What If Harry Potter Ran GE? - a review

What If Harry Potter Ran General Electric? This is the tantalizing suggestion that sets up Tom Morris’ new book that explores the place of ancient wisdom in the lives and practices of business and professional leaders. Tom Morris a long time close friend and colleague whose creativity in presenting the wisdom of ancient philosophers to business and professional people constantly amazes me. His latest book is another example of a unique place in the field of philosophy that Tom Morris has developed since his days teaching philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

I’ve not read any of J.K. Rowling’s books about a boy wizard named Harry. After reading Tom’s book, I believe I should. If Harry Potter Ran General Electric is a bridge between the fantasy world of Rowling’s imagination and the world that business and professional people face every day. Both Rowling and Morris present us pictures of the ethical realities that both the young Harry and the rest of must address in order to be successful without losing our integrity.

Morris’s book is more intentionally focused on leadership than his previous books. Whether you own a small business or staff a cubicle in a global corporation, there is something here for you. This isn’t a formulaic approach to leadership. There is no leadership matrix revealed here, except that leadership is “always fundamentally a relational, interpersonal role”(p.152). Each chapter explores insights from the Harry Potter stories that illuminate the nature of leadership. Having spent two decades engaged with leaders and their development, I find Morris’ perspective is right on the money. That perspective is that great leaders like Harry Potter and the headmaster of Hogwarts School, Albus Dumbledore, display the qualities of “high competence and deep character.” (p.156). It is the deep character side of leadership that If Harry Potter Ran General Electric describes.

Very compelling is Morris’ description of courage in Harry.

“Harry seems to have it all. But the sorting hat finally responds to the full range of everything it senses by sending him to the one residential house founded to support and develop the quality of courage. And that’s very interesting indeed, since the young Harry Potter is a boy who experiences about as much fear and anxiety as it’s possible for someone his age to feel. In fact, Rowling goes out of her way to represent, in as vivid a manner as she can, Harry’s visceral experience of the negative emotions and sensations on fear.” (p.27-28).

He goes on to lay out a five-step process to develop courage.

1. Prepare for the challenge.
2. Surround yourself with support.
3. Engage in positive self-talk.
4. Focus on what’s at stake.
5. Take appropriate action. (p.32).


If Harry Potter Ran General Electric
is a gold mine of insight for ethical living. Morris pairs truth and trust as essential elements of leadership. “Business, like life, demands truth and trust. Without truth, people can’t work effectively. Without trust, people can’t work efficiently.”(p.10).

He has a fascinating chapter on lying in all its many forms. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. It is a very difficult subject, particularly in organizations where there is a low-level of trust for the leadership. There is an interconnectedness between truth, trust, honesty, integrity and the ability for an organization to find success.

"This topic is of foremost importance in our own time, since every ethical problem in the real world of business in the past few years has been created by lies, sustained by lies, and guarded as well as greatly exacerbated by lies. Most of the lies don't even get into the headlines. People lie to themselves about what's going on. They lie to their associates and clients by what they withhold as well as by what they say and how they say it. People spin, dodge, and try to buy time. they deflect attention from where it ought to be and hype what isn't at all what it should be. They show in many ways that they don't fully appreciate the positive power of the truth." (p.98-99).

In the chapter on The Ethics of Wizards, Morris looks at the nature of corruption and unethical people.

"It has often been said that the difference between an ethical and unethical person is very simple: An unethical person loves things and uses people; an ethical person loves people and uses things. The unethical person's philosophy of life can typically be summed up in two beliefs: Power is to be pursued. People are to be manipulated. This second belief is just another way of expressign the old immoral philosophy of life that 'the end justifies the means.' An unethical person is always manipulative, never treating others the way he would himself want to be treated, but in every way using other people for his own personal ends or goals." (p.82-83).

In his chapter entitled Leadership Alchemy, he tells us what we already know, and what we can find in the Harry Potter books. “The real leaders in Harry’s world aren’t necessarily the people with the organizational or institutional status and title.”(p.152). He goes on to describe Harry’s place in the community of Hogwarts School.

“No one has appointed him to an official post as student leader. … when his fellow students realize that they need some serious practical training in the Defense Against the Dark Arts, so that they will be able to protect themselves and those around them if attacked by Voldemort or his evil minions, they ask Harry to teach and lead them. They naturally look to him when he launches into important action to remedy some serious wrong. … People with the right skills often find themselves in a position to assume a leadership role, regardless of whether any official power has appointed them to the task or not. And then, with the right character, they are accepted as such by those they lead.”(154-155.)

