The Ethical Boundary

As leaders, we are often faced with ethical dilemmas that can range from whether or not to accept a bottle of wine from a client (assuming company policy says not to) to padding the books or investments as a cover-up.

Ethical failings don’t just occur in the realm of big leaders, but are often present at every level of society. Unfortunately, this often happens with one little slip into a gray area. For example, a long time bookkeeper for a small office was running short of money for lunch one day, so she “borrowed” from the petty cash. With full intent of replacing the funds she promptly forgot the next day. A couple of weeks later, she “borrowed” more money because she didn’t have time to go to the bank that day. At this point, she starts to rationalize in her head that the executives make a lot more money than her and she deserves a little extra compensation.

Fast forwarding a few years, the bookkeeper is writing fraudulent company checks to herself and covering it up in the books until one day the business account goes negative and checks start bouncing. The executives become aware of the fraud and are left shaking their heads as they trusted this bookkeeper for many years. A question that is often asked, is why didn’t she just ask for a loan if she needed money so bad?

As leaders, we need to define and be sure of what our ethical boundaries are. Don’t be the person who will sell your ethics for small amount, or even a lot of money. At the end of the day, it isn’t worth it. If you start down the slippery slope with minor transgressions, you can easily fall into the trap of ethical missteps where the consequences are serious.

Ethics, or simple honesty, is the building block upon which our whole society is based, and business is a part of our society and it’s integral to the practice of being able to conduct business that you have a set of honest standards. – Kerry Stokes

What is a Leader?

Steve has been working as a janitor for two years at a local clinic. Even though he often works evenings with little supervision, he always is upbeat, hardworking and shows up on time for work. Steve’s coworkers, from doctors to receptionists, enjoy it when Steve is around and often feel motivated in their own jobs by observing the positive way in which Steve works.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a leader as someone who has “the power or ability to lead other people.” In a general sense, we often think of a leader as the President or a high-level executive of a company; the individual who has been granted authority over a country or an organization. However, the reality is that we can all be leaders in whatever our field or station in life.

Steve, as a janitor in the clinic, is demonstrating leadership within his organization despite having no authority over anyone and is in a field (janitorial service) that is often overlooked. Whether you are the “big cheese” in your organization or the “little guy,” you have the power to influence those around you. This power to influence can be either positive or negative.

While everyone has a bad day from time to time, do you pick up the pieces and move on, or continue down that negative path? When you misstep in your words or attitudes around your coworkers, do you take the time to apologize and try to correct the behavior?

Over the next few weeks, we will delve into what it means to be a leader, but don’t wait for us. Start today by reflecting on your own behaviors that exhibit leader-like qualities and work on demonstrating a good work ethic and positive attitude.

Are You Competent…With Culture?

In today’s diverse work environments, Cultural Competence is an absolute essential for success. While we know we should practice it, we don’t often don’t understand what Cultural Competence means.

Before we can fully understand it, we need to get the basics down: “‘Culture’ refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. ‘Competence’ implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities” (, adapted from Cross, 1989). (more…)

Ethics, Part Deux

Last week, we discussed what a “good work ethic” looks like in the workplace, and we asked the tough question, “What are you doing to implement good work ethics in your organization?”

On the road to proving that good work ethic isn’t dead, we need to put those ethics into practice and take a look at the bigger picture: How do your ethics affect your employees and customers? If your employees and customers were to give you a review on your work ethic…do you know how you would measure up in their eyes?

It comes down to respect and dignity for your employees and your customers. Unfortunately, there are very few companies out there that truly adhere to these good work ethics.  A recently-published article by 24/7 Wall St. titled “America’s Worst Companies to Work For” proves that ethics are hard to come by; employees anonymously reviewed their employers via, and the results were staggering. (more…)

A Good Work Ethic: What Does It Even Look Like?

A Good Work Ethic. In this day and age, we hear this phrase thrown around a lot. Be it listed in job descriptions, reiterated by our bosses, included in workplace trainings, or simply tossed out in discussion by the water cooler, it is something we hear about, talk about, and read about. But, do we actually understand what it means, and what does it looks like to have a legitimately good work ethic while on the job? (more…)