BEA Trustee Spotlight Get to Know Patricia Kearns

The Business Ethics Alliance is kicking off a series of bi-monthly articles highlighting a different Alliance Trustee partner and how they weave ethical practices into all aspects of their organization. Our first Trustee Spotlight focuses on Patricia Kearns, President and CEO of QLI, Inc. Patricia is also the Alliance’s Trustee Chair, supporting and leading Trustee engagement.

Q. What does business ethics mean to you?

Business ethics means creating and upholding a culture that prioritizes honesty, transparency, and always doing the right thing.

Q. Who or what influenced the development of the ethical qualities you live by?

I grew up in a small community in western Nebraska and throughout my school years…was involved in pretty much every extracurricular activity that was offered … I was surrounded by terrific coaches who invested in my growth … They taught me how to build trust through open communication, accountability, hard work, prioritizing the team over self, and consistently behaving with a high level of integrity. They instilled a mindset of always do what’s right … with the understanding that positive behavior will have a positive impact on the success of the team.

Q. What are some of your most ethical qualities and why?

I have been fortunate to connect to a mission and purpose that’s so much bigger than me. My time at QLI created a passion for serving others and, from that passion, the motivation to always do my best and do what’s right. Being part of Team QLI reinforces leading with honesty, transparency, compassion for others, and a commitment to excellence … Every decision we make, regardless of challenge or opportunity, requires the highest level of integrity so that we can do our best for our clients and their families.

Q. What do you believe compromises the ethical workplace? 

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An ethical workplace requires all team members to have a high level of accountability to always do what’s right … Lack of accountability at the top, and even lack of clear expectations communicated from the top, will quickly compromise a workplace.
Upholding an ethical workplace also requires psychological safety …. Leaders must create and maintain a culture of safety, so that good team members feel safe speaking up when they encounter anything that feels ethically questionable.

Q. What do you consider when moving through an ethical decision-making process?

1) Regardless of good intentions, it’s tough to make good decisions if you don’t thoroughly understand the issue. Albert Einstein offered wise advice for sound problem solving and decision-making when saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

2) Who should be involved in the decision-making process based on their knowledge, integrity, awareness of biases, and willingness to offer alternative perspectives and have healthy conflict.

3) All possible scenarios and the potential consequences are considered in hopes to avoid unintended consequences.

4) Keeping an open mind to evaluate the impact of a decision made and being prepared to change the course of action is important.


Join Business Ethics Alliance

Q. Why did you join the Business Ethics Alliance? 

Ethical decision making is a priority for me and for all of the leaders at QLI. Joining the Business Ethics Alliance signaled we were serious about ethical business practices. Joining the Alliance also opened the door for learning opportunities and access to resources that would support my growth as a leader and our team in ethical decision making. As Dr. Erin Bass said during EthicSpace, “we all strive to do well by doing good; but doing good isn’t always as easy as a simple math equation.” Engaging with the Business Ethics Alliance has made me a better leader and assured I always have support when the right answers or decisions aren’t immediately obvious.

Q. What are some of your goals as incoming Trustee Chair?

The Business Ethics Alliance will celebrate 15 years of supporting an ethical Omaha business community in 2023. The team has put together a terrific line up of events and a range of educational resources for the upcoming year – all thoughtfully designed to support every trustee organization. I am thrilled to be in a position to support Michael, his team, and the Board of Directors in bringing Omaha metro businesses together to learn, support each other, and celebrate the impact of Alliance.

We will be particularly focused on re-engaging Trustees who stepped away at some point during the pandemic and haven’t yet worked Alliance events back into their routine. It’s a great time for these leaders and their teams to re-engage and renew their commitment to an ethical Omaha business community. Regardless of industry or company size, there’s value to be found in showing up and joining the conversation. Engaged Trustees will assure a strong foundation from which we can continue to grow and welcome new leaders and businesses to our alliance.

We have an incredible trustee base and I’m looking forward to a year of learning and meaningful dialogue around business.

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