The value of Tom Morris’ If Harry Potter Ran General Electric is that is a practical assessable understanding of virtues and practices of ancient wisdom as seen through the lens of a contemporary children’s story. This is a book to share widely.

It would be an excellent book for a discussion group. Perfect to give to daughters and sons who are fresh into their experience of professional life. Share it with friends, colleagues and family. It is not a book to quickly read and be done. It is a read that is rewarded in reflection and conversation.

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Ethics at WalMart

Charles Fishman, author of The WalMart Effect, is blogging at FCNow, FastCompany magazine's blog, about WalMart.

He writes,

"Wal-Mart is currently advertising to fill two new and fascinating jobs at the Bentonville home office: director of global ethics, and senior director of stakeholder engagement

The ethics job got a burst of media attention last week — Wal-Mart's director of global ethics "plays a critical strategic role by promoting ethical behavior globally, facilitating proper decision-making, and ensuring that ethics is embedded into key business processes." The posting makes it clear the job will have its bare-knuckled Wal-Mart moments. The right candidate must be "able and willing to take a difficult or unpopular position if necessary," and the right person will maintain "rationality in tense interpersonal situations."

Sounds like one of those jobs on a par with Cabinet Secretaries jobs in Presidential administrations.  Lot's of confrontation, stress and short shelf life.

Interested?

The second job also sounds problematic.  Here's Fishman's description.

The much more interesting — and all new — job at Wal-Mart is the senior director of stakeholder engagement. This person, the job description says, "will help pioneer a new model of how Wal-Mart works with outside stakeholders resulting in fundamental changes in how the company does business. ... In looking for a new director of stakeholder engagement, Wal-Mart says its senior executives have spent the last year talking to "key global stakeholders to better understand their concerns, the company’s impact on the world and society, and what leadership means for Wal-Mart in the 21st century."

Fishman's thesis - you can read the article that inspired the book, here - is that WalMart operates at a level of size and sophistication that no other company is doing. Therefore its effect is unique in the history of business.  You can read an excerpt of the book here.

WalMart gets a lot of heat becasue of its size and dominance.  It will be interesting to see if two people in two new positions can make a difference.

This is just the first of Fishman's FastCompany blog entries on WalMart.  Here are links to some more.

Is WalMart's Factory Inspectons Program a Fraud?


What would you ask CEO Lee Scott?

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Monetized Integrity?

I haven't blogged on anything from Seth Godin in a long time.  Here's something that is worth noting and pondering.  Read the whole thing.

One reason blogs are such a boon to most of our business and professional life is that they provide a way to extend our reach to people who would never have the opportunity to find out about us.

At the heart of this personalized communication medium is integrity.  Integrity doesn't mean you can't sell something through your blog.  It means that you can't simultaneously be a "Dear Diary, this is what I did today" and sell time shares in Bermuda. 

Trying to combine evangelism of products we love with paid product evangelism confuses people.  It raises trust questions.  It isn't that one or the other shouldn't be done.  They just don't belong in the same place on the same blog.  And I don't think it sufficient to disclose one as unpaid, and the other paid.  They are different.  You can't monetize your integrity.  You can monetize your voice and your opinions. Just make sure that you don't squander your integrity in the process.

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Real Life Leadership: Difficult situations in the workplace are tests of our character

My latest Real Life Leadership column in the Asheville Citizen-Times WNC Business Journal is online.
The column this week is "Difficult situations in the workplace are tests of our character" is about a story that came to me from a person who was faced with the conflict of seeing colleagues let go after a departmental merger. 

Her concern was not precisely that they were let go, but that they were set up to be fired, not merely downsized.  When she did speak on their behalf, her friends/former departmental colleagues were very appreciative of her support.  But she felt very vulnerable...as she should be.

Over the course of many conversations, we talked her options through. 

First, she needed to broaden her perspective about what her potential contributions to an employer could be. When we began our conversation, it was clear that she believe that she had very few options.  She was well-trained, well-credentialed, experienced in her field of work. But she felt that she had very few options for moving to another organization. 

So, broadening her perspective wasn't about whether this company was the right place to work, but rather, what are her strengths. This goes beyond the knowledge and experience she has developed, but also the character.

I see her character expressed in her recognition of the ethical issues surrounding the handling of this departmental merger, her willingness to speak out, and her concern that there was more she should do. 

What is interesting about her story is this.  Here is a person with deep moral convictions.  However, until some unethical situation arises, that moral perspective is really not evident.  If can be identified in how she conducts herself at work doing her responsibilities.  But it is not viewed as ethical.

