Worth Quoting: Bill Grace – Ethics in Society

Worth Quoting: Bill Grace – Ethics in Society


We have been saying
for a number of years now that the reward for
knowing what your values are and having the courage
to try to integrate those into your daily life, the
reward for that is integrity. And by the way, the reward for
that is also, it’s related, the reward is happiness. [MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to Worth
Quoting, a program sponsored by Florida
Community College at Jacksonville’s Open Campus. I’m Carol Spalding, your
house, and today we’re talking about ethics. And with us is
Dr. Bill Grace who is a husband, a father and the
founder and executive director for the Center for
Ethical Leadership. And when we talked
about this introduction and you talked about
the husband/father part of your introduction
as being first, it really probably underlines
your whole philosophy of values and how you live them out. Is that true? I think that is true. I like to get introduced
as husband and father to, in a way, role
model what it means to try to incorporate values
into our everyday lives, that value is not something
that we sort of discover and put on the shelf, but the challenge
is trying to integrate them into each day of our lives. And in all settings,
too, trying to be the same person at home
as I am in the community and as I am at work. Most people don’t
do that, or do they? I believe that most
people want to do that. We don’t have a lot of
cultural incentives for people to do that. I think we have
cultural disincentives, as a matter of fact. I think that people
are encouraged, and we can get into this
in more detail later, but I do believe that people
are encouraged, oftentimes, to leave their values at
home rather than trying to integrate them into
their, for instance, professional lives. So a part of what I try
to do is to role model a different way of
looking at that. OK. Well, there’s been a lot of
talk about ethics so why– why is it a good idea
for people to be ethical? That’s a good. What does it even mean? Well, let me try to get at why
is that a good idea by telling a couple of stories. We’ll come back to
what does it mean. OK. The most recent number I’ve
heard in the national debt is that the national debt is
somewhere around $5 trillion. But I have no idea
what that means. I have no idea what it means
to be $5 trillion in debt. I’m fortunate to
have a brother who’s a physicist and a researcher
who’s very interested in math. So I asked him, what does it
mean to be $5 trillion in debt? And I said, now be
kind because you’re talking to somebody who is
not as friendly with math as you are. He went away and thought for
a bit and came back and said, I think I have an analogy
that will work here. And I said, OK, now be kind. He said, that let’s say that
$1 equals one second of time. And I said, OK. He said, if that’s the case,
then a million seconds ago was 15 days ago. So we can all sort of imagine
where we were 15 days ago. A billion seconds
ago is 30 years ago. John F Kennedy had been
assassinated a couple of years prior. We were getting deeper
and deeper into Vietnam. That was a billion seconds ago. A trillion seconds
ago is 30,000 BC. So 5 trillion seconds
ago is about 180,000 BC. And according to
geologists, that’s the middle of the Ice Age. So my question is, what
ethics would get us into that situation, into
that predicament, where no matter how much
we work we’re going to be handing over this
deficit to our children. So what must be
the dominant ethics underneath the
surface of our lives that would allow for
that type of reality? And so my assessment
that the dominant ethics that are working, sort of
underneath the daily activities of our lives, are the following,
individualism for sure, and materialism, and
probably elitism. So those three ethics
are operating anyway. One of the reasons why we
ought to become more conscious of our ethics is so we can
make intentional choices about choosing some
alternative ethics. For instance, we might trade
in materialism for stewardship. Or we might trade in
individualism for community. Or we might trade in
elitism for compassion. But if we’re going
to do that, we have to be conscious of what
the ethics are as we speak. And then we have to be just
as conscious about choosing alternative ethics. So ethics is a
way of approaching life sort of wide awake
and not letting ourselves be lulled to sleep
by the culture, by other dominant
forces, institutions and culture, that’s not out of
some sort of intentional evil but just by their
nature they would have a sort of embrace what is
as opposed to be questioners and shapers of what might be. So you question and shape
what you want yourself to be? I think ethics begins by
examining ourselves and trying to get a sense of what values,
what I like to live my life by. And then those
values, ethics, is the process by which I
integrate those values into my daily life. So values in a philosophy
associated with values sort of become the foundation. But ethics are the legs. Ethics is that which
I do on a daily basis to incorporate
them into my life. I guess I was thinking that
ethics, by definition, meant good things, like
materialism would be there. But you’re saying
ethics is really a framework that you
