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Ethics, or moral principles, can be defined as, “Accepted rules of conduct by an individual or group.” We’ve heard the Golden Rule which urges, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone believes in that. At its core, ethics urge us to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing so each individual, and group, may improve.
Ethics exist in businesses too. Conducting business in an ethical way improves both individuals and groups—and, in turn, improves the way customers, suppliers, partners, and others see us. A super-simple ethical test is to ask these questions:
- Is it legal?
- Is it fair?
- Is it right?
Shaping your business decisions by the answers to these questions increases the trust of employees, customers, and partners alike and directly strengthens brands.
Values can be defined as, “Principles, standards, ideals, or judgments of worth, held by an individual or group that have a certain weight in the choice of action.” When we have a choice to make—especially a difficult one—we consider what is most important to us. For example, when buying a car if we value safety over cost we might select the side airbags. If, on the other hand, we value ecology over luxury we might buy a hybrid instead of an SUV. If we value self-reliance it may shape how soon, or if, we ask others for help. If we value teamwork we may start our projects involving others from the outset, rather than bringing them in half way along, etc.
So, my question is this. If you happen to agree—and I doubt I’m provoking much controversy—when was the last time you specifically probed job candidates to understand their business ethics and personal or business values? Or, when you formed the strategy for your business, did you spell out the values that will guide you? When was your last “All hands” meeting where ethics and values were discussed?
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