Archive for Ethics 101
Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel stated, “He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions—such a man is a mere article of the world’s furniture—a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being—an echo, not a voice.” No one wants to be an echo, to live a shadow of a life. Yet that is often the fate of people without convictions. If you desire for your life to have meaning, then you must choose some principle to live by.
I’d like to make a case for the Golden Rule. I believe that asking the question “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” is an effective integrity guideline for any situation.
The Golden Rule works in the boardroom, on the ball field, in the classroom, and in the living room. It works with employees, employers, family, and peers. It works whether you’re managing a paper route or a Fortune 500 company. As Henry Ford observed, “We have always found that if our principles were right, the area over which they were applied did not matter. Size is only a matter of the multiplication table.”
If you believe the Golden Rule is right and it works, then you need to adopt it as the integrity guideline for your life. Every day, whenever the issue of ethical behavior confronts you, ask this question: “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” Then take the advice of nineteenth-century novelist George Eliot, who said, “Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right, decide on what you think is right and stick to it.”
From Ethics 101
A few years ago, I published a book called Ethics 101. In it, I proposed that ethics was not a changeable thing, based on your situation or personality or industry. Instead, I explained that I believe that ALL ethics boils down to one thing: The Golden Rule.
Essentially, asking the question, “How would I like to be treated?” is an integrity guideline for ANY situation.
Think about it: How DO we like to be treated?
1. We want to be valued.
Did you know that in the American marketplace today, 70% of those who leave their jobs do so because they do not feel valued? Don’t you want others to accept you for who you are and show you through their actions that you matter?
Valuing others, not for what they can do but simply because they are human beings, is the foundation of ethics.
2. We want to be appreciated.
Closely related to the need to be valued and loved is the desire to be appreciated for what we can do. Don’t you want to excel and achieve? Knowing that what you do matters builds your self-confidence and self-worth.
How do we express appreciation? Begin by thanking people at every opportunity. Give credit to others. And make a point of praising people in the presence of those close to them, like family members. Broadway producer Billy Rose shrewdly observed, “It’s hard for a fellow to keep a chip on his shoulder if you allow him to take a bow.”
3. We want to be trusted.
George MacDonald said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” Think about it: Good marriages, business relationships, and friendships all require trust. Without it, you don’t have open and honest communication, and the relationship can be only temporary.
It takes a leap of faith to put your trust in another person, especially someone you don’t know well. But as Henry L. Stinson said, “The only way you can make a man trustworthy is by trusting him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”
4. We want to be respected.
When others trust me, I receive responsibility and authority. When others respect me, it touches something deeper within me. It gives me dignity and builds my confidence. As Arnold Glasow said, “The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude.”
The respect of a leader gives people the freedom to perform at their best and the incentive to work with excellence. I can’t think of a more positive working environment.
5. We want to be understood.
Charles Kettering said, “There is a great difference between knowing and understanding. You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” Likewise, we can know a lot about a person and still not really understand them or why they do what they do.
But the desire to be understood is so strong that many disagreements can be resolved simply when one party (or both) gets the sense that they’ve been understood.
Understanding others means extending yourself and meeting them where they are. You must put the burden of connecting on yourself, not on them.
6. We don’t want others to take advantage of us.
We can cut through almost all of the ethical and moral dilemmas of life by observing this principle with others. If anyone could interpret what I do as taking advantage of them, then my actions are probably a bad idea.
What do you think of the needs listed above? Did I miss anything? And just for the sake of discussion, let me pose a question you can answer in the comments:
Describe a situation in your past in which a person in authority expressed value, appreciation, and respect for you. Why does that instance stand out to you? How did you respond?
Find more on ethics for all areas of life in Ethics 101.
“To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.”
In the Law of Solid Ground in my 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, I asserted that trust is the foundation of leadership. But that’s not all. In reality, trust is necessary in ALL good relationships. Good marriages, business relationships, and friendships all require trust. Without it, there can be no open and honest interaction, and the relationship will be only temporary.
How do you gain the trust of others?
Manchester, Inc, a consulting firm in Philadelphia, used a survey of more than 200 companies to discover the best ways for leaders to build trust with employees. They found that people who engender trust…
- Maintain integrity.
- Openly communicate vision and values.
- Show respect for employees as equal partners.
- Focus on shared goals rather than personal agendas.
- Do the right thing regardless of personal risk.
- Listen with an open mind.
- Demonstrate compassion.
- Maintain confidences.
In addition to this helpful list, I would add that a critical way to GAIN trust is to be willing to GIVE trust.
Former US Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson remarked, “The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is by trusting him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”
Haven’t you found that to be true of yourself? We all want to be trusted. And by taking the leap of faith to trust in someone, you give them a gift that they usually want to repay.
As you strive to invest confidence in others in the same way you would like it invested in you, take comfort in the words of Camillo Benso di Cavour, who said, “The man who trusts men will make fewer mistakes than he who distrusts them.”
Adapted from Ethics 101
A few years ago, I read an article about a young man who, at age 23, went to work as the senior pastor of his first church. He found the experience very intimidating because he was to be the spiritual leader of people who had children and grandchildren older than he was.
How did he handle it? By showing his people respect and asking them to treat them in kind. To make his standard clear to everyone, he shared ten rules for respect that he promised to live by, and he asked his people to do the same.
Here are his rules:
- If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).
- If I have a problem with you, I’ll come to you (privately).
- If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you.)
- If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go see him together.” (I’ll do the same for you.)
- Be careful how you interpret me. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.
- I will be careful how I interpret you.
- If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless (a) the person is going to harm him/herself; (b) the person is going to physically harm someone else; (c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.
- I do not read unsigned letters or notes.
- I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated. Do not let others manipulate you; do not let others try to manipulate me through you.
- When in doubt, just say it. If I can answer without misrepresenting something or breaking a confidence, I will.
His story intrigued me because I had faced a similar situation early in my career. The young pastor’s list reflected what I’d learned in my own experience.
Most people greatly desire the respect of their leaders. And when leaders give it freely, I believe it creates a very positive relational environment. As author Alfred Glasow said, “The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude.”
UPDATE: Many have asked who was the young author of the Rules of Respect in this post, adapted from my book Ethics 101. He is Charles Christian, who is still serving as a pastor in Washington. The article containing his rules was originally published in Leadership Magazine in 1999.