work within and that you have some choices there. I call it sort of being
on automatic pilot. You’re saying being wide awake. How do you get to be wide awake? Well, I think it begins
with a reflection process. We’re going to put something
on the screen here, I think, and the viewers
will have a chance to look at a list of values. And the words that they’ll see
on the screen, our list of 18 words. This is a set of values. It’s not a set of
values that the Center for Ethical Leadership
is trying to promote. But we use it as
a sort of a primer to get people
thinking about values. The first thing we’d like
people to do with the list is to add a couple of
values to the list that are values for them
that aren’t on the list yet, so there’s a chance
for everybody to personalize the list. But the difficult
process begins when they take this list
of 18 or 20 and they begin to go through
a sorting process. The typical steps
that we take people to would be to take this list of
18 or 20 and to reduce it to 10. And if people need more time
and have a tape of this, they can stop the tape
and reflect on this. But after reducing
it to 10, they would then reduce it to five,
and then three, and then finally two. And typically, when we
do this with groups, there’s a lot of
moaning and groaning when we get to reducing
it to five and then three. We like to encourage people
not to see themselves as sort of abandoning values
by the roadside but making some relative choices, knowing
that some values are relatively more important than others. But getting down to 2 is a
very, very significant challenge and it might be some
of the hardest work that people do in a long time. Once we know what our top
two values are at the center, we call those core
values, then the question is, those are typically
values like love, and justice, and family, and
compassion, and faith. It’s not the exhaustive list,
but those are typically some of the values that come up. We really don’t try,
again, to control what values people choose. But what we do ask them
to do is to find ways now to incorporate those values
into their daily lives. So when we’re working
with corporate leaders who oftentimes will come up with
values like love and integrity, and so the question for
the corporate leaders is when is the
last time you were in the boardroom and
the CEO asked, OK, what should we do in relation
to this particular problem, when was the last time one of
you raised your hand and said, you know, JR, what’s
the loving thing to do? And typically, we get a
lot of laughs and chuckles. But the question is,
why is it that we’re afraid to incorporate
love into the workplace? We believe that our culture
could be a very different place if we found the necessary
courage, I think, to incorporate our values
into the workplace. The reward, of course,
for doing that, for knowing what
your core values are and having the courage to make
them a part of your daily life, the reward for
that is integrity. That I am the same
person at home as I am at work as I
am in the community, and it’s not a
matter of becoming a different person depending
on what suit I’m wearing or what setting I’m in. And again, we don’t have
a lot of institutions in culture promoting this. So it’s very much an
individual choice. So people who know
what their core values could seek out
employment, perhaps, that would reflect or
be in accord with what their own values are. Well that’s either one of the
fortunate or unfortunate sort of outcomes of some
of the work we’ve been doing around the country as
we work with corporate leaders. A number of them
have made choices to leave particular
corporations because they became more and more conscious that
their values were not really fully welcomed in the workplace. What we would prefer is
that a person do what’s best for their conscience but we
also hope that some people will decide to stay and try to change
the culture of a corporation or an institution, in that– so choosing an institution that
has a good fit for one’s values is a good place to begin moving
to a different institution that has a better sense of
alignment with one’s values is another good choice. We think and equally good
choices trying to stay and trying to become a change
agent within that institution. But that has to be a
strategic decision. How do people find out
what the core values are? Sounds like for themselves
they can find out what their core values are by
going through this should work, this reflection and having to
make forth choices, I guess, of these 18 to 20 values. Right. But if you go into
a workplace, how do you find out what
the core values are of the workplace in
a fairly short time, or before you even get there,
before you even sign on? Well, the easiest
way, of course, to know what
anyone’s values are, whether it’s an
individual or group, is to watch their behavior. You know, I like
to say, if you want to know what my values
are, watch my feet. Rhetoric, in and of itself,
really may or may not shed light on what
my values are. But my behavior certainly does. So one of the ways to get a
sense for an institution’s values is to look at its
institutional behavior, you know, before you get there. And I’m sure there’s a
variety of different ways to do that, including talking
to people during an interview process in that
particular institution, and asking people
