On Thursday I taught a class on Ethics to a group of leader’s in the Leadership Holmes County class in Millersburg OH. I have taught this class for several years now and I still enjoy the interaction I get. This group had around 23 people. This yearly program has helped to raise the awareness of the importance of leadership development. It is encouraging to see leader’s taking the time from their busy schedules to work on themselves. There are similar programs in Tuscarawas and Wayne counties as well.
Ok, so here is what I talked about for two hours. I know you can hardly wait to read about ethics. It can be a dry topic, but I believe it is a vital part of our work and private lives.
The big “ethical” scandal right now is in Major League Baseball with steriods and HGH. A few years back it was Enron, Tyco & Arthur Anderson. I started by asking the group to do an exercise. I asked them to write down what they would want people to say about them at their funeral. Not what would they say, but what you want them to say. Those usually are not the same, but while you are still alive you can change that. This will help you to focus in on the important things in life like relationships and your character. This happened to Alfred Nobel. One morning he woke up and read his obituary in the paper. His brother had died, but they wrote his obituary. It focused on his invention of dynamite and how many people it has killed and places it has destroyed. Alfred was stunned and did not want to be remembered that way. So he spent the rest of his life promoting peace and eventually had the Nobel peace prize named after him.
I believe that ethics comes down to personal choices and the character of each person. Character really matters! Here are some talking points on character:
Character is more than talk
Talent is a gift; Character is a choice
Character brings lasting success with people
Character doesn’t always get rewarded in our lifetimes
People cannot rise above the limitations of their character
I went on from there and talked about Five Factors that Keep us from Always being ethical. You see, most of us can say that we are mostly ethical, but not always ethical.
The first factor is pressure. Things like deadlines, peer pressure, big opportunites, bad results and financial problems all cause pressure. That pressure can cause us to cut corners and make bad choices.
The second factor is pleasure. The “if it feels good do it” mentality has cause huge debts, bankruptcy, divorce and all kinds of addictions. To fight this factor you need to avoid temptation, pratice discipline, delay gratification and see the end results.
The third factor is power. Power itself is neutral, like money. It is the love of power or money that gets us in trouble.
The fourth factor that keeps us from always being ethical is pride. Ken Blanchard said that pride is the greatest addiction in the world. To fight against pride you need to work on being humble. A good definition of humilty is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking about yourself less.
The fifth factor is priorities. Our priorities can get messed up quickly if we don’t know what our values and vision are. As a business or individual we can get stretched in so many directions that we end up not being good at anything. The Hedge Hog concept from the book “Good to Great” asks: What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? Answer those questions and you narrow your focus.
I then went on to give five ethical anchors that can help us make ethical decisions.
1. Ethical behavior is seldom a last-minute decision
2. Leading by example is a crucial component for integrating ethical behavior into a corporate culture.
3. The people within an organization must believe in its core values or those values will be worth very little.
4. Personal ethics are formed by our inner-space view of the world around us.
5. Friendships are a key part of shaping and maintaining your convictions
Well, those are the highlights. I also shared a bunch of stories that illustrate these points. I am sure you can think of some as well. I would love to hear about ethical choices you have had to make or lessons you have learned along the way.