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About professional and personal ethics, leadership and respect

One of the most important aspects, for every professional and entrepreneur, is represented by the professional code of ethics aka the personal and professional standards of behaviour expected from any professionals working in a determined community and/or business environment.

And because we are human beings, we are social animals, therefore we live and work in communities, most of the time being involved in social interactions, in business terms in “teams situations”. Unfortunately, not everybody understands properly what it means to successfully lead a team, or to deal with other team members. When teams fall apart, usually it happens because a team member feels used or abused, in other words treated as less important than the others or worse, than the overall goal itself, feeling like expendable means.

As Kant mentioned, we need to understand that people are never a means to an end, they are ends in themselves and thus there are important values that should never be sacrificed to the greater good: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in thy own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only.” Kant called this absolute respect for persons a “categorical imperative” meaning that persons can’t be simply used to obtain specific goals such as good business deals, money, relationships etc, but they must be respected in their own right, whether or not the goal is achieved. So, let’s not forget that partners, team members, colleagues, employees, customers, etc. are always to some extent means to our various goals (ends), but they are also human beings and thus need to be treated with respect.

A good leader must be able to create, not only a good a company, a good team and develop an excellent business idea but he/she must also be able to create a company culture that is the sum of the attitudes and behaviours of a company and its employees. The best way to see this is in the way an organization's employees interact with each other, the values they hold, and the decisions they make. When you see companies failing to achieve their goals and falling apart, it’s because there is no professional ethics between its employees and leaders and moreover, the team members don’t feel appreciated and respected as persons.

I remember a couple of years ago, I was involved in a business project, being so enthusiastic and motivated at the beginning, as it always happens with those types of projects you almost fell in love with. Well, as life is full of surprises, some good some bad, the project ended as fast as it started, and it could be very well used as an example of what not to do.

So, let’s see briefly, what didn't worked and why:

  • The first mistake was determined by a very week negotiation strategy, from both sides: on my side I remember putting friendship before business and this never works and from the other side a total misunderstanding of the basic concepts of negotiation strategies and furthermore respect of verbal agreements. In business we deal with verbal agreements (the so called gentleman's agreements) and written agreements (contracts) and thus we must understand and respect both, in any circumstances, if we want to consider ourselves professionals.

  • Second mistake was determined by very poor communication skills from the leader's side, translated as lack of respect and consideration for the other employees and their needs. When we don’t communicate what we intend to do or what we expect from the others, we risk to ruin the relationship with the peers and stakeholders, because such a situation can be translated in lack of trust, respect and concern.

  • The third mistake was the leader’s incapacity to accept a different opinion; actually this is a common mistake, often encountered in the business environment being connected with the leaders' personality issues (when they have such problems). Some leaders are seeking for the confirmation of their greatness, and thus appreciate nice words, compliments coming from family and friends (whether those are true or not, it doesn’t matter) rather than a real opinion, different from theirs that, even if it might help to understand a potential flow in the business plan and thus enhance the value of project, it is strongly rejected because, of course, it touches sensitive chords such as self-esteem or the image one has wrongly created about himself/herself.

What can we learn from this example?

Well we can learn that if we want to be successful, it’s not enough to be brilliant, to understand the market, when an idea can become an opportunity or to have the financial capability; to be good professionals and thus successful we must also understand how to be good leaders, to create excellent teams of professionals and synergy between the members of our team, we must also be able to listen to the needs of our employees, listen to a different opinion and also understand how to solve a conflict because, in the business environment, the discussions and conflicts do happen (it’s the norm actually!! either we like it or not), but a good professional must be able to overcome all these and focus on the final goal, that is more precious and important than any other small and collateral event.

And last but not least, let’s not forget to thank the others for their work, help, support, implication, friendship because showing appreciation to the others it’s not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign of education, appreciation and respect!

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