How can being ethical be kept simple? What’s the secret?
Randy was an account executive I hired when serving as GSM of the top-billing radio station in Oklahoma City. Over the years, we kept in touch after I moved to another market and radio group. Our re-connecting recently increased.
One particular day, he was re-telling the story of his start in radio (I hired him). When he referenced one of my “sayings”. It’s simple. It speaks to integrity and being an ethical person. Being ethical…is it really that complicated?
So Randy reminded how that saying had stuck with him all these years. Who knew? What’s the saying?
“Do the right thing. For the right reasons. Get the right results.”
That’s it, “The Secret to Ethical Leadership”. Simple, if not always easy.
What is right?
Let’s think in terms of what is proper, best, healthy, morally good, accurate or consistent with reality, the facts, or general beliefs. When something is right it could be the usual, expected or a desirable action that will benefit others.
Do the right thing. Seriously, when have you had a decision – that involved moral conduct or acceptable standards – where you could NOT figure out what the right thing to do was? Doing the right thing deals with words and actions…behavior, conduct, what you do.
What do I think is the right thing? Why do I think what am I about to say or do is the right thing? Is this the “right thing” to do in light of the other person, my values, my priorities…?
Do the right thing. For the right reasons. Now this involves motive; how you explain or justify the action you are about to take. What is your “reason”?
Why am I thinking about doing this? What is true? How am I showing up in this situation? Where might I be deceived or self-deceived? What assumptions am I making? How will “this” play out with the other person, the customer, the company?
Do the right thing. For the right reasons. Get the right results. Recently I shared this “Secret to Ethical Leadership” in a break-out sessions with a group of accounting and financial employees of a Fortune 200 company. One gentleman wanted to argue this statement. I understand. The good guys don’t always seem to “win”. For this to make sense, we must dig a little deeper.
A result can be a consequence or desired outcome that follows another action. If you narrowly define right result as “closing the sale” or “getting the promotion” or “winning the argument” or “hitting budget” or “getting your way” then you will struggle with the secret.
But what happens when you do the right thing, for the right reason and it involves NOT closing the deal because it was not best for the customer? Will you get the right result? That may depend on a couple of things:
- Your thinking – is it short term or long term?
- Your focus – is it on self or others?
- Your goal – is it to make the month or to maintain a long term client relationship?
I appreciate what Melissa Raffoni writes on Harvard Business Review’s blog The Conversation:
Is it really so hard to figure out what it means to be an ethical leader?
I’ve heard a lot of pontificating on the subject, but at the end of the day, I keep coming back to the same two takeaways: Do the right thing. And use good business judgment.
Doing the right thing and using good business judgment means embodying simple human values such as being polite, constructive, and honest and doing your personal best. It also means respecting that you represent your company and must act in a manner that’s consistent with its corporate expectations and policies. If you’re still having trouble with this concept, just think about the people you don’t like doing business with, and do the opposite of whatever they do.
That’s it, “The Secret to Ethical Leadership”…thanks Randy for the story.
Do the right thing. For the right reasons. Get the right results.