3 Steps Leaders Use to Teach Ethics

We have all been there. In that dreaded conference or classroom for the mandatory training on ethics. People drag themselves in at the last moment with a look of boredom before the instructor has even shown the first slide. We all know what is coming, the boring text based slides, the monotone speech, the guy in the back row who, while leaning back in his chair falls asleep and falls over bringing a few minutes of excitement and humor.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Ethics training is important. The only way people in the organization understand its guiding principals is to received both classroom and hands on training. But the training does not have to be like that described in the first paragraph. In fact, there are so many ways to approach ethics training that it is unethical to have bore people during training. Leaders should be prepared to conduct ethics training on three levels. The first demonstrate by training ethically. The next provide ethical training. Finally identify organizational behaviors that require change and train to change that behavior. This post presents a few ideas about how leaders can accomplish each of these goals without having to speak above the din of snoring in the classroom.

The first step, train ethically seems like a no brainer. Well if this statement was true, few of us would know the dread of sitting through one of those classes. Leaders tasked with providing ethics training have an obligation to use time well. Presenting instruction in such a way that students fall asleep and take away nothing to help them do their jobs better just is not ethical. In fact, it may not seem like much learning happens in classed like that buy employees learn their time is not valued and the organization does not value them as people.

If part of the reason organization train ethics is to avoid civil liability, then this kind of training encourages law suits. You can pull out sign in rosters and lesson plans but if students do not take the lessons with them into their workplaces you failed. Leaders should train employees to do the right things the right way for the right reasons. That is the best insurance against torts. Well trained employees help organization avoid liability. Value is added to employees when they understand how to apply guiding principals in their daily work habits and routines.

Good training is valued by employees. When employees know they will receive important lessons taught in an interesting way, they look forward to training. Everyone despises the torture known as Death by PowerPoint. The point of presentation software is to help make critical points powerfully. By showing everything you are going to say on the slide the importance of the points are lost. Be prepared to speak the ideas, not the slides.

Helpful supervisors have greater influence by living organizational values – Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Now you have demonstrated the ethics of the organization by valuing the time of people and keeping the engaged. That is great but content is still important, teaching ethics. Teach organizational standards, orders, policies or other written documentation governing behavior in your organization. Teaching does not mean reading. Have war stories to share related to when things both went well and when they did not. Such stories show why certain rules and expected behaviors were established. If the training requires students read organizational documents, assign them to read the documents before class. Formulate a series of questions that invites the employees to discuss how those rules apply. Good questions lead to the students sharing their own stories for others to evaluate. As students share their examples others can chime in about the nature of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Facilitated classes are great opportunities to share ethical theory with students and show how their biases effect their reflection of organizational standards.

If the point of training is to change behavior then leaders need to include some exercises employees can execute to learn those new behaviors. Repetition is required for this training to be successful, but do not teach the exact same class to the exact same audience time after time. Both you and your students will become bored quickly. The point of this training is to focus student attention to voluntarily comply with the organizational mission, principals, expectations and norms. Use this time to explain what the mission statement means to their section. Talk about how the organizational principals support the mission. Express your vision for the future of the organization. Even if you are teaching the newest, lowest level employee remember that as some point that person may be selected to lead. Share your vantage point with others so they understand the why doing the right things the right way is important to them as well as the organization.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

As you work through the exercises and activities, employees will become aware of how the behavior of good leaders in the organization aligns with it guiding principals. As a leader people are always watching you. When you are doing the right things the right way for the right reasons employees notice. Every time you engage in desired behavior you are teaching others what is acceptable. The boss that uses the sea gull technique of leading will be shunned as they take about guiding principals.

You never heard of a sea gull boss? He or she is the one that is always hovering around above everyone else waiting for someone to make a mistake. When they see the mistake they swoop in, make lots of noise and then fly away pooping on people as they stream skyward.

On the other hand, the boss that is always around but not into everything also notices when employees make mistakes. He or she may watch the employee struggle a bit to see if she can figure out how to fix the mistake. Just before the employee does something harmful, this boss calmly arrives and coaches her through the process.

One of these two bosses will be listened to in ethics class. The other will be ignored. The one that act respectful receives respect. Employees in ethics class taught by that person begin to understand that the positive behaviors are aligned with the organization’s guiding principals and they try to change their behavior accordingly. They have a positive model to follow.

As you develop training for each of these areas, you will soon find you have far more material to cover than the time available. Newer leaders assigned to train will curse and try to squeeze everything into the allotted time. Experienced trainers recognize the opportunity to provide follow up training without repeating previous classes. This provides those leaders opportunities to improve attention and retention in subsequent classes. Focus on the three areas, ethically train, train ethics and change behavior. When you do, your followers will clamor for more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.