Do you ever have a hard time making a decision? Sometimes it can take me minutes or hours or even days to make a call on something. I used to think the ‘right’ call would always simply come to me and my instincts would serve me in making the best choice. As I am out and about more, this is no longer the case. The more I know, the more factors that bear consideration; and haste rarely pays off.
Some excellent advice I received is to do what honors you. Simple as that sounds, it is an elegant, if challenging barometer. I believe I was brought up well: to know the difference between right and wrong, to understand compassion and empathy, to value others and respect property. When confronted with a challenging decision, one that some will endorse and others will oppose, I have to weigh the overall ethics of my situation: what is my goal, to whom and what does my decision owe allegiance?
Integrity on the Pillow
At the end of the day, I have to live with myself, and my integrity. Was greed, fear, or pride driving me? Did I find a way to justify the means by achieving the end result? Looking around for guidance can provide a bleak landscape: rich and corrupt men attempting to buy elections, the most celebrated in our society are notorious more for their misdeeds and narcissism than good works. The richest, those with huge profile and influence have sex tapes, off shore bank accounts, history of drugs and cheating in sport and worse. Meanwhile, there seems to be an expectation that nonprofit executives managing large numbers of members and urgent, unsupported causes are expected to earn noncompetitive wages and donate numerous additional volunteer hours.
What to do?
The most effective way is to model ethical behavior, yes, it is up to you. Take the time to consider your goals and plans and methods. Be sure you are proud of how you want to achieve those goals in how you treat all those around you, particularly and especially the ones who oppose you or those you detest. Create an environment that demonstrates and allows taking the high road, making the thoughtful, considered decision that reflects the best of the organization, its goals and constituents.
Consider your boundaries, and how this decision you are making will look in newsprint the next day or the following year. Take the time to take a deep breath, count to 10 or scream, if necessary, but make the call that you know is the one that honors you.
When it seems that we are surrounded by those who will lie or cheat or take shortcuts, and it is hard to see them seem to prevail, in the long run, it doesn’t pay off. Bernie Madoff may be in jail, Lance Armstrong may have lost his titles, Todd Akin may have lost the race, but they hurt many people along the way. That is no legacy.
Let your legacy be the standards that you know are the ones that honor your members, your board, your mission and vision. Need a sounding board, just to check your instincts, get in touch here or call us on 310 828 6979.
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.