There is but one place where people without any problems reside—the cemetery. The only people without problems are dead, otherwise, for people like me and you…we’ve got problems! The question is, do we have ethics? Do we have the moral principles or values in place to guide our decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas or difficult situations?
One of my favorite books is The Power of Ethical Management, written by Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale. In their book, Blanchard and Peale discuss the five principles of ethical decision-making which they call the “Five P’s of Ethical Power.” I find myself returning to these principles time and again when faced with challenging decisions. Hopefully they can be as helpful to you as they have been for me.
Purpose—Your purpose is the road you choose to travel, the meaning and direction of your life. It’s the driving force of why you do what you do. For some it may be rooted in their spiritual faith. Others may find their purpose is something they feel called to do, such as serving those in need, raising responsible children, or leaving the world a better place than they found it. Aligning the activities of your life according to your purpose gives you a clear sense of direction, so when you’re faced with challenging circumstances or difficult decisions, you’re able to filter those occasions through the lens of your purpose and make choices that keep you on track.
Pride—Unlike false pride, which stems from a distorted sense of self-importance that causes people to believe and act like they are better than others, a healthy sense of pride springs from a positive self-image and confidence in one’s abilities. A proper sense of pride mixed with a good dose of humility is the balance you’re seeking. Being driven by false pride causes you to seek the approval and acceptance of others which can overly influence you to take the easy way out when faced with a tough situation.
Patience—Patience is in short supply in our culture. We live in a hyper-connected, instantaneous world where virtually anything we want is just a click away. Blanchard and Peale describe patience as having a faith and belief that things will work out well, as long as we stick to our values and principles. Giving in to instant gratification is one of the biggest temptations we face and it causes us to make decisions that aren’t in alignment with our purpose and values. Enduring the struggles and challenges life throws our way helps develop the strength of our character. Much like prematurely opening a caterpillar cocoon leads to a weakened and under-developed butterfly, choosing the path of expediency leaves us with an under-developed character and weakens our ethical power.
Persistence—This component of ethical power is about staying the course, staying true to your purpose and values. Persistence is about commitment, not interest. When you have interest in something you do it when it’s convenient. When you’re committed, you do it no matter what! One of my favorite “Yoda-isms” from the Star Wars movies is “Do or do not. There is no try.” When it comes to making ethical decisions, there is never a right time to do the wrong thing. Persistence keeps us on the straight and narrow path.
Perspective—All the other elements of ethical power emanate from the core of perspective. Perspective is about having the big picture view of situations and understanding what’s truly important. Too often we make snap decisions in the heat of the moment and neglect to step back and examine the situation from a bigger perspective. Maintaining the proper perspective is also about paying attention to our inner-self and not just our task-oriented outer-self. Taking the time to enter each day with prayer, meditation, exercise, or solitude helps foster self-reflection which is needed to help us maintain the right perspective about life.
Many people believe there is a huge gray area between right and wrong and they use that as rationale to operate by situational ethics. What’s right in this situation may be wrong in the next. I don’t agree. I believe in most cases we can distinguish between right and wrong if we take the time to examine the situation and rely upon our ethical power.
So I ask you: Got ethics? Share your feedback or questions by leaving a comment.
Good stuff. Business Ethics isn’t just a feel good moral practice. It can be a serious competitive advantage. When all other factors are equal such as quality and price, consumers naturally flock to the brand they trust more. To learn more about ethical decision-making and character-driven leadership, check out this new Kindle e-book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AVWW0BO/
Thanks for your comments Nicholas. I agree that trusted people, organizations, and brands have a unique competitive advantage over their competitors.
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Great article to start March Ethics Awareness Month
Hello Gail. I didn’t realize that March was ethics awareness month but I’m glad the timing worked out perfectly!
Couldn’t agree more! I believe that performing persistent ethical business decision regularly in every aspect of business activities is in fact a long-term investment that will lead to sustainability and inheriting legacy. Thanks Randy!
Thank you for commenting Surya. Ethical business is the only way to go for lasting success!
I like how you link ethics to purpose… that goes a long way in ensuring integrity and integration.
Hi Karin. Thank you for taking the time to add your comments.
I believe that our purpose should drive our actions, and if a person isn’t clear on what his/her purpose in life is, it’s easy to get off track and behave in a way that doesn’t reflect our best selves.
Great post, Randy. Patience is such an essential one today. In being patient, we gain a new perspective at times. We just need to wait a little longer, think a little longer, and learn a little more. It is not waiting to become stuck, but is is waiting to really understand the right thing to do and say. Being more patient may deliver better choices and more integrity in our lives. Thanks! Jon
Thank you for your feedback Jon. Patience can be so hard to practice, huh? It reminds me of the person praying for patience: “Lord, please give me patience and give it to me now!”
Loved this article Randy. Hope you don’t mind if I share with friends in my Administration Professionals fraternity.
I’m glad it was helpful Beverly. Please share!
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thanks alot for the five P’s ethical power.i am soo inspire
This huge gray area between right and wrong is for some people the perfect tool to manipulate others in order to reach their goal.
And unfortunately, they get away with it in most cases. In society today it often seems like its a disadvantage to be really honest and ethical.
Good folks have a conscience that stops them from doing certain things. Things those others will do without giving it a second thought.
I tend to fantasize that karma will eventually catch up with them. 🙂
Very enlightening. Can be applied in areas of work and personal.