Out of the mouths of babes sometimes come very wise statements. I think we should listen more to these golden nuggets when they occur. We adults just might learn something of value.
One such pearl of wisdom came from a young girl scout. Her story was on the CBS evening segment “On the Road” by Steve Hartman which aired here in Phoenix on February 17, 2017. 11-year-old Charlotte McCourt wrote a letter to a customer stating that “the Girl Scout Organization can sometimes use false advertising.” Uh-oh, our adult minds might be screaming – she’s making the organization look bad!!! “Not good”, to coin a phrase….!
She was not intentionally trying to harm the Girl Scouts. Instead, she was trying to honor Girl Scout Law, which requires her to “do her best to be honest.” She wanted to help her customers make better purchasing decisions based on her own view of the quality of the cookies she was selling. She gave ratings for the cookies. And how was she rewarded? According to the CBS news segment, her honesty was rewarded with 3,551 orders placed for a total of 23,219 boxes sold.
Wow. 23,219 boxes sold. Amazing. Just by being honest. By my calculations at $5 / box that is $116,095.
I have been teaching how to unlock the positive value of ethics for 9 years. Now, finally, I have tangible, quantifiable proof of the value of truth and honesty. From an 11-year-old.
But this story also shows the conflicts, which I call ethical dilemmas, that we create for ourselves. Many organizational and professional codes require us to be honest, and yet when we are we get punished for it. I’ve been through this myself. It feels like betrayal in the worst possible way. And this way of being destroys loyalty, trust, respect and a bunch of other ethical values we all hold dear.
I think instead we should change the code to say this: “Be honest when it is in the best interests of the organization, otherwise stay silent if you want to keep your job.”
Whew. How’s that for honesty? Are you cringing or pumping your fist in the air on reading this statement? Why is it so hard for adults to embrace the basic practice of honesty? How have we let our standards fall so low that we actually have trouble with this? Maybe it’s because we no longer believe that others value honesty or we don’t want to hurt someone. Have you thought of the other side of the coin, that maybe honesty could liberate us or actually help us with something we’re struggling with? Hmm….
Here’s the challenge. Why not try it for a week and see what happens. Be honest with people. Speak your mind. Stand up for what you believe in. Now, you don’t have to be quite as blunt as the young girl – you can always ask permission to be honest, or find a tactful way to tell people you don’t like the way something is working. You could also provide suggestions for how to improve things. This might just take the sting out of your words and get people looking at the ethical dilemmas from different viewpoints.
After all, if an 11-year-old can do this and sell more boxes of cookies than ever in history, why can’t we adults do the same and open the door to reaping a similar reward?