Flummox Friday: Buddhist Stoic Golden Rule #6 (Values & Ethics)

My earlier post outlined my 8 Golden Rules with #6 being “Make ethics and values the central issue of your day to day life”; here’s some background and personal experiences that led to me include this vital rule which should really be #1!

1. Values in business

Around 30 years ago I was recruited by a large U.K. financial services company to transform a major department accountable for introducing a new regulatory framework across the whole organisation. I had limited time, a badly organised department, poorly trained staff, incompetent junior management, and colleague directors who expected me to fail and …. hoped I would!
I needed a right hand man or woman, someone in the existing team with no baggage. But who to choose when nobody had anything like the required level of competence and experience?
The young man I chose was highly educated, a degree in classics from Cambridge and who had worked exclusively in corporate pensions. No experience in management, regulatory frameworks, or corporate transformation, so what DID he have? He placed a high value on personal learning, had a positive can-do attitude to everything, had a high work ethic, was strongly principled on right vs wrong, and overall was a person of great integrity. I was subsequently to discover his strong sense of loyalty too and an unshakable belief in “team”.
Today, Gary owns and runs one of the largest independent regulatory consultancies in the U.K. with a workforce of 100+. You could say that all those years ago I chose someone in my own image, maybe that’s true as we are both INTJ personality types, but I KNOW we both achieved things on the basis of our values and approach to business and life in general.

2. Values in education 
Around 10 years ago Dr C and I had just retired but decided to create and run an education charity/NGO in Kathmandu to help some of the poorest kids in the world. We decided to develop a teacher training academy from which we could influence the quality of education delivered in Kathmandu primary schools. Initially run by U.K. volunteers we knew we needed local Nepali staff but would find it difficult to recruit competent and experienced people. Then one day I was introduced to a young woman of 23 years who was a teacher in a local school. Enthusiastic about education, a caring mindset towards young children, desperate to learn, a fierce anger about her corrupt government, a strong work ethic …… but absolutely no idea about quality pedagogy or how to transform schools or whole education systems. We recruited her and began a 10 year journey in which she recruited and developed 8 more staff, all female, trained 2000 Primary school teachers and developed 200 schools in Kathmandu.
Babita became chairperson of Nepal Education Leadership Foundation and now 10 years later is a Programme Manager for World Education in Nepal. The programmes we ran and team we managed were based completely on a set of values: Learning, Discipline, Respect, Integrity, Ownership, Service.

3. Values in leadership

In a wider sense I have run leadership programmes in several different countries with no magic formula or to do lists, but a set of three principles on which I believe leadership is based; Vision, Values, Development. I believe that leaders need to have a clear Vision of “a better tomorrow” for their organisation, their department, their team, and each individual in it. This gives people direction towards a goal or destination. Next, great leaders have a clear set of personal Values they espouse and live by, a moral code which others can aspire to and which is WHY people will follow you. This is the strongest of the three principles. Finally leaders must have a Development mindset, the commitment to strategies and actions to change things, to implement learning and improvements at organisational and individual levels. Their development plans show people the WHAT that must be done towards being a committed follower. But it is the leaders values and organisations culture that determine whether people will be committed or not!

4. Values in personal life

It is no easy task to reflect on the question “what are my values” and come up with an unbiased and accurate answer. We all have a natural tendency to see the best in ourselves, so how to do it? Firstly I always found feedback from colleagues at work a useful source, whether from third party conversations or more formal anonymous questionnaires. I have always believed that we don’t have two different persona, one for work and one for personal life, if I am disorganised and uncaring at work I am most likely to be the same at home! Secondly, an easier question to get you going is “what do I believe in/what are my beliefs”, best done when you have a quiet time and space to think. Personally, I believe in fairness and have a strong sense of justice, I believe in treating everyone equally irrespective of who or what they are, I was brought up to be polite and respectful of the law and my elders, after finishing school I recognised my mistake of NOT valuing education …. and became a monster of learning and education, I believe in free will and that we all have the power to act but be responsible for our own actions and I believe in tolerance being a two way street. But that’s enough personal stuff.

So finally, Rule #6 is about knowing and living to your core values, underpinned by your beliefs and leading to your attitudes and outward behaviour. What do you stand for and how do you want to be remembered; this is as good a way as any to identify what you would LIKE your values to be …… but it doesn’t mean that this is how others see you. Think about it, and in the meantime here is the framework of values we used in all of our Nepal teacher training programmes.

Categories: Philosophy

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3 replies

  1. Yes, social media is a horror show at times in that regard. 🙂


  2. “Secondly, an easier question to get you going is “what do I believe in/what are my beliefs”, best done when you have a quiet time and space to think.”

    One challenge has been watching my values change over time (the result of life experience, new information, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, mine too! Though some would punish us via Twitter, Facebook etc if our values were “less wholesome” as young men, irrespective of how we might have changed!

      Liked by 1 person

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