ETHICS IS NOT a word used very often behind the walls of companies and organizations. Many companies have a set of values and company policies. However, very few companies educate leaders about ethics and encourage leaders to discuss ethics with their teams.
Ethics are usually an afterthought, taken seriously only after an event that causes a business or team to fall apart. If understood and put into practice by a dedicated leader, ethics have the potential to turn stagnant, declining teams into productive and engaged ones. Ethics enable new teams to continue to grow, sustain, and thrive as the individuals and the business evolve.
Ethics are the foundation for peace and progress. Don’t we all crave both peace and progress at work? Ethics are timeless principles for behavior toward ourselves and others that translate to specific actions.
Ethics are what fuel personal growth and make large-scale collaborative efforts work. The lack of clarity about what ethics are and what ethics really involve in action is the primary barrier for many leaders in practicing ethics at work. Here is how an understanding and intentional practice of ethics at work make leaders, and therefore businesses, stronger and more successful.
Truthfulness over time opens and repairs communication lines.
Ethics prize the principle of truthfulness. Though it seems straightforward, it often takes courage to truly be truthful with team members and peers. Leaders that practice truthfulness with team members build genuine trust over time. Leaders that practice truthful, transparent communication build a team culture of interpersonal respect and alignment.
A practice for cultivating trust is to have regular one-on-one meetings with team members. In your one-on-one meetings, leave technology and distractions behind. Give your team members dedicated focus, ask if they have questions, and give them positive and constructive feedback. Leaders develop trust through transparent and genuine communication. Teams united in honesty and truthful communications move forward as a cohesive unit.
Opportunities for individual development fuel collective progress.
Leaders that understand and practice ethics at work are also better at motivating and empowering individuals in order to fuel collective progress. Another foundational ethical principle is the concept of non-stealing. In workplaces, non-stealing goes far beyond just stealing of physical possessions. Non-stealing in leadership involves not stealing (but instead giving) opportunities, knowledge, and acknowledgment to team members.
Leaders can practice the ethical practice of non-stealing by giving knowledge, skills, and opportunities to team members enable progress. In one-on-one meetings, share your skills and knowledge with team members. Mentor them as they work through a special project or assignment on their own. When individuals are given opportunities to grow individually, they are more dedicated and skilled contributors. Leaders that practice non-stealing understand that individual peace and progress must happen for each team member in order for the whole to move forward.
Non-attachment enables creative problem solving and the generation of new ideas.
Leaders often find themselves stuck, leading a stagnant team because they are attached to their ways or outdated beliefs. Beliefs about what is right or beliefs about people’s limitations often hold back the team from progressing. Leaders who are not open to new ideas and feedback compromise the collective progress of the team.
Non-attachment is practiced by letting go of your outdated beliefs about people, ways, results, or status. New ideas and suggestions that team members bring to the table are often the answers to proactively solving or avoiding problems. Don’t hold firm beliefs about the way things should be, how far someone should progress, or the exact way results should turn out. Allow space for limitless possibility and evolution to happen. Invite and evaluate new ideas and suggestions with an open mind. This practice enables collective progress.
Positive communication and mindfulness foster focus and protect valuable energy.
Finally, ethical leaders are masters of cultivating the conditions for collaboration. In dynamic, fast-paced business environments, leaders and teams often find themselves rushing and producing work full of errors. People burn out quickly after long days of exhausting meetings. Small disagreements or misalignments turn into political issues. Arguments deter focus and negatively impact productivity and engagement. Ethical leaders know how to practice control of energy in order to cultivate focus and ease for their team.
Control of energy involves communicating with a positive tone. Even when giving constructive feedback, ethical leaders start with a positive affirmation and use a tone of equanimity throughout the conversation. This is a sustainable rather than a short-sighted approach. This control of energy helps to cultivate calm and protect the energy of the team and themselves. Control of energy also involves taking constructive rest breaks often to restore and rejuvenate. A walk outside, away from the screen and often chaotic work environment can do wonders to reset your mind and body. Lead by example and encourage your team members to do the same.
Ethics are the foundation for strong leadership and collaboration.
When understood and put into practice at work, ethics have the potential to fuel productivity and motivation. Ethical leaders cultivate focus, trust, and connection, which are key ingredients for successful leadership. Leaders that practice ethics in action find that the principles reach far beyond company walls and add value to their lives outside of work as well. Ethics are universal and add value to our work and life.
How can you put ethics into practice to strengthen your leadership? Many leaders don’t realize that diverse teams often have very different individual perceptions of what ethics look like in practice. Teams need to learn a collective language for ethics in order for ethics to be accessible instead of vague. Leaders can lead by example by putting ethics into.
