Your values, code of ethics and the internalization of the same are the basis for your development of conscience. Ethics have to come from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Aristotle states, “Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.” According to Aristotle, we can grow and expand in our virtuous behavior through habit. Start building ethical habits by using these eight reflection points each day:
1. Find every opportunity to practice the virtues of integrity, trustworthiness, honesty and compassion.
2. Ask yourself, how is your organization better today because you are in it? In what ways?
3. Weigh potential actions in order to cause more good than harm. (Consider the short-term vs. long-term consequences of your actions.)
4. Ask yourself, how are you a better person because you are part of this organization?
5. Remember to treat each person with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.
6. Be aware of whom you benefit, whom you burden and how that decision is made.
7. Find and identify strengths of the organization that can help you become more human.
8. Practice getting beyond your own interests to make the organization stronger.
Internalize these ethics and values, making them a natural part of your decision-making process. Ethics are what you do even when nobody is looking. When you internalize your code of ethics—when principles like honesty, decency and looking out for the other team member form the basis of your daily decisions and actions—then you can make the tough choices with more confidence.
I’m not going to kid you: Even when you have a clear code of ethics to guide you, the tough choices aren’t any less difficult; they’re just clearer. Often the “right” course is simply the one that will cause less damage in the long term.
For example, the ethical choice may mean you refuse to support your boss in fudging figures on a report. In the short term this might cause a rift between you and your boss, perhaps even make you both look bad to company management. But in the long term your credibility, as well as your boss’s integrity, will be less damaged by telling the truth than by lying and possibly getting caught.
Once we have internalized our personal code of conduct, then comes the hard part: We must choose to abide by those ethics and values in each situation that arises. Remember, ethics are honesty not just in principle, but in action.
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Frank Bucaro is an ethics expert, who is a leading crusader-- speaking, training and writing-- on the benefits of ethics. He is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and has been inducted into the Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame. Coming from a background in teaching, with a Master’s degree in Religious Studies, Frank’s career in business spans two decades with the message: not only is good ethics good business, it is also good for business. As an author of numerous articles on ethics and author of the book Trust Me! Insights into Ethical Leadership, Frank has developed unique and humorous insights into the challenges of taking the high road. He provides practical ideas to help with difficult decisions as well as strategies for combating the sometimes blurred lines between right and wrong. A member of the National Speakers Association, he has earned the designation of CSP which stands for Certified Speaking Professional. This award has been earned by less than 20% of the 3800 members of NSA. He was also presented with NSA’s prestigious CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame Award for excellence and professionalism, an award currently held by fewer than 200 people worldwide. He is President of Frank C. Bucaro & Associates, Inc. located in Bartlett, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. A few of the organizations that have invited Frank to speak include BP, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Caterpillar, ENMAX Energy, Fiserv Insurance Solutions, Global Compliance, the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario, Merck, Talecris Biotherapeutics and RE/MAX International. You can reach Frank at 1-800-784-4476 or through his website www.frankbucaro.com. Follow Frank on his blog, Ethics Shmethics, and on Twitter at @FrankCBucaro. Frank is a monthly columnist for CCI. For a complete list of his articles, follow this link.