Calibrating our moral compass

I recently discovered that a recruiting company had made contact, by email at work, with several of my team, doing their best to entice them to jump ship and look at an attractive offer they had for them.  And this during tax season to boot!!!  Really is quite a racket isn’t it.  They steal from Paul to give to Peter.  Then steal from Mary to give to Paul what was taken from him.  And they make money at every turn.

Needless to say, I was infuriated.  Clearly, this recruiting company had no sense of the bind and stress removing a person from a smaller firm as ours would have on our operation.  Or was it that he just didn’t care?

In business, too often, people seem to adjust their moral compass to what is beneficial to their business and/or whatever industry seems to find acceptable.  Too often, people think that as long as what they’re doing is not illegal and does not breach their association’s code of ethics, it’s fair game. 

In my opinion, too often, people simply forget to question whether what they are doing right or wrong.  The question should not be whether I’m breaking any laws or breaching any code of ethics, but simply, is what I’m doing honorable?  What would my honest opinion be if someone did to me what I’m doing onto others.  The Bible really does have it right.  “Do unto others what you want others do unto you” (Luke 7:12).  I think in business, if you live by that mantra, you will succeed.

Bad versus Good

Many people will say things like “You cannot get ahead by being honest and living by the rules”  or “To get ahead, you need to do whatever you can regardless of how many people you must stamp on to get there”.  We’ve all heard similar quotes.  But I personally could not disagree more.  Karma’s a bitch.  It’ll work with you AND against you.  Of this I’m absolutely convinced.  How many times have I seen people take the high road in situations that were absolutely detrimental to themselves and/or their business.  Yet, all those who seem to do this consistently seem to live a better, more successful life. One thing’s for sure.  They sleep a whole lot better every night.  Which I believe provides them with the energy to succeed better the next day.  I’m convinced that the world has this strange way of equalizing life.  It will give back to those who give and take away from those who take.

I’ve read a lot of books on how to be financially successful as well as several biographies of very wealthy successful people.  Something that has always struck me as very strange, especially at first, is how many of these ultra successful people recommended donating.  So many seem to agree that being generous with your time and money, to simply help those who cannot help themselves, is the absolute best investment you can make in achieving great wealth and success.  Seems extremely counter-intuitive.  Yet, so many very successful people swear by this.

Given the success I’ve had in growing this firm to nearly 60 employees, and given the many businesses and practitioners I help, the question I’m often asked by new business owners is what is the one most important piece of advice I can give them.  I always rattle off these 3 things: 

  • Learn – Learn all you can about everything you can, all the time.  Never stop learning
  • Surround yourself with competent people.  Select a good team that matches your core value and hire a mentor
  • Have integrity.  ALWAYS do what is right even when nobody is watching and even if it hurts and is at your own expense.  Stay true to what is right.

I think it’s important that we constantly look at how we think, what we do, and continually adjust that moral compass to ensure it’s always pointed to what is the right thing to do.