You’ve probably felt the battle raging within you. To hold onto your beliefs. To boldly proclaim and do what you feel is right.
The world is crying out around you to do that what they believe to be true. All the while trying to pull you to their side and strip away your integrity.
There’s a battle happening. The battle to maintain our integrity while living in a world that beckons us with the desires of others.
While these posts received quite a bit of positive attention, there were also questions regarding the posts. Partially relating to maintaining your integrity while being told to tweet something one of these great men had said.
Instead of tweeting out quotes from Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr, it was suggested to take the quote, make it your own, and take action. Eventually changing the world because of the action you took.
This blew me away as I never equated asking someone to retweet a quote to losing their integrity. I thought it was a great way to remember these special men and to share some of their great insights.
After this was brought up, I can see how one could possibly begin to lose the fight to maintain integrity. If all we ever do is tweet good words and yet never act on them, what good are we? How are we really improving the world?
Those thoughts brings me to this post and the idea of maintaining our integrity while living a life true to ourselves.
So, what can be done to win the battle that wants us to lose our integrity?
Be true to yourself: First and foremost, be true to yourself. If someone asks you to retweet a quote or a link and you don’t feel it lives up to your standards or goals, don’t do it. Or if someone asks you to do something that goes against what you believe, tell them no and don’t do it.
This brings up memories of my middle school days. In 6th or 7th grade, my friends began to think it was fun to use profane words.
These guys would hang out behind the school whispering and sharing the bad words they’d learned.
One day a couple of these friends approached me and tried to influence me to curse with them. However, even at that age, I knew it would affect my integrity to do so.
When I refused to use the same words they used, they resorted to offering me cold, hard cash to do something against my beliefs. In the end, I knew what was right and what was wrong. I refused to do what was asked.
Don’t cave into the requests of others just because you follow them and they ask. You’ve got to stay true to your direction even if that means going against the request of someone else.
Be honest with others: I’m so glad a couple of readers brought up this issue with the request for tweets. This issue of integrity never crossed my mind when I asked others to retweet the quotes.
Rather, I was hoping it would inspire people. That they would see what great men have done and hope to do the same.
With this honest reply, I was able to see not everyone sees this in the same light. It also helped me realize people react to requests in different ways.
Honesty opens up the eyes of others and allows you to be true to yourself.
Be aware of your choices: Robert Brault once said
“You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest.”
Each choice you make has an effect on your integrity. You either make choices that add to your integrity or choices to surrender and lose the integrity you hold so dear.
Learn to examine the choices laid before you. Decide whether or not they add to your integrity. Make the choices that will make you a person of integrity.
Integrity can be an easy thing to lose. It can also be an easy thing to maintain when we’re aware of the actions we can take to keep it.
I know you want to live a life of integrity. I encourage you to do so.
Remember, be true to yourself, be honest with others, and know the choices you make affect your integrity.
Question: How do you maintain your integrity?
But because someone says truth is relative, does it make it so? No, and you know this.
Look at the grass outside of your office window. What color is it? There’s typically only two answers to this question:
The grass is green.
The grass is brown.
One is a sign of healthy grass. The other is a sign of dead grass. Yet there’s typically only two colors of grass.
Now, if you looked out your window and saw a lawn full of green grass and someone told you the grass was pink, what would you do? You’d probably laugh. I know I would.
You wouldn’t coddle the person and tell them they’re right. After laughing, you’d probably correct them. You’d tell them: Sam, the grass isn’t pink. The grass is green.
The truth is the grass is green. There’s no two ways about it.
You cannot change the fact that the grass in front of you is green. It is what it is. And grass being the color green is the truth.
You can try to twist the truth of the grass’ color as much as you would like. Your twisting of the colors wouldn’t change the truth.
But how often do we try to twist the truth when it comes to our businesses, organizations, or relationships? We try to twist the truth to what suits our desires, needs, or wants.
And still, no twisting of those truths makes our lies in business any less wrong.
There’s a reason truth matters. Truth is a guiding compass for what is right and what is wrong. You can look at the truth and know whether or not what you’re doing is right.
Truth allows you to know true north. It allows you to get to the destination you’re heading. And it helps you accomplish this with integrity.
Be careful of twisting truths to fit your narrative. It’s a dangerous path to go down.
The more you twist the truth, the more you’ll be willing to do the next wrong thing. Then the next. And then another…
But if you stay on the straight and narrow… If you’re willing to stand for truth… If you’re willing to say truth matters…
You’ll have an unshakeable character. You’ll earn the respect of others. And you’ll know you did the right thing.
I hope you’re not living in a state of relative truth. I hope and pray you’re living a life of truth.