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Overcoming obstacles

Andrew Leigh, author of Ethical Leadership talks about overcoming obstacles to acting ethically.
In this industry and in a lot of industries there is a fear, a fear culture definitely So what would an individual do, if they felt that their ethics were being compromised on a daily basis I think it’s a common problem not just in the construction industry. There’s no question that there are blocks and there’s a whole aspect of this industry of ethics around speaking up. How to help people speak up and will they speak up and what stops them speaking up and how do you generate a culture in which everyone’s prepared to speak up. But one of them is that you trust the employer But there’s a very low level of trust.
Not necessarily in any particular one company but the low levels of trust exist. So if you don’t trust where you are to treat you well if you speak up, you’re not going to speak up are you? And so companies have got to find ways of helping people to speak up and they do that with things like helplines you know where you’ve got a helpline you can ring anonymously and say ‘something’s going on in my company that I don’t like’ but the evidence from that is that the amount of useage of helplines is pretty low compared to what’s really going on.
So what gets in the way is something to do with trust something to do with ‘how do I deliver bad news to my boss?’ and say this is going wrong. I love the idea that in some of the Japanese companies which they’ve exported now the idea that you can pull a cord and stop the production line. I mean the cost of stopping the production line for a car company is enormous but they did teach their people to say ‘if you see something going wrong, with our manufacture of cars that you think is really wrong, stop the production line, you have the power to do it’.
And they gave them real lessons in not just which lever to pull but to actually when you could do and when you couldn’t and what you needed to look for to train you in understanding you would only do that in certain exceptional circumstances but you could do it. And so every industry’s got that capability of someone pulling the lever and saying, ‘stop!’ We’ve all got our own standards. Our problem within companies is ‘how do you reconcile our standards with what the company wants to do’. Vice verse, the company has to be concerned with ‘what are the values of its employees and do they match?’
Yeah and also I suppose the added challenge that we have in this industry is that you’ve got an individual and then you’ve got an individual in an organisation but then that person will be the face of the company part of a project team building a building so they’re So then you’ve got potentially a large number of people from different organisations with a client, brought together and you could potentially, all of those stakeholders have different conflicting values and ethics. Yes How do you break that down? I think it’s a good question, move away from How do you break that down? I think it’s a good question, move away from construction of buildings.
You look in South Korea when they were building these enormously big ships. Their standards of quality may be very different to somebody else’s. So you’ve got to have a very good management setting the tone at the top saying ‘What do you mean by quality?’ What quality looks like and you saw examples of people going back on board the ship and saying ‘That doesn’t look good to me. You’ve got to sort it out.’ So the quality standards were being followed not just because it was a they were just focussing on quality it was the right thing to do and that’s what ethics is about, it’s the right thing to do.
There’s nothing midget, magical about ethics I love this thing about ‘ethics is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking’ and that really is what happens in organisations and people just have to talk about it. They have to examine it. They have to discuss it. They have to play it out in real life. Yeah So what I’m picking up on is it’s about setting the tone, so it’s about setting the tone, it’s understanding your own values your own moral compass and then it’s about setting the tone within an organisation but also then setting the tone within a project team.
Yes but really I think what I’m picking up from this conversation you have to start the conversation Yes You have to have those conversations so I definitely think that’s the most important thing to take forward That’s true, being willing to talk about it is I definitely think that’s the most important thing to take forward That’s true, being willing to talk about it is the first step. Yeah definitely.
Yes to build an ethical business Yes absolutely and the fact that it makes commercial sense as well as This is the amazing thing is actually if you ask a businessman ‘What’s the best thing you could do to make your business more profitable he’ll tell you about cutting costs, he’ll tell you about all sorts of things. If you said, ‘being ethical’ he’d probably look at you a bit strangely Yet actually the evidence is the ethical companies are more profitable so why don’t you start with that? Yes Exactly, well I think that’s a great place to end this conversation and thank you so much for your insights, pleasure and thanks for talking to us today. Good talking to you thank you.

In this video Andrew Leigh talks about overcoming obstacles to ethical behaviour and developing an ethical culture.

Comment below with your thoughts on this interview? Do you agree or do any of the ideas stand out to you?

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Construction Ethics and Compliance

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