If would be better for the company to see that this deep moral conviction is a strength and has a value to the company. For out of this moral depth comes a passion for doing the right thing for customers.

 Apart of this focus on her strengths, is seeing her career in perspective.  By this I mean not thinking in terms of the position, but rather the contribution she can make.  There is a wider range of occupations she could have based on her skills and experiences than she may current realizes. 

The way to think about this is to think about the impact you can bring to a company. Impact is not completing a daily check list.  It has a lot to do with the moral and ethical perspective she brings.  By impact, she is being able to say to an potential employer what she can produce, value she can create and benefit they can receive. 

This requires changing her self-perception from being an employee to being in Daniel Pink's terminology, a Free-Agent. This requires confidence, and that confidence comes from other people recognizing your strengths and bringing encouragement to her.  It requires courage to change one's perceptions.  It will in this case, too.

Secondly, she needs to activate and expand her network of friends and colleagues.  The way she'll find the next job (If circumstances eventually require her to make a change.)will be through her relationship network.  I recommended to her that she find social groups of business and professional people, like FastCompany's Company of Friends.  In social networking there is a give and take, of offers and requests, that take place in these groups, where people are social and also connect for business purposes.  This is where the practical application of Mark Granovetter's work on the Strength of Weak Ties comes into play.  What Granovetter demonstrated that more people find jobs through acquaintances than through close friends. This is simply because most of your close friends are going to be within the same circle of relationships.  People with weaker ties to you will have a different circle of relations, and therefore a wider circle of potential sources of information from which to draw.

Finally, this woman needs to understand that her stepping forward in support of her colleagues was courageous and laudatory.
  Many people would be proud to have her as a friend.  And many businesses would be glad to have her as an employee because she will do what is the right thing to move the company's work with clients forward. 

If readers have any additional thoughts, please comment.  I'll make sure she receives them.


Marketing and Community

Bill Wallo weighs in with a long essay in two parts, here and here, on the growing controversy involving Rick Warren and the Purpose Drive Life organization's suppression of the publication of Pyromarketing by Greg Stielstra. 

What is most interesting in his essay is his discussion of the perception of marketing as mind control, manipulation and something inherently unethical, and his application of the ideas of Alex Wipperfurth's from his book, Brand Hijack concerning the role of social groups, or tribes as Wipperfurth describes it.  

Regarding marketing manipulation of people he says,

The “chicken or the egg” issue regarding the interplay between advertising of “ideas” and consumer desires probably cannot be satisfactorily resolved, at least completely one way or another (because it remains true that advertising does play some role in the overall perceptions of consumers, and the point of advertising is generally to do exactly that by pointing out differences or advantages in one product over another). But it does mean that we have to approach the “subliminal manipulation” theory cautiously. It is not to say that manufacturers and marketers don’t know quite a bit about consumers, or that they don’t try to come up with ways to get people to buy their products, because we quite clearly know that they do (on both fronts). It is rather to say that marketing is not coextensive with a form of mind control; it is not the same thing as manipulation.

This though is the perspective that people cynically have toward marketing.  All this reminds me of the movie, Shane, when Alan Ladd explains to Jean Arthur that a gun is just a tool. It is the person using the tool that makes it good or evil.  Same holds true for marketing.  It is a communication tool, ethically or unethically used dependent upon the people doing the marketing.  If you believe in conspiracies, then you'll beleive that people can be manipulated to continually do that which they don't want to do.  I believe human nature is far more complicated than this simplistic view.  And it is more complicated because we are not just individual beings, but social beings.

Wallo quotes Wipperfurth,

Modern marketing has taught us to view consumers as individuals, to seek insights from consumers as individuals, and to communicate with consumers as individuals - as though they existed in isolation. But in reality, consumers are influenced by a complex web of interpersonal interconnections.

And in today’s world, consumers’ decisions are driven more often than not by their memberships in loose social groups that form in a manner similar to the way ancient tribes used to form. However, whereas geography and survival were the common threads that bonded together ancient communities, modern tribes are bound together by common hobbies and value systems.

We are so immersed in our social context that it is impossible to see for what it really is.  I know that the first major step forward in my work with leaders was when I began to take seriously their voluntary membership in a social group.  My guess the failure of most mass marketing is do to also not fully appreciating the importance that group membership, or as Wippefurth refers, "tribes" or "cults", have upon our lives. 

