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How Do You Spell Success – E-T-H-I-C-S
No matter where one turns, reads or watches on T.V., ethics, in one way or another seems to be in the news. Whether it’s politics, business, education or life in general, ethics has become a very hot and relevant topic.
In my role as a professional speaker on the topic of ethics and values, I find that almost every business admits that good ethics is good business. And yet there seems to be in every business, those who preach it but their behavior says something else. I believe that there is an ethics gap in this country and the ethics gap is : what I personally know is right from wrong and what I think it takes to be successful in business. That gap causes many problems in today’s business environment. Everyone knows that it exists, yet how do we lessen the gap or eradicate it all together?
Let me share my approach to looking at the subject of ethics in a very practical yet simple way. Let me begin with what I call my three “givens”:
First, the more I understand about myself, the more effective I can be in dealing with other people. The premise here is that you can’t change anyone but you! You can’t make anyone be ethical. It can’t be legislated. You either ethical or you’re not. It’s like being a little bit pregnant, either you are or your not! Therefore, people make judgments, right or wrong based on people’s behavior. Pick up a newspaper, watch the news. We judge on the basis of behavior.
The next two givens I learned studying in a seminary many years ago. Second is Nemo Dat quod non habet. I can’t give what I don’t have. If you are not what you want your people to be, be quiet! Until you become what you want them to be for values in life are caught and not taught. Who you are says so much more than what you say! I remember a number of years ago, when I was teaching an ethics course and I caught a kid cheating on my ethics exam! His father was some CEO of some company in Chicago and came to my office. I showed him the cheat sheet and he was livid! “How dare you cheat, how dare you cheapen your dignity” he said and went on and on. His son emotionally pushed up against the wall said, “what’s the difference between me cheating on this test and you doctoring up your income tax for the last five years??” That’s when I said, “I got to get a cup of coffee and left the room. Now did this father teach his son well? Many think so as the acorn never falls far from the tree. You can’t give what you don’t have.
Third is Repititio est Mater studiorum. Repetition is the mother of learning. That’s how we all got to be where we are in life. We are all in the stage of becoming, hopefully something better than we are. A better salesperson, a better parent, spouse, child, student, etc. the process of becoming better includes repetition. That’s what got us through school. Memorize, regurgitate, and chuck. Memorize for a test, regurgitate on the test and eventually, chuck it away. We have forgotten much more than we remember! However, It’s not what we learned that’s as near as important as how we learned it. And how we learn anything is in the repetition.
These three givens will set the stage for this discussion of ethics. It is internal. You either are ethical or your not. So let’s take a closer look at the subject of ethics, by simply breaking down the word ethics.
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Copyright © 2003, Frank Bucaro
Copyright © 2003, The Negotiator Magazine