No Such Thing as "Business Ethics?"

Ethics vs. Ethics

You can't be unethical in your personal life and expect it to not influence your business, social and relational life. I was contacted by an organization several months ago to present a workshop on "Business Ethics." I said I was flattered but I don't believe that there is any such thing as "business ethics." I told the nice lady that it's called simply, "ethics." Why?

Because ethics are ethics. They don't need an adjective to identify them. If you are an ethical person, it will be seen in your business, personal life and social life. You can't be unethical and be ethical in business. It can't be hid. You can't be unethical in your personal life and expect it to not influence your business, social and relational life.

I can't guarantee that your ethics will make you success, but I will absolutely guarantee that a lack of ethics in any way will destroy your career. Look at Harvey Weinstein and the "Me Too" movement over the past several years. Look at the politicians who have been forced to resign for lack of ethics in their offices. You can probably think of several notable television and movie personalities who have been forced to resign for lack of ethics. How about sports figures and announcers who had a tremendous following, but lost their jobs and careers in an instant of allowing their private opinions and behaviors to leak out into the public sphere.

I have worked with several people that I knew from the beginning weren't ethical and it influenced every relationship and business deal they were involved in everywhere. One man in particular was the most unethical person I have ever met. He cheated and lied so much that he ridiculed me for not being the same way. He would often dare me to do something underhanded just to prove to him I was a human being. The sad part is that this was a minister on staff in a church I worked in at the time.

I warned our pastor about him, but a blind eye was turned to this man's activities. His behavior was so obvious to me (and a few others) that it couldn't be missed... I thought. A year after I left the church for another position, the man was found in bed with a prominent church member when her husband came home and caught them in the act. The minister was not only fired, but the church rescinded his ordination. At the committee meeting where it was unanimously discussed, one lay leader asked the pastor if he had any indication of this man's unethical behavior. The pastor mentioned my warnings. Shortly thereafter the pastor asked to leave for not keeping an eye on things getting out of hand in the church. I'm convinced this episode contributed to his dismissal.

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
-John Wooden

If you are ethical person (someone who is transparent, fair, honest and the same person in private that you are in public), it will help your success, but remember it can all be destroyed in the blink of an eye. My advice it to always strive to be the type of person people can trust implicitly. Self-discipline is required to be ethical on every level. 

You must make self-discipline a habit.  John Maxwell says, "If you make self-discipline a habit it will affect your reactions to people and circumstances." Great leaders are habitual observers and students of ethical people. Self disciple makes habit your servant, rather than your master.

Tunnels take you from one place to another but most of the time you can't see the destination through the dark. Bridges take people from one location to another in plain sight. Are you a tunnel with people not knowing the destination you are going in full sight, or are you a bridge with the destination clear the entire journey? An ethical person always is trustworthy and casts the journey for everyone to see. Their destination is never in question.

By the way, I was hired to give the talk on "Business Ethics" by that organization I mentioned earlier. I discussed self-discipline and the necessity for leaders to build and maintain trust with everyone in their organization and personal life.  Be transparent with nothing to hide. Be the kind of person that if someone broke in and stole your personal computer, you wouldn't fear the world finding out any dirty secrets about you. While you would lose information, the bad information about you wouldn't bother anyone.

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