what they think the institution’s values are. And also, if you happen to be
a member of that community, just reflect on and examine,
again, institutional behavior and get a sense for
what the values must be because of the behavior
that’s being exhibited. But the purpose of values,
again, and our own commitment to values is to be clear
about our own values. And then as we spend
time strengthening our own commitments,
then we can begin to become concerned
about being change agents and helping institutions
to grow into greater capacity of integrating
a deeper understanding of their own values into
the institution’s life. OK, so you might try
and be a change agent or try and live your values out. What happens if you aren’t
able to gain integrity, that you have to be two
different people, one at home and one on the workplace
or someplace else? Well, that’s something we’ve
done a little research on. We have been saying
for a number of years now that the reward for
knowing what your values are and having the courage
to try to integrate those into your daily life, the
reward for that is integrity. And by the way, the reward for
that is also, it’s related, the reward is happiness. If you can imagine doing on
a daily basis what you think is most important, then
the reward for that has got to be happiness,
not happiness as our culture would manifest happiness,
drive this car, live in this
neighborhood, et cetera, and you’ll be a happy person. But a deeper, more
spiritual understanding of what happiness is comes
from living a life that is fully integrated. The rewards are
easy to talk about. What we began to get
curious about is, what are the results
for living a life that does not have integrity? To have a set of values
but for whatever reason leave them on the
doorstep at home because they’re too hard to
integrate into our daily lives. What we’ve began
to wonder is, what are the costs of that
sort of behavior? So again, focusing this time
on the corporate sector, we’ve been taking corporate
leaders on retreat, and in a pretty safe setting
with a small group of peers, we’ve asked them this question. Have you ever been
in a position where you have had to leave
your values at home in order to perform
at the workplace? And by and large,
the answer was yes from the majority
of participants. And we asked them to
think for a while on did it cost them
anything to live in that sort of environment,
work environment, for a number of years. And it was much more powerful
than we imagined, had a much more powerful impact. Some of the things
that were mentioned were minor things, like
migraine headaches. Not minor if you’ve had migraine
headaches, but minor compared to other outcomes. Again, migraine
headaches was one, ulcers was another
one that we sort of might predict of living a life
that is not fully centered, fully integrated, might
cause some discord. But if we look more closely at
the word “dis-ease,” disease, could it be that a lot of our
diseases in modern culture come from a sense of a lack of ease
that we think is associated with not living a life fully
integrated with our values. So some of the other things
that the corporate leaders said that they felt was
a result of living a life that was disintegrated
was heart disease. A couple of the
participants talked about how they felt their
cancer was related to the life that they were leading. Alcoholism, drug use,
but also relationships. Many of them talked about
costing them their marriage or costing them relationships
with their children. Well, to talk about that,
those are heavy prices to pay. I don’t think we really look
at those kinds of things. But we talk about the
idea of integrity. And I think you said
that the integrity– what’s the basis for that? What’s the Greek word that– what does integrity really mean? Well, I like the roots of words. The root of the
word for integrity is the same as the word
for integer, number, meaning a whole number. There is, meaning a number
without fractions, what we get is wholeness and fullness. But earlier than that, it
was a garment industry term. And it meant to be
a seamless garment. If a garment was woven
on a loom without seam, as a whole piece of
cloth, then that garment was said to have integrity. And that’s a metaphor
for us at the center because that’s what we think
our lives are supposed to be, seamless garments woven
as whole pieces of cloth. And that’s possible. That’s possible if we know
what our core values are. And we try. And this is a lifelong process. I remind people that I don’t
work at the Center of Ethical Leadership, I work at the Center
for Ethical Leadership, which means we’re fans of it but
we don’t claim to be perfect. And I don’t claim to be perfect. But you know, the struggle
of trying to integrate our lives into our values– or our values into our
lives, that struggle is a good struggle. And the reward for that,
again, is integrity. And this image of our lives
as a whole piece of cloth, again, the same person at
home, in the community, and at work, that no
matter where we met, hopefully you would
encounter the same person. Well, I think a
lot of people are fans for ethical leadership. I’m not sure we’re talking about
the same thing that’s being tossed around in the media. What is meant when
people say ethical– or having an ethical group
