Okay, I just love this example of human connection which wakes up the best in us, nudges us to be real, truthful and ethical.

It’s a story about all of us and particularly meaningful for business owners…

David Maxfield and Joseph Greeny, behavioral science gurus, asked 15 High School students to participate in a study testing height and coordination. (That was a lie… they were studying why people lie… not height and coordination.)

Listen to them tell the story or keep reading…

The participants were divided into two groups.

Each participant was given a total of 5 bean bags to toss into one of 3 holes of decreasing size carved into a big piece of plywood. They would be paid for each bag that’s tossed through the hole accordingly–$3 for the smallest hole, $2 for the mid-size hole and $1 for the largest hole. That’s 5 bags and a possible $15 if all 5 are tossed successfully into the smallest hole at $3.

The temptation–Both participant groups were told to track their own scores and report their results to the clerk for payment in the next room.

They weren’t told there was a hidden camera filming their bean bag tosses and ultimately their true scores and money earned.

What were the results? How truthful were they about their total scores and money earned?

Group A—80% of the participants LIED about their success rate. In fact, out of a possible $15, one guy actually reported he earned $16 for his tosses! Busted BIG time dude! The camera had it on tape… He only made $5 out of $15!

Group B—80% of the participants told the TRUTH. The “star” high school basketball player made only $6 out of $15! Embarrassing, but truthful.

What made the difference between the two groups?

Group B participants were told everything Group A was told AND they were asked to sign an ‘Honor Code” attesting to their promise to tell the truth. That’s right, they signed a statement, “I will be honest about my score.”

Psychologist Albert Bandura calls this a likely case of “moral slumber” rather than “moral defect”. Nice… I’d rather be thought of as being inattentive or asleep than defective. Wouldn’t you?  The point is we’re not “bad” people because we lie, we’re unaware, not thinking… and yes, not doing the right thing.

So, why should we care as business owners and if we do, how do we keep from drifting back to sleep?

I’m getting a cup of coffee, want some?

In this article…

I’ll explore with you what Albert Bandura, psychologist calls, “moral slumber” and how to wake-up, smell the coffee, drink a little bit too and infuse that good and appropriate moral meaning in your business and personal decision-making.

We may not see profits directly from good ethics (the moral standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity, etc.) but business sustainability is nearly impossible without them.

It’s so much sweeter when we’re connected to our values and appropriate moral standards like honesty, integrity and fairness, pretty much accepted around the world. However, we’re human and for a variety of reasons become sloppy and neglectful at times, detached from the ethical significance of our decisions and their impact.

More hot coffee? I’m pouring. Let’s program these wake up alerts…

Wake-up Alert 1– In a business, the reasons for having high ethical (moral)standards are fabulous! Why wouldn’t you want to…

  • Build high customer/client loyalty
  • Attract new customers/clients because of the positive feedback they hear from friends and neighbors
  • Troubleshoot any potential negativity by doing the “right” thing and treating others with honesty and fairness
  • Extend goodwill to the community
  • Contribute to a healthy, positive morale, yours and the people who work with you and around you

In business, how people see you and experience you and the people who work alongside you is the foundation for trust. It’s your credibility as a business. Unethical practices are the kiss of death for credibility and your business will suffer.

Wake-up Alert 2– Remember, be gentle when waking yourself or someone else from a moral slumber. Don’t be like Cher in the movie Moonstruck when she slaps Nicolas Cage’s face and orders, “Snap out of it!”

Instead, schedule regular conversations to review business ethical practices.

  • Ask what’s the difference between sales of products/services handled with and without integrity?
  • How are comments, questions or complaints treated respectfully?
  • How do clients/customers/co-workers/employees/colleagues feel cared for in the business environment we create?
  • How could kindness, respect and inclusiveness be increased in business relationships?
  • If promises are made to a client/customer, are they kept? How are mistakes managed honestly?

The significance of holding yourself and your business associates/employees accountable, agreeing to sign an “Honor Code” helps all of us stay true to higher moral behavior. A win-win-win-win… for you, your business and your customer/client and larger community.

It’s important to keep the alerts ON. That is to define and talk about honesty, integrity and fair business values regularly and with conviction. Make these values come alive with work examples.  It’s a gentle reminder for self and others associated with your business.

And at the end of the day, it just feels good. (No slapping involved.)

Wake-up Alert 3– Build and develop your moral traits. Look at your VIA (Values in Action) Strengths again. Be intentional and choose a strength to increase. Do something everyday to practice the strength.

For example, I chose to increase gratitude… it was number 10 on my list of 24 VIA strengths. I made a list of 25 people who had made a difference in my life. I wrote notes, made telephone calls and shared with these amazing people face to face. I wanted it to be about them, not me, they were the focus.

Strengths are moral traits and can be built on even shaky foundations. With enough time, effort and determination anyone can acquire strengths like, optimism, humility, playfulness, forgiveness, mercy, self-control, etc. That’s encouraging!

Go to www.authentichappiness.com and register to take the free VIA Character Strengths assessment if you haven’t already.

The takeaway is…

Business sustainability always features high ethical standards.

Schedule meaningful reflection and conversations on the subtle and not so subtle ways your business is connected to high moral behaviors. Build on your strengths and ask your employees or business partners to do the same.

Program ongoing wake-up alerts and resist drifting into moral slumber.

Sleep is so much better when you do.  I promise.

Need an accountability partner to help you strategize and take action on some big, important personal and business stuff? Contact me and let’s schedule a free, confidential 30 minute session so you can get a jumpstart.