With the continuously surfacing scandals in Corporate America, the idea that any form of ethics exists in business is suspect. We are also seeing similar situations within the ranks of government and religious leaders. And, the lack of ethics is not confined to America. It’s global!

By definition, ethics reflect the type of morally permissible standards of conduct a group places upon themselves. It is basically a contract with the society an entity serves. Greed, the desire for power, and blind ambition are some of the factors that have all but eliminated ethical standards. We have lost our conscience. It seems that anything one can get away with to reach their defined pinnacle of success is becoming more and more acceptable.

But the truth of the matter is that a society without rules is a society that is on the brink of chaos and self destruction. Likewise, a society with the wrong kind of rules will ultimately suffer the same fate. Now I’m not sounding the doomsday bell. We still have much residual ethics left in the world to overcome the current trend. But, like a natural resource, our supply is getting lower and we must reverse this downward spiral otherwise a valuable fabric of human society will disappear.

What about you? Do you have your own personal code of ethics that form the core of your decision making process? Allowing a small slip today, without a checks and balance system, can ultimately lead to a major spill. Bad habits start small and can quickly grow into an unethical monster. Without conscience serving as a standard of measurement, ethics disappear.

Once we could say that a strong religious orientation was a good standard to govern our ethical conduct. But today, when religious zealots kill in the name of their god, they taint the idea that religious beliefs always produce ethical behavior. Patriotism was once considered a driver of ethical behavior. In my lifetime, I have witnessed a sharp decline in the loyalty to the American ideals of yesteryear. We now have leaders in America speaking out against these ideals almost to the point of being treasonous. These are scary times.

Call me a sentimentalist or a fool but I believe that eventually good triumphs over evil. The lackluster presence of any kind of ethical standards simply means that the effort to turn the direction of our global society must be increased. There has always been unethical behavior in the world. Apathy and acceptance of behavior blatantly unethical must be replaced with a commitment to return to sound principles of conduct. As a starting point, let me suggest that if we simply all began to follow the mandates of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, we’d be very much on the path of corrective action.

Start with yourself. Hold “you” to high standards and morally sound ethical principals centered on the eleven rules just mentioned. By your example, others will begin to see the soundness of your actions. Your life can affect the life of friends and family. Don’t underestimate the power of one. Make a difference by teaching the world to return conscience to decision making.

The next time you face a particularly difficult decision, try answering these questions:

Can I share my decision with everyone?
Is it legal?
How does the decision make me feel about myself?
Who does this decision negatively impact?
Why am I making this particular decision?
Have I clearly defined the problem requiring a decision to be sure I’m addressing the correct issue?
Does this decision serve the company or me personally?
Is the decision based upon facts consistent with fair play?
Is the decision consistent with organizational values and culture or my own personal system of ethics?
Is the decision fair and balanced to those it impacts?

The answers to the above list of questions will clearly identify the ethics of a decision relative to your own personal standards. By being very clear our five to ten core values, we establish the ground rules for running our life. We know when we act contrary or incongruent to our values. Ignoring this feeling usually gets us in trouble. Most understand the difference between right and wrong. They just choose to follow wrong!

Some Final Thoughts on Ethics

Everyone has moral autonomy. We have the power to make individual choices, important to us, as we move through life. Choices are based upon the personal set of values we’ve established as rules for how we will live our life. Most understand that all choices are not necessarily ethical. But most know when such choices are made.

Whatever ethical standards we’ve established for ourselves are with us twenty-four hours a day. There is no different set of business ethics. Our personal ethics come to work with us.

We need to be more keenly aware when we have ethical lapses and continuously strive to make them less frequent. Life is not perfect and we are not perfect. Placing a high moral standard to govern our actions is the right thing to do. The question to answer is, “Do we have the moral courage to do so?”

Copyright 2007, The Results Group

Author's Bio: 

Billy Arcement, MEd., turns knowledge into results. He is a former teacher, coach, school board member and senior corporate manager. Today, he uses his teaching, coaching and corporate experiences to create insightful consultation and training sessions.

His work with business leaders creates a culture of teamwork, productivity and profits. His message to school boards, administrators and teachers is simple and candid—always keep children first.

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Billy writes nationally published articles on leadership, education issues and success principles. His book, "Searching for Success," is now published in four foreign countries. His newest book, "The Journey--Powerful Strategies for Discovering Your Personal, Professional and Spiritual Destiny," is due out in October 2007. His ezines, News from the Swamp (leadership and success strategies) and Children First (parenting skills) reach a world-wide audience each month.

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