Give people, including yourself, clear permission to make mistakes . . . and to fix the problems. Since nobody's perfect, mistakes should be allowed. Cover-ups shouldn't. Cover-ups create twice the trouble.
We all faced painful ethical challenges before we even knew how to spell our names. There were tough choices. Tradeoffs. Confusing signals regarding how to live one's life. And here we are now, today, still struggling. Still trying to sort things out. Still trying to work our way through life effectively. About the only thing that has changed is the scope of the problem. There's more at stake now. And we're in a position, as grownups, to do a lot more-good or bad-for ourselves, our organization, our world. But we still must wrestle with our imperfect ethics.
Pay attention to the voice within. . . . Sometimes the voice of your conscience gets drowned out by crowd noise or by the pep rally of temptations. And your mind may put some selfish spin on the ball, rationalizing that it's okay to veer away from the ethical route. When we run into conflicts between ethical "shoulds" and our selfish "wants," we all argure out ways to con our conscience. But take pains to listen, because it has your best interests at heart.
Live according to the ethics of excellence, and you can always stand proud. Pride - not vanity, but dignity and self-respect - should carry a lot of weight in helping you make decisions. Let pride help you decide.
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?
The only way we can develop muscle is through regular exercise. As soon as we stop stretching and working toward higher ethics, our standards start to sag. The muscle gets soft, and instead of excellence we have to settle for mediocrity. Maybe something even worse.
High personal standards aren't enough for organizational excellence. You've got to be intolerant of low standards in others. . . . If you accommodate questionable practices in others who touch your organization, you risk soiling its reputation. Anybody whose hands aren't clean can get the place dirty.