Most social groups, whether families, clubs, businesses, churches, tribes or cults, form around identifiable values and experiences.  Again Wallo on Wipperfurth,

The first thing he points out is that people join cults primarily for social reasons (i.e., the people) and not because of theology; the same is true of brand tribes. Your friend has an iPod; you buy one too. And in Wipperfurth’s path to brand enlightenment, there are four steps:

Stage 1: The curious consumer crosses the “members only” firewall.
Stage 2: The handpicked consumer gets brainwashed.
Stage 3: The dedicated brand tribe member helps create a parallel social universe.
Stage 4: The brand fanatic drinks the Kool Aid.

Then he concludes this section of the essay with,

Ultimately, however, whether we look at these successes as Wipperfurth does (as a hijack by a “brand tribe”) or as Stielstra does (as a flame igniting and being passed on), what we are talking about in terms of “consumers” are just people, doing the things that people do. Understanding human nature isn’t necessarily sinister, even when it is part of a “marketing” program. People who are passionate about something tend to pass it on, and in from a marketing perspective it certainly makes more sense to focus on the passionate ones rather than trying to blanket the airwaves with a message that will undoubtedly fall mostly on deaf ears. The recommendations either man might make aren’t necessarily manipulative of consumers; instead, it is a recognition that this is the type of communication which is most likely to be effectively transmitted to others.

Yes.  Marketing is a communication medium that provides people within a certain social group or community to share their values and experiences. This is what lies behind Word-of-Mouth, Viral and Buzz marketing.  It is what has always worked, because it is the most basic function of human interaction. 

What Rick Warren has done is used the power of social context to distribute his ideas on the Purpose Driven Life.  Wallo, in his essay, points to two excellent postings by Tim Challies, here and here, that add background and analysis.  What Challies offers is perspective on how Stielstra's Pyromarketing approach was applied to the PDL campaign.  It is clear that he takes into consideration both the importance of leaders (pastors) and context (congregations).

All this fits within another aspect of understanding how human beings communicate.

The late Everett Rogers, author of the seminal study, Diffusion of Innovations, from which much theory about Word-of-Mouth ultimately owes its origin, identified different roles within a social context that help to distribute ideas.  His research focused on innovation in society and organizations.  His scheme consisted of Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.  Geoffrey Moore, in his book, Crossing the Chasm, applies the same perspective to the marketing of technology  showing that  marketers need to bridge the divide between Early Adopters and the Early Majority.  In the context of PDL and Pyromarketing, pastors are the early adopters, the tender for the fire, the visionaries who through PDL methodology "cross the chasm" to the early majority members of their congregations. 

Claims to manipulation are really too simplistic.  They ignore the complex social dynamics that happen in every social group.  What PDL does is turn pragmatic Early Majority followers into visionary leaders of their churches.  This is why it works.  And Stielstra's marketing approach is ideal for this social context.

This is why the emotional connection that many brands have with consumers are successful. They touch not individuals, but whole social environments.  This is why this trend toward more "customer-centric" marketing is a good one.  It will meet the real needs, whether perceived or no, of people and their communities.




Humility, Ego and Synchophancy

Peggy Noonan is a great reflector of an unrecognized segment of the American population.

Here latest column - Conceit of Government: Why are our politicians so full of themselves? - crystallizes for me why I have been less interested in reading all the political blogs that I have bookmarked in my RSS reader.

Here's a portion of the column.

What's wrong with them? That's what I'm thinking more and more as I watch the news from Washington.

A few weeks ago it was the senators who announced the judicial compromise. There is nothing wrong with compromise and nothing wrong with announcements, but the senators who spoke referred to themselves with such flights of vanity and conceit--we're so brave, so farsighted, so high-minded--that it was embarrassing. They patted themselves on the back so hard they looked like a bevy of big breasted pigeons in a mass wing-flap. Little grey feathers and bits of corn came through my TV screen, and I had to sweep up when they were done.

And another,

How exactly does it work? How does legitimate self-confidence become wildly inflated self-regard? How does self respect become unblinking conceit? How exactly does one's character become destabilized in Washington?

And finally,

What are they doing? All this hair splitting, this dithering, this cutting and pasting--all this lack of serious and defining principle. All this vanity.

Increasingly, the impression that I get is that public service on a national level is no longer about service.  It is public narcissism propped up by influential synchophants. 

I heard a member of Congress once say that there are two types in Congress.  Those who primarily play to the media and those who spend most of their time crafting legislation out of sight but in touch with their local constituents.

Why is this happening?  I think there are many reasons.  Let me offer a couple.

