The first course I ever taught at a local business college was an ethics course developed by one of my hero’s, Professor Ron Knowles, for first year business students in their SME program. (Small, Medium, Enterprises) One of the neat things about the course was that I got to work with these students to help them develop their own personal code of conduct – their own ethical decision-making model that they’d use when confronted with an ethical dilemma. (An ethical dilemma is when you are forced to make a decision where there is no clear right or wrong answer) When you are confronted with making this kind of decision what series of questions do you ask yourself to help you make a decision that you can live with?
“It is better to be defeated on principle, then to win on lies” – Arthur Caldwell
Ethics is best described as a set of moral principles or values that defines what is considered right and wrong behaviour for a person or group. Some people suggest that there is a difference between business and personal ethics. But, to my way of thinking there is just one. You’re either ethical or you’re not. You either believe in being honest – to act with integrity – to be guided by a strong sense of values – or not. How can you behave one way at work and then behave a different way at home and still be true to yourself?
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are”. – Dale Carnegie
What do you hold to be true? What are your enduring principles? What are you not willing to compromise – no matter what the situation? What is and what isn’t for sale – no matter the price? What series of questions will you ask yourself to solve your ethical dilemmas? Just because society as a whole has accepted it as the norm – doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. Ethics is a process. It is a continuous effort of studying our own beliefs and conduct and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help shape, live up to standards that are solidly based.
“Before the issue of integrity can even be raised we need principles of behaviour – moral convictions about what is and is not appropriate – judgements about right and wrong action. If we do not yet hold standards, we are on too low a developmental rung even to be accused of hypocrisy.” – Dr. Nathaniel Branden
If you were to sit down and write your personal code of conduct, what kinds of things would you include on that list? What things do you hold to be true and you aren’t willing to compromise them no matter the situation – no matter the consequences? Something to think about. Always keep in mind that people hear what they see – not what you say. You gotta walk the walk if you are going to do the talk. :-)