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Do the Right Thing: Think Principles

“Do the Right Thing: Think Principles”

Ethics, character and integrity will point you on the path to success — personally and professionally.

Ethics. Character. Integrity. Dusty old notions of some other era, by the looks of some of today’s businesses. Consider Nancy LaPointe (fictitious name but real situation), a former vice president of a burgeoning independent radio-broadcasting company in the Northeast. She lost a $78,000-a-year job by focusing on the wrong thing. LaPointe admits: "I struggled with an ethical decision that should have been a no-brainer, something that is ridiculously easy to see now."

The Temptation

LaPointe knew the company’s top ad salesman was taking kickbacks from clients for unpaid air play and better ad placement, at the expense of paying advertisers who weren’t kicking back. The right thing? Fire the salesman. The wrong thing? Keep him on, because without his great numbers, LaPointe feared losing her job in a very competitive marketplace.

"The guy could sell anything. He made me look good every single quarter," she says. "He wasn’t hurting anybody."

A Downward Spiral

But he really was hurting people and their businesses. He was hurting the public trust of the broadcasting company. He was hurting the business of honest advertisers who were losing valuable advertising placement. He was hurting LaPointe by putting her in an untenable position. But most of all, he was hurting himself. Once the CEO uncovered the cover-up, both employees were summarily terminated.

Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and authority on the subject of principle-centered leadership, believes that without those dusty old principles of ethics, character and integrity, strong leadership and good business are impossible. "There’s no way to go for a win in our own lives if we don’t know what constitutes a win," says Covey.

"If we can’t make and keep commitments to ourselves as well as to others, our commitments become meaningless. We know it; others know it. There’s no foundation of trust, and win-win becomes an ineffective, superficial technique," Covey adds.

"Integrity goes beyond honesty," he explains. "Honesty is telling the truth — conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words."

Back on Track

Though her termination was the low point in Nancy’s career, she hopes others can benefit from her mistakes. "I learned that being kind of truthful is like being kind of pregnant," says Nancy. "There just ain’t no such thing. You’re either straight up or you go straight down. And the first person you have to be straight with is yourself."

Her advice: "Don’t sell out. Don’t say to yourself, ‘I can get away with it this one time.’ If you always do what’s right, the right thing will happen. Never mind what they say about nice guys finishing last — the truth is that honest guys can sleep at night."

Writer: LeAnn Zotta is a strategic-marketing consultant in Yartsmouthport, Mass.