Administrator Magazine: Leadership
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Do the Right Thing

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, says the key
to creating an ethical culture involves engaging everyone.

The status conferred by the title “school administrator” directly affects the level of loyalty and commitment that those around you are willing to offer. Your actions and reactions determine whether your staff is jaded and cynical—or highly dedicated. To ensure the commitment of your staff, shape an ethical culture that is meaningful to everyone. To learn how, follow the steps below.

Administrators must be able to determine right from wrong and good from evil. The key to building an ethical culture is to perceive, avoid, and deal with situations that could create legal liability, undermine public trust, or damage credibility. To do so, create a team of people who have the knowledge and authority to refine a statement of objectives and who represent the broad constituencies of the organization. The panel should be transparent, communicating with all stakeholders on their activities and work.

Personnel should be consistent in their efforts to visibly and persuasively articulate and advocate core ethical values as the only acceptable way of doing business in:
• All communications, including web sites, annual reports, internal reports, and messages from leadership;
• All personnel actions, including recruiting and hiring, promotion, raises and bonuses, discipline, and employee recognition;
• All training programs, including orientation and in-service;
• All discussions and decision-making. Core values are always considered an integral part of the decision-making process.

Administrators must have a commitment to doing what is right, regardless of temptations and pressures to do otherwise. Here are practices that promote core values and support employees who want to do the right thing.
• Regular attitude and behavior surveys: Discuss results in a way that affirms core values and assures that decision-making and conduct are consistent with stated values.
• Credible accountability expectations and anti-retaliation policies:Performance reviews and personnel decisions overtly discourage intimidation, retaliation, and “kill the messenger” management styles.
• Safe dissent channel for reporting misconduct.

Recruiting, Screening, Weeding, Training
When high baseline standards in the context of affirmative action and diversity issues are established, vacancies and opportunities will attract a high caliber of applicants. During the recruitment and hiring process:• Identify candidates with strong character and high performance records through background checks.
• Weed out poor and mediocre performers and people with poor or weak character during the probationary period.
• Hire for character, train for skills.

From Success to Significance
A strong ethical culture is one that generates reliable and sufficient information. Much of the success of any ethical framework comes from the core values already established within the organization. Any successful ethical framework will give those values greater weight than they have been given in the past. A successful ethical culture will communicate to all involved the key values and the inherent goodness of ethical decisions. Those who can be affected by decisions have a stake in those decisions and a moral claim on the decision maker to make the decision wisely and ethically.

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