Have you noticed that ethics is in the news everywhere these days? This sometimes hugely unpopular and negatively perceived word is now the latest buzz word. Huh. I guess I was 10 years ahead of my time when I invented e-Factor!®, originally conceived as the “ethics factor”. I woke up with the idea in the wee hours of the morning after leaving the corporate world and an organization where actions and ethical values plainly did not match.
As I developed the game and built my business I heard countless experts tell me to “lose the word ethics” because it wouldn’t sell – nobody wanted to be lectured about ethics and ethical conduct. In the early days at networking events I told people I created an ethics game and watched as they backed away from me as if I had the plague. I walked away from prospective clients who told me they didn’t have ethics issues. I listened to people tell me that my gamified approach was sacrilegious and would not effectively send the right kind of message about the seriousness of ethical conduct. Huh.
I stood strong in my conviction that improving ethical standards would lead to better results and happier people. I refused to “lose” ethics. I learned how to communicate my vision better. I learned to get curious and find out if it really was true that a prospective client didn’t have ethics issues, and I learned how to solve problems for my clients. I learned that people did not have a clear definition of the word “ethics” and that scared them. When professional licensing bodies made ethics a mandatory class for license renewal I started gaining traction with clients who find my approach to teaching business ethics has actually had a positive impact on bottom line results and individual behaviors. Oh, yeah, and it’s fun… for a mandatory class! Who knew?!
So you think I would be ecstatic to hear the word “ethics” being spoken everywhere. I am, but…
I sure would like to see actions instead of complaints and whining. Actions and ethical values are still not matching. Show me the action, people. Everyone is complaining about what’s wrong with whatever situation they happen to be discussing but nobody is doing anything about it. Not in Government, not in Business, not in Personal situations.
I am not asking for major actions. I am asking for simple actions. Like driving the speed limit (not 5 miles over) and respecting those who do so. Like owning up to a mistake instead of blaming someone else. Like reporting something you see rather than glossing over it or pretending you didn’t see it because you are afraid of retaliation. Like standing up as an ethical leader by listening to people who report ethics violations instead of firing them or punishing them for creating conflict. Like working together with people and finding ways to collaborate instead of destroying the “other side”.
What will it take for us restore ethical standards and make responsible action the norm rather than the exception? Another shooting like the one in Las Vegas? At the end of the day, people at the concert in Las Vegas helped each other without prejudice. I should say that again. People helped each other without prejudice. They didn’t ask who they were, where they were from or what they believed in before helping people get to safety, offering a ride to the hospital or helping to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds. They just helped each other to live.
A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where the first announcement was that some people had parked in a 2-hour parking zone. They were told the limit would be enforced and their cars would be towed. They were given an opportunity to go move their cars at that point, but strangely nobody did. They waited until the 2-hour time limit was just about up before leaving the meeting to go move their cars. This was actually more disruptive to the middle of the meeting than it would have been had people moved their cars in the beginning. Is there some sort of thrill or prize to be gained by pushing to the very outermost limit of good conduct? Or is it some sort of subconscious programming that drives us to do things only when forced or limited. I must confess I just don’t get it.
I am not the ethics police. I do not have the power to enforce ethics standards or hold people accountable, nor do I want this responsibility. I am just someone who cares deeply about the direction we as a nation (and we as a planet in the universe) are moving. I am concerned that we have the power to correct course and we are not taking it. Instead we are headed over the cliff. I want to avoid another incident where people die. It is time to take action….
and Ok, I’ll start. Let’s reward positive behavior! Let’s recognize people who find the courage to stand up and voice their opinions. Let’s analyze our own actions and look at the impact they might have on other people besides ourselves! I started a group on LinkedIn and on Facebook called Ethics Champions – I’m happy to reward positive ethical conduct by reporting it out on social media and recognizing the good that people can do. It’s time we step up and start focusing on positive behavior instead of rewarding the negative. Are you with me?