Can An Old Dog Learn New Ethics Tricks? (And Are You Working With The Right Dog?)

Well, it happened again. A couple of weeks ago, during a break in a three-hour ethics program, a gentleman told me, “You know, all this is well and good but I think that if you haven’t learned ethics around the dining room table as a kid or from your kindergarten or Sunday school teachers, there’s really not much you can get from ethics training. And, if you have learned it in there, you really don’t need to hear much more about it now.” Two additional things you should know… First, I hear some version of this all the time. Second, and to my horror, this individual turned out to be the ethics and compliance officer at a moderate-size company.

So, how did I respond to this ‘pushback’? The same way I do every time I hear those types of comments:

1. I really do believe that old dogs can learn new tricks. Give them a motivating reason to pay attention as well as then taking action and they’ll do it far more often than not. If they don’t, pay some more attention to how you’re trying to get them to change. My money says that your approach is more likely to need adjusting than theirs. Boring won’t work. Difficult to understand won’t work. Difficult to apply won’t work. Difficult to recall may work briefly but only for that short while until it’s forgotten. Forgetting to conspicuously model, notice, and reinforce appropriate, positive changes also won’t work.

2. I don’t know about you and your organization but my goal in providing ethics, compliance, and accountability programming isn’t for the bad guys (and gals) to have some sudden epiphany and fall to their knees in repentance. If that happens, wonderful! It’s certainly not my goal, though. My goal is always to help folks who want to do the right thing have an easier time doing it. I want them to leave the room with immediately understandable and immediately, easily applicable ideas, tools, and resources to go about doing exactly the great job with ethics, compliance, and accountability they already want to do. If in the course of doing that great job they can now more easily notice and more appropriately confront others who aren’t doing the right thing, then it seems to me that I’ve done my job as it should be done.

So, can an old dog learn new tricks? When it comes to ethics, compliance, and accountability, I certainly think so. Just be sure that you’re working with the right dogs and in the right way. Need help figuring out how to do that – or simply want someone to do it for you? Let me know! I’ll be happy to help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>