Business Navigators is a unique business networking group dedicated to furthering the core values of servant leadership and trusted relationships through educational and charitable activities in the Dallas/Fort Worth community. Their philosophy is “To give is better than to receive.” They focus on “… what we can do as individuals and as an organization to help our peers and our community rather than focusing on how we can personally benefit.”
The group, which started in Dallas in 2001 as CEO Net Weavers wanted to hear about my experience with Citigroup and the fraud and corruption I uncovered and reported on. I talked about accounting control fraud and how attempting to reach numbers at all costs have hurt the Wells Fargos and Volkswagens, and led to the demise of Enron and others.
Business Navigators are CEO’s and C-Suite leaders and directors who practice servant leadership in their own businesses. So they were naturally interested in the lessons I’ve learned along the way on ethics and how important it is to set up open communication, truth and transparency from the very top, and how this sets the tone for an ethical culture.
I warned that we have to insist on ethical behavior and accountability at both the individual and corporate levels and expressed my misgivings with government accountability, noting that I was quoted in a New York Times op-ed as saying “I believe corruption extends to the highest levels of government.”
I gave them my perspective that large banks have a stranglehold on our country and government, noting that Dodd-Frank was passed to curb the abuses by the large banks (since it was widely acknowledged that the large banks were instrumental in causing the crisis) and that legislation and the regulatory enforcement surrounding it have been since greatly curtailed. In fact, the largest banks are now significantly larger and more influential than they were before the financial crisis.
And I mentioned that the primary way leaders can determine the ethical foundation they have in their own companies is to survey employees to see how valued they feel and whether or not they feel encouraged to provide feedback to management regarding issues they see.
I also went over in-depth the Ethics and Compliance Initiative survey, which shows by a degree of ethical culture, the percentage of employees reporting misconduct and the percentage of those who reported misconduct who were satisfied with the results of their reporting. This graphically shows how critical to a company’s wellbeing acknowledging and acting on voiced concerns is.
To not do so, to not encourage people’s voice about issues is the antithesis of what an ethical culture represents. I addressed how doing the right thing is not always rewarded and it was gratifying to have one of the attendees, Kent Barner, Principal with CIO Suite say, “I respect the courage it took to ‘do the right thing.’ As you said, we need more people to do so both personally and professionally.”
History tells us that the collapse of every great civilization begins with the erosion of core values – – the heart of which is ethics. I told them of my concerns, that it appears our country is headed down that same slippery slope.
It was gratifying to get such great feedback from individuals who are part of such a well-respected organization. Thank you’s to folks like Kelly Knust, CFP from GS Global Wealth Management, who said: “You dealt with an extraordinarily tough topic with warmth and humor without pulling any punches.”
Like me, these are leaders who also are determined to leave this country better off than the way we found it. It is groups like Business Navigators who are at the very heart of what an ethical business environment is. They are to be respected for the work they do in our community. We need more of them to change the direction our country is headed.