Be Conscious Of Your Conscience

423 reads

I have always been a fan of comics, or what I call the funny pages.  Recently I was looking at The Family Circus” by Bil Keane.  The littlest boy has a cupboard open and is looking at various boxes of food when his older brother sees him and says, “Conscience is like Mommy tellin’ you not to do somethin’, but she isn’t there.”

Or as I like to say, act like your mother is watching.  All the time.

Conscience is that little voice inside that tells us what we already know is right or wrong.  Unfortunately for some, when it is talking, they aren’t listening.  And that’s when the trouble begins.  Whether in our personal life or business life, it’s important to heed that little voice.

Perhaps you remember the lesson that Jiminy Cricket taught to Pinocchio:  “Always let your conscience be your guide.”   It may seem pretty elementary, but our consciences are actually formed as children, long before many other personality traits are developed.

Investor’s Business Daily identified 10 traits for getting ahead in business – 10 traits for turning your dreams into reality.  They included many things you would expect:  a positive attitude, a definitive goal, a courageous spirit, an inquisitive mind, a strong heart, an analytical brain, a focused eye, a fearless approach and a disciplined tongue.  Number 10 on the list was a clear conscience.

Like “The Family Circus” cartoon, they harkened back to the lessons of childhood.  Don’t forget the rules you learned in kindergarten.  Play nice.  Be dependable.  Tell the truth.  If you can’t get to the top by being true to yourself and straight with everyone around you, your success will be hollow – and probably short-lived.

Read the headlines:  business scandals, political scandals, religious scandals, sports scandals, entertainment scandals – Have we lost all our sense of right and wrong?

I don’t think so, or these stories wouldn’t be so shocking.  But as business people, we need to be critically aware of our role in keeping things honest.  People are watching, and given the 24-hour news cycle and the reach of social media, we need to understand that taking chances with the truth is never worth the risk.

Consider these lessons from two highly principled leaders.

Once when U.S. President Harry Truman was asked what principles guided his career, he said that he let his conscience be his guide.  Then he elaborated:  “My father used to say, ‘That is all you can do.’  … What more can a man do?  Do the best you can.  Sometimes you come out successfully, sometimes you don’t.  You have to have luck and ability and be ready to meet the situation as it comes.  All this happened to me.  I never thought I would go to the United States Senate, but then I never thought I would go to the White House either.”

Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi said he had a formula for achieving balance both in one’s personal life as well as in the modern world.  His prescription called for recognizing and avoiding the seven big sins of life:  wealth without works, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle.

Do you detect a theme here?  Most of them relate to having a clear conscience.

Make no mistake; customers are watching how businesses perform through an ethical lens.  Businesses cannot hide their questionable practices for long – they will be exposed.  Trying to mend a bad reputation is a lot harder than maintaining a good one.

Just ask the big bank that’s in the news for questionable sales practices.  Or the airbag maker whose defective products are hurting people instead of protecting them.  Or the movie mogul who went from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel after multiple accusations of inappropriate behavior surfaced.

But you don’t have to make national headlines for your true colors to be exposed.  Doing business with this shopkeeper might be a challenge.

An eager-beaver salesperson was trying to have a country storekeeper carry his product, and finally tried to bribe the fellow with a bottle of champagne.

“Oh, my conscience wouldn’t let me take a gift,” the storekeeper protested.

“What if I sell it to you for one dollar?” asked the salesperson.

“In that case,” replied the man, “I’ll take two.”

 Mackay’s Moral:  Putting profit before principle is always bad business.

Trending

274
misner's picture

Dude, Where are my Wheels? Why Networking Helps – Even in the “Hood”

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around.  I was regaling my wife with a story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college.  At the end of the story she said, “you have to
303
Harvey Mackay's picture

Resourcefulness = “Of Coursefulness”

A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to
350
johnsullivan's picture

Sourcing Is the New Recruiting

I have some excellent news for you. Sourcing is the place to be in talent acquisition today! Recruiting as it has traditionally been known is going away. Increasingly companies are adopting recruitment process automation, and that means that there
399
harvardbusinessreview's picture

How to Prepare for a Panel

Make sure to connect with the moderator beforehand.
376
johnsullivan's picture

HR Roundtable: The Value of a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the classic rock anthem My Generation by The Who, lead singer Roger Daltrey screams, “I hope I die before I get old.” He echoed a sentiment of the times, but he never knew that he was also doing what...
407
adamgrant's picture

Why Women Volunteer for Tasks That Don’t Lead to Promotions

Here’s a work scenario many of us know too well: You are in a meeting and your manager brings up a project that needs to be assigned. It’s not particularly challenging work, but it’s time-consuming, unlikely to drive revenue, and probably won’t be
418
johnsullivan's picture

What’s Wrong With Corporate Culture As A Management Tool? Almost Everything!

The top 15 most damaging shortcomings of managing using your culture It’s no secret that most in HR and many CEOs are enamored with “corporate culture,” which is essentially the “invisible hand” that helps guide the behavior of your employees....
373
sethgodin's picture

But why does it take so long?

The original book could take three years to write. Retyping the manuscript might take a day or two. Modern work isn’t time-consuming because it takes a long time to type. Physical constraints aren’t usually the gating factor, either. It’s not a
373
johnsullivan's picture

Accenture Is Using Tech to Make Onboarding a Personal Experience

Normally I think of onboarding along two dimensions: efficiently handling the administrative work and welcoming a person onto the team so they can be effective. Onboarding, even the basic administrative work, can be hard to do, and technology can