But when we get enough people who don't care, and who don't accept personal responsibility for high ethical standards, our organization gets the "M" disease. Mediocrity. Anybody in the place can be a carrier. By the same token, every individual can carry the cure: the ethics of excellence.
The legal system doesn't always serve as a good guide for your conscience. You can step way over the ethical line and still be inside the law. The same thing goes for rules, policies and procedures - you know, the organization's "internal laws." You can "go by the book" and still behave unethically. Still not move beyond mediocrity. High standards-the ethics of excellence-come to life through your basic values, your character, integrity and honesty. Obeying the law is the bare minimum.
Eventually we have to "settle up" and pay the price for our ethical violations. Just remember the old line that says, "You can pay me now . . . or you can pay me later." Often you can buy some time, but when you "pay later" you'll probably have to pay more.
"You, who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by-"* You'll find universal agreement on the value of a behavior code, on the need for some sort of ethical system. Even the crooks count on "honor among thieves," and countries actually wage war according to certain rules. On the job and in the rest of our day-to-day living, we each need a "code for the road." *Crosby, Stills & Nash in a hit song.
When you hold out for high standards, people are impressed-but they don't always like you for it. Not everybody will be on your side in your struggle to do what's right and ethical. In fact, sometimes even you won't be on your side. You'll wrestle with inner conflict, torn between what you should do and what you want to do. You'll also aggravate other people. Seems when you walk the straight and narrow you always step on someone's toes. Don't count on the ethics of excellence to make you popular.
Excellence is a process, not just an outcome. Sure, we have to hold out for high standards in the products or services we provide. The goods must be more than "good enough." But so must our approach - you know, our methodology, the way we do business and deal with people. How could the ends be considered excellent if we can't be proud of the means?