1.  Partisan politics has trumped governance. For more than a decade, I've felt that the political parties were ethically compromised because they were forced to make a choice between what is best for the nation and what is best for the party.    It is why I am no longer a Democrat and why I am not a Republican.  In saying this it is important to make a clear distinction between the system of politics that elects the government and the system of governing.  Unfortunately, the partisan nature of the former is increasingly making the latter a mess. 

The system is designed to survive weak leadership.  And we are living in a time of small men and women whose own insecure egos require constant stroking by the public.  There are huge issues before the nation, and Congress spends its time focused on the false issue of a filibuster. 

There are two types of leaders that are needed in this regard.  One the kind that understands how to get legislative work passed.  Two, the kind that can stand above the frey and lead by moral authority and personal influence.  This requires men and women of stature, of greatness.  Where are these people today?

2.  Without leadership, the lowest common denominator becomes the default standard.  I've witnessed this in virtually ever arena I've worked.  If there is no leadership or it is weak, then standards fall to that which is simply acceptible to the whole group.  It is the go-along to get-along symdrome.  In a twisted way, this is exactly what is happening in Congress, except that instead of going along, it is the crudest form of partisan politics that has become the default standard.  When genuine leadership challenges the status quo of low standards it creates conflict.  In my estimation, this is why President Bush is so roundly hated by Democrats.  It is visceral, personal and ultimately destructive of the conditons required for governance.  It is a notch or three higher in the extreme than the Republicans hatred of Clinton.  There are two major differences between them.  One is that Republican ire toward President Clinton concerned his private life, not his governing of the nation.  Democrat hatred of President Bush is about his governance as President.  The other major difference is that we are now at war.  And that trumps the first difference.

In the past I would have thought all this political narcisscism was just a part of the landscape of politics.  Now, I believe that it truly weakens our country, making it difficult to see clearly the choices that we need to make in the future, and will require a strong collaborative governance structure that links, national, state and local government together as partners.  At this time, I don't believe the political parties are morally capable of achieving this goal.  What this means is that there is an opportunity brewing for the emergence of a third polical party that will force the other two change not just tactics, but long term strategy.  That I hope will happen.  I see no other course that will force the parties to change.

Thank you Peggy Noonan for articulating a perspective on human character and leadership that need to be heard.


Real Life Leadership: Ethical decision-making is a practical means toward achieving an organization's goals

Recently, a team from Leadership Asheville gave a workshop to students at North Buncombe High School.  My privilege was to introduce ethics to students.   I write about this event in my latest Real Life Leadership column - Ethical decision-making is a practical means toward achieving an organization's goals.

Here is the PowerPoint outline of my presentation.

Welcome to the Adventure of
Traveling the Trail of Life

Traveling the Trail of Life,

We Encounter …

    Opportunities,

    Challenges,

    Conflicts,

    Decisions,

    … the Unknown

Traveling the Trail of Life,

An Ethical Perspective will help us arrive at our destination.

Ethics is How We Find the Trail And Travel it Successfully.

Ethics Is All About Happy, Healthy People In Socially, Healthy Relationships.

To Travel the Trail of the Future, We need Guides.

Aristotle Said:

What motivates everyone of you, every human being, is the quest for happiness

Aristotle: Our Guide for the Trail of Life

Athens, 336BC

 Scientist and Philosopher

 Teacher of Alexander The Great

 Student of Plato

 School: The Lyceum

Aristotle Asks Us: How Can We Know What Makes Us Happy?

3 Views of Happiness

 Pleasure

 Personal Peace

 Participation in Something that Brings Fulfillment

Aristotle Said:

 Every person has a Purpose or Function in Life.

 Happiness comes from Living Well that purpose.

 Excellence in life comes through practice.

 Life is an art that requires practice to master.

Ethics is Practiced in Relationships

   

Family
 

Friends
 

Classroom
 

Teams

Work

 Clubs

 Church

 Community

 

Ethics is Practiced in Decision Making

The Six Tests of Ethical Action

Tom Morris

                                                            The Publicity Test

“Would I want to see this action that I’m about to take described on the front page of the local paper, or in a national magazine?”

“How would I feel about having done this if everyone were to find out all about it, including the people I love and care about the most?”

The Moral Mentor Test

“What would my moral mentor do in this situation?”

The Admired Observer Test

“Would I want my moral mentor to see me doing this?”

“Would I be proud of this action in the presence of a person whose life and character I really admire?”

“What would make my moral mentor proud of me in this situation?”

