Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ethics in Business is so Important

"Live with integrity, respect the rights of other people, and follow your own bliss." ~Nathaniel Branden

One of my favorite shows on TV is the reality series, “Survivor.” Since it has been on the air, the show has sent people to 20 of the world’s most remote locations to survive, compete and gradually vote one another off. It is a very interesting game that teaches you quickly that honesty and integrity are easily traded off when a million dollars or winning is at stake.

In the last two seasons, there was a player by the name of Russell Hantz, an entrepreneur in the Texas oil tanking business. He competed viciously with no regard for the feelings of his fellow players, and absolutely no concern for his integrity and honesty. Basically, he would lie constantly to advance his position by way of the elimination of one of the other players, with no regrets at all. Throughout these two seasons, all he said over and over was that everything was “strategic” – in essence, that the ends justified the means.

While no one player was completely truthful, Hantz took his deception to such an extreme that it amazed me. He would swear on the lives of his children and say absolutely anything to promote himself and his agenda.

In both seasons, Hantz lasted long enough to become one of the top three finalists. The winner is selected from among the top three by a jury consisting of the last 10 contestants to be voted out. In neither season did he win the million dollars, and in the last season, he did not even receive a single vote. Obviously, he was a master at manipulating people to promote himself, but all this amounted to nothing in the end since the jury did not care for his style of playing the game.

What I took away from this show – which, incidentally, I think I am addicted to – was that on “Survivor” and in life there is a cost for bad behavior. While the ends are important, the means by which you achieve those ends are infinitely more critical.

Some might be thinking, “Clearly, ‘Survivor’ is a great show, but what does it have to do with business?” I think the lesson for every entrepreneur is that while success is fantastic and worthwhile, the measures you take to achieve success are really what count. The old cliché, “What goes around, comes around,” springs to mind. If you abuse or take advantage of people on the way up, they are going to do everything in their power to make sure that you fail.

Most entrepreneurs have the opportunity to be less than honest in so many ways. However, every entrepreneur that I have ever known, realizes that the outcome is not nearly as important as acting with integrity in the pursuit of it. Being strategic is important to the success of every business, but doing it without integrity and honesty is a road to disaster. The entrepreneurs that I have seen follow this path just about always fail.

Now go out and make sure that you operate your business with integrity and honesty in the pursuit of your strategic goals.

You can do this!

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