The horrible acts allegedly committed by an ex-Penn State football coach here in the USA have taken over the headlines in newspapers and newscasts each day over the last week.
My greatest concerns are for the victims and whether or not the parties that observed or heard about the ex-coach’s acts did everything they could to protect those young boys.
The fallout from the investigation has been heavy. The long-time – and revered – football coach, Joe Paterno, was fired, as was the university’s athletic director, vice president for finance and business, and the president.
My mentor, Ken Blanchard, refers to the “Ethics Check” in his excellent How We Lead blog post about the Penn State scandal. In this post, I want to take a different tack: What are Penn State’s values, and how are students and staff held accountable for those values?
Say What You Mean
Most organizations do not clarify what “good citizens” look, act, and sound like. Unfortunately, most organizations focus primarily on results, not on member citizenship. Yet the organizations we love to love have very distinct cultures with clear values expectations; those include Disney, Virgin, Apple, ASDA, and Harley-Davidson, among others.
Penn State has a set of Principles, where desired attitudes and behaviors are outlined. Their principles include:
- I will respect the dignity of all individuals within the Penn State community.
- I will practice academic integrity.
- I will demonstrate social and personal responsibility.
- I will be responsible for my own academic progress and agree to comply with all University policies.
The definitions are thorough for each of these principles (though I would like to see behavioralized definitions that describe tangible, observable demonstrations of these principles).
I think the principle that outlines “social and personal responsibility” is one that would have guided different behaviors from University leadership regarding the ex-coach’s transgressions – if those leaders had been held accountable for all Principles.
The problem with Penn State’s “Principles” statement is that they let everyone off the hook with these two statements: “At the same time, the University is strongly committed to freedom of expression. Consequently, these Principles do not constitute University policy and are not intended to interfere in any way with an individual’s academic or personal freedoms.” (italics mine)
Mean What You Say
In a blog post earlier this year I described the crystal clear values accountability in place at another USA educational institution: Brigham Young University. BYU states clearly that to participate and graduate, students must demonstrate behavior in alignment with the school Honor Code, both on or off campus.
No ifs, ands, or buts. Align to the BYU Honor Code, or leave the school.
I believe that if Penn State had made alignment to the University’s Principles a requirement, the ex-coach’s behavior would not have been tolerated by any staff who observed or heard about these incidents.
Mean what you say. Be clear about what a good corporate citizen looks, acts, and sounds like. Don’t be bashful – be bold. You’ll enjoy better productivity, increased cooperative interaction, fabulous values demonstration, and . . . you’ll sleep better.
What do you think about “living your company values”? Share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.