The Transparency Test

“Could I give a clear explanation for the action I’m contemplating, including an honest and transparent account of all my motives, that would satisfy a fair and dispassionate moral judge?”

The Man/Woman in the Mirror Test

“Will I be able to look at myself in the mirror and respect the person I see there?”

The Golden Rule Test

“Would I like to be on the receiving end of this action and all its potential consequences?”

“Am I treating others the way I’d want to be treated?”

Ethics carries us along the Trail of Life…

 To Find Happiness

 To Fulfill Purpose

 To Have Healthy Social Relationships

 To Know How to Make the Hard Decisions in Life


Bloggers Code of Ethics

Lee Lefever on his Common Craft website notes a blogging code of ethics at the GM Fastlane site.

Blogger Code Of Ethics

  1. We will tell the truth. We will acknowledge and correct any mistakes promptly.
  2. We will not delete comments unless they are spam, off-topic, or defamatory.
  3. We will reply to comments when appropriate as promptly as possible.
  4. We will link to online references and original source materials directly
  5. We will disagree with other opinions respectfully.

These are adapted from Charlene Li's posting on the subject.

This is the kind of code of ethics I think are needed. These are behavioral.  They prescribe specific actions to take in the event of... .  Is this a code that is not preventive?  I don't think so.  I think it is guides the blogger to know what and when to do the right thing.


Board Accountability, Codes of Ethics and Servant Leadership

The March 28 issue of USNews has a story on the growing accountability placed on CEOs and Boards. 

Here's a portion:

In January, a massive shareholder lawsuit arising out of Enron's bankruptcy was settled with an unprecedented twist: Ten former directors were held personally liable for the company's apocalyptic 2001 collapse, requiring them to fork over a total of $13 million out of their own pockets. A similar settlement was announced in a WorldCom shareholder lawsuit, though it was subsequently voided, and a new agreement is expected this week.

Money talks. Corporate governance experts say the prospect that once cushy directorships could now become a liability, in the true sense of the word, is one reason for the recent spate of hasty ousters from the executive suite. "For directors, it certainly focuses the mind," says Harvard Business School Prof. Rakesh Khurana.

The governance of any organization begins with the board.  However, it appears increasingly that Boards need another planning tool to assist them in their role.

They need a pro-active, behavior based Code of Ethics.  They don't need a code of ethics that is boilerplate.  They need one that prescribes certain leadership, management and operational approaches.

Here's a site that gives some helpful information about writing one.

In addition, I think this is an exercise that is best not done by committee, but through a facilitated conversation that extends throughout the whole organization.  Why?

There are only two reasons why a Code of Ethics will work.  It will work because it is puntative, and forces people to follow ethical practices because of the sanctions that would be inforced if those policies were violated. 

Or, a Code will work because the people want it to.  That will only happen if it makes sense to them and it fits with their core values. 

How do you know what those values are?  You ask. You create a conversation about it with the help of a representative group to interpret what they hear.  A statement then can be drafted with the help of a faciliator that provides a clear, complelling statement of the ethical practices that the company wants to promote, encourage and reward. 

Are there examples or approaches that can be helpful in directing organizations toward a more pro-active, behavioral Code of Ethics.

Yes.  For 40 + years, within the management and leadership studies worlds, Robert Greenleaf's Servant Leadership idea has been much discussed.  That leaders should "serve first, and lead second" is an ethical ideal that  has much to do with how leaders conduct themselves as leaders. 
Quoted at the Greenleaf Center site is this:

"It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. ... The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant - first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served."

Does this have a relevance to the roles and responsibilities of Boards.  No question. 

What is the place of servant leadership in the Board room.  It is to recognize that every organization is a human institution.  Therefore insuring that employees, vendors, clients and the public are treated with respect and dignity is part of the answer.

Can the manufacturer of widgets see itself as serving people?
Can a company that mines raw materials see itself as a company is service to the welfare of others?
Can a the CEO of a company whose market share is dropping and whose competition is from cheaper labor over seas see him or herself as a servant to others?

Can a servant leadership informed Code of Ethics build a more profitable company? 

Does it have anything to do with the bottom line apart from being honest and having integrity?

I think so.

There are limits to every technique or system for organizing work.  However, a company operating on servant leadership principles should have a more sustainable client base and less turn over in the staff.  Those are measures that are important for long term profitability.

That said, I think the way to implement a servant leadership program in a company is to begin with the Code of Ethics that provide guidance to the Board and the executive leadership team.  Following that, designing systems of communication, collaboration and decision-making based on these principles will be essential supports to such an effort.