Lynn Brewer, founder of the Integrity Institute and a former Enron Corp. executive, told attendees at the American College of Healthcare Executives' Leon I. Gintzig Memorial Lecture and Luncheon, that most of what happens in the business world these days can be traced to corporate leadership's “desire to keep their job.”
Former Enron exec urges watchfulness
As a result, she said, “Post-Enron, reform—in its own way—needs reforming.”
As the economy tanks, “someone has to keep the lights on,” Brewer said, so “there is a risk tolerance that's not what it used to be.”
Brewer warned the healthcare executives to be watchful as scandal can even happen by accident. As an example, she said it wouldn't be out of the question for their organizations to end up with some of the drugs stolen from Eli Lilly and Co. by being innocently purchased by someone seeking a good price.
Also, she warned how healthcare reform will make health executives' jobs interesting.
“It will be a high-wire act for most of your career,” Brewer said.
Brewer stated that a basic premise for life on earth was that, “Everyone does everything out of their own interest,” so leaders need to learn what it is about their organizations that drives their self-interest. For the healthcare executives in the room, she said their motivation is being passionate about making people well. At Enron, compensating people with large sums of money to either participate in questionable behavior or look the other way, Brewer said, could be seen either as “incentivizing” or “buying our conscious.”
“Within your organization, and the world at large, not a lot has changed since Enron,” Brewer said, adding that the best way to keep an organization on solid ethical ground is to listen.
If you don't hear anything, Brewer said, it's not always because there is nothing bad to be heard. It could be that people who see unethical behavior fear retaliation if they report it or they believe nothing will be done about it when they do.
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