just as each of these situations are distinct, they all require a unique approach to combat. Let’s take a brief look at each.
In the case of the individual, most do not have a history or demonstrate behaviors that would identify them as being unethical. Often, they have a history of helping others and demonstrating sound management. It’s often a life situation (gambling, marital affairs, wanting a lifestyle above their means) that leads them down the wrong path. We usually see this manifested in embezzlement.
The small group is usually based on power and opportunity. They have power (all work in the same department, or are the key leaders in the organization) and they can “work the system” towards their gain. This tends to lead to types of behavior such as insider trading or inequitable salaries and perks.
One of the most problematic ethic quandaries is those that are engrained deeply into the culture of the entire organization. Take, Wells Fargo, as a prime example, where more than FIVE-THOUSAND employees and the CEO were fired for unethical behavior! Their unethical culture was unprecedented.
Over the last year, I’ve stressed the need to develop an entire “ethics infrastructure” to combat against unethical behavior and situations. I’d now like to talk about a technique that it a bit simpler. I’ll start with a question. Who’s got your six?
According to www.gotyour6.org, in the military “got your six” means, “I’ve got your back.” The saying originated with World War I fighter pilots referencing the rear of an airplane as the six o’clock position. On a battlefield, your “six” is the most vulnerable. So, when someone tells you that they’ve “got your six,” it means they’re watching your back. In turn, that person expects you to have their back as well.
I believe anyone with leadership responsibilities at any level of your tribal enterprise has got to find out who has their six. I don’t mean by slapping high-fives and fist-bumps in the breakroom. I mean a formalized, ongoing system. Here are some basic steps to take in developing your “got your six” partnership.
Identify the person who will have your six, and who will return the favor. Choose someone you already have a strong relationship with. However, it is critical you choose someone who has the capacity to “tell it like it is.” Most often, this will be a peer.
You must plan on formal meetings. I don’t mean sitting down in the board room with an agenda and time clock. In fact, I encourage the meetings to be off-site. I’ve found a monthly breakfast or lunch to work the best. By formal, I mean they are planned and meaningful.
You must constantly challenge the norm. Simply looking across the table at each other and asking, “Is everything alright?” won’t work. You must probe uncomfortable subjects, look under every rock. Ask how you could have handled situations better. If your meetings don’t make you feel uncomfortable at times, they’re probably not as effective as they need to be.
And finally, you must evaluate these meetings. Every six-months or so, take a long, hard look at how the information discussed at your “got your six” meetings are meeting applied. In the case where any unethical activity occurred, you will need to dig deep to find out if your meetings helped. Or were you blindsided? Constantly push yourselves to do better.
If everyone in your tribal organization would use this simple method, you’re providing one more barrier in the defense of unethical behavior, which can adversely affect your long-term goals to benefit your tribe. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? So, I ask you again, “Who’s got your six?” ♦