Leaders in Ethics: A glimpse into the Business Ethics Alliance board

Members of the governing board of the Business Ethics Alliance are powering the programs, events, and opportunities that support core values to lift our communities — accountability, integrity, moral courage, financial vitality and community responsibility.

Mark Pohl is both the chair of the Alliance’s governing board and programs and planning manager of OPPD’s utility operations.

“My earliest involvement with the Alliance was over 10 years ago when I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at the Omaha Chamber’s Young Professional Summit,” Pohl explained.

Facilitated by founding Executive Director, Bev Kracher, Pohl recalled how the panel also included Borsheims, Phenomblue and Union Pacific execs who shared personal experiences, the positive impacts of celebrating moral courage, and the repercussions and cascading effect when moral courage is lacking.

“I felt inspired by the courage that was demonstrated by the panelists who stayed true to their moral compass, even when it came at personal cost,” he stated.

Pohl serves as chief of staff for OPPD’s largest business division, leads strategic development and supports its leadership team.

When asked further about motivations for joining the board, Pohl said the Alliance plays an important role in the community by tackling tough, relevant topics and providing spaces for multiple perspectives.

- Advertisement -

“As a frequent attendee at Alliance events, I would always walk away from those programs with a tool, approach or question to consider,” he said.

During Leadership Omaha Class 40, Pohl reflected on where to invest time, talent and treasure.

“It was clear to me that I wanted to support an organization that was helping drive growth in our community on such an important topic,” he added. “The armchair quarterback in all of us can identify the business decision gone wrong. It’s much more difficult to be the person tasked with making the decision in the moment.”

Pohl noted Alliance leadership presents a way to channel his passion for making a difference in the community by equipping leaders at all levels to make the best decisions.

“I’m most proud of the way we have navigated change as an organization, and the lessons we have learned along the way,” he said. “Celebrating 15 years as an organization is a major milestone accomplishment and something that deserves celebration … We can’t predict what ethical dilemmas businesses will face over the next 15 years, but the Alliance will be there to provide support and guidance to companies as they navigate those challenges.”

A Morally-Courageous Village

When Board Vice Chair Madeline Moyer attended an Alliance event over 10 years ago, she was hooked. Today, Moyer is SVP, diversity and inclusion officer/market manager with Security National Bank. Her notable community achievements include serving on the committee that selected Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

Moyer recalled her early Alliance impressions, noting how she always left with great information.

“The content shared how we could all be ethical leaders and make Omaha a more ethical place to live and work — met so many amazing leaders in our community,” she said.

In fact, Moyer said joining the board was an “easy commitment for me to make.”

“I believe strongly in following your moral compass, we all have a set of principles and values. The Business Ethics Alliance operates on these guidelines,” she said. “To be a part of helping to push this message out was an easy ‘yes’ for me.”

Moyer was also part of the committee that selected the Alliance’s two executive directors.

“This is a critical position,” she stated. “The responsibility to bring in the ‘right’ individual that will continue to build on the foundation set by our founders was an assignment that I did not take lightly.”

Board Trustee Committee Chair Patricia Kearns and her organization QLI have prioritized involvement with the Alliance since the beginning, with the QLI COO and CFO serving as trustees, too.

“Not long into my tenure as CEO for QLI, Bev [Kracher] encouraged me to also become a trustee, because she felt strongly that ethics start at the top of every organization and every CEO should be engaged with the Alliance in some capacity,” Kearns said. “Bev was also intentional about recruiting more female leaders to the organization.”

Kearns welcomed a group of like-minded individuals, serious about ethical business practices, who further supported her growth as a leader and QLI’s ethical decision-making.

“The Business Ethics Alliance has been a tremendous resource for QLI and has made me a better leader,” Kearns added.

Omaha native Joe Woster’s first brush with the Alliance was a “speed ethics” event in 2016.

“Young professionals went around a room of business leaders and quickly discussed approaches to various dilemmas,” he explained. “I was hooked from day one and have volunteered for the Alliance ever since.”

Woster balances board membership and chairing its long-term strategy committee with involvement in the Omaha Community Foundation, Joslyn Art Museum, UNO and his day job managing strategy and innovation at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.

“A strong and supportive partnership between a staff and board is so important for advancing an organization’s mission,” Woster said. “I believe in what the Alliance does and want us to succeed. So, the opportunity to co-create our future was exciting to me.”

Thus far, Woster is most proud of helping to “steer an event-based organization through the thick of the pandemic.”

He noted this was no easy task amid a leadership transition.

“I’m proud of everyone who stepped up and grateful to all the organizations who supported us through a challenging time,” Woster added.

A Call to Action

Pohl emphasized that organizations of all sizes can benefit from an intentional focus on positive, practical business ethics.

“Making ethical decisions takes exercising your moral muscle,” he said. “The more preparation you put in, the better the outcome when you make a tough decision.”

Ethical decisions in business are not always easy or clear-cut, Pohl stressed, and committing to ethics as individuals, companies and a community creates an environment whereby all can learn and grow together.

Moyer also pointed back to its mission statement: “We build leaders, we strengthen, and elevate the Greater Omaha community.”

“Who wouldn’t want to be a part of an organization that does that?” she said. Kearns emphasized how the Alliance has become a unique and valuable resource.

“It is now in our hands to continue the prioritization on ethics in our business community and assure the Alliance remains a healthy resource,” she said.

Referring to the upcoming EthicSpace conference, Kearns noted how easy it is to engage.

“I have absolutely no doubt that every leader, regardless of industry and company size, will benefit from being part of the Business Ethics Alliance,” she said.

Woster encouraged to not be shy about participating in upcoming events.

“Ethical organizations win in the long run, and this creates prosperity for their people and communities,” he said. “Supporting the Business Ethics Alliance fosters an environment where leaders can discuss positive, practical approaches to tough situations and spread this culture to others.”