or ethical politicians or something, behavior. Is it meaning the same thing? Your definition is very simple. Well, I think it’s
very simple and it’s intended to be very deep. I worry sometimes that
sometimes what we mean by ethics is a much more
shallow understanding. I don’t mean that
in a pejorative way but I do mean it in a very
clear way, that again, we work with different sectors,
we work with the government sector, for instance, if a
government employee is going out to lunch with a potential
contractor for the city or the county, they sometimes
talk about ethics is that they can’t allow that subcontractor
to buy them lunch because that would
be possibly perceived as unethical behavior for
a potential contractor to be engaged in. And I would agree that
that is unethical behavior. But if that’s the limits
of the depth of which we’re willing to explore, then I think
that ethics doesn’t serve us as well in culture. Ethics ought to, hopefully,
deepen the reflection in our own lives,
and then encourage us to deepen our reflection
as we critique culture. I believe it’s one of the
primary roles of citizen or employee of any enlightened
institution, any enlightened institution, to be
encouraging people who work there to be
critics of that institution, believing that that’s one of the
best ways for that institution, just like people,
to mature and grow. I have a friend who says
that feedback, not Wheaties, is the breakfast of champions. And institutions and individuals
who are open to feedback are likely to grow and mature. So ethics, you know, we ought to
be asking ourselves, you know, how is it? And it’s back to these
foundational ethics that we talked about earlier,
materialism, and individualism, and elitism. Those ethics are
the only ethics that can explain, for me, why we
can have a stock market that is doing somersaults,
and if it were doing a floor
routine in gymnastics the economy would
be getting tens. But in that same economy,
one in every four children are being born into poverty. There’s something
rotten in Denmark. And if we allow ethics to
be harnessed, if you will, and governed in such a
way that we only allow it the shallowest
reflections, we won’t get to the questions,
the bigger questions. Eleanor Roosevelt
asked a number of years ago, how is it that
we can say we’re a great culture and a Great
Society when 3/5 of the world is going to bed
hungry every night? We need more Eleanor Roosevelts
because those statistics, as we speak, are exactly the same. 3/5 of the world still goes
to bed hungry every night. Ethics call us to
reflect more deeply and what we mean by
a healthy economy. When we replace stewardship
for materialism, we begin to get closer to
the type of social criticism that we need to engage in. Would we all agree on
what ethical behavior is? No. No. And you know, if
someone said, I’m not sure who, that God
has a great sense of humor but is playing to an audience
that’s afraid to laugh. And you know, my
sense is that God must have a great sense
of humor because once we engage in lives that are
deeply connected to our values, what we find is that people
have different values, or they may have those
same value, expressed value of family and friendship,
but they mean different things by family and friendship. So the other thing
we need in community is what I call gracious space. Gracious space is the space
where strangers feel welcome. There is an educator
who I enjoy very much, his name is Parker Palmer. He says that two
rules automatically fall into place any time
we try to form a community, the number one rule is
that the last person in the world I’d like to show
up in my community shows up. And the second
rule is set as soon as I managed to get
rid of that person, somebody else comes to
take his or her place. So for Parker Palmer,
community is about constantly inviting the stranger. And as I think about
that in relation to ethics, and the different
perspectives in ethics, is how can I remain
committed to my values while being open to
the values of others? And I think that’s the mark
of a good society, when we have people who
are both passionate about what they
believe in and yet open to diverse perspectives. And if you can imagine the
tension of living that life, there’s a sort of creative
tension involved in that. And I just think that calls
us to be mature citizens. So in addition to wanting
people to reflect on ethics, I would also want people to
be aware of the importance of conflict resolution and the
importance of being a citizen who tries to nurture community. And maybe that’s
marked in part by, do I have friends
who disagree with me? Do I have friends
who see the world from different perspectives? If all I do is hang
around with people who see the world
the way I do, I’m not doing as much to further
the sort of civic dialogue that we need among
diverse sectors, which is part of what we do at the
Center for Ethical Leadership. We try to be, what we call,
a mediating institution. So we bring together leaders
from the corporate sector, government sector,
religious sector, citizens from low income neighborhoods
and young people across political persuasions,
across age groups, across religious denominations,
interfaith connections, and try to ask those people to
imagine a community that they’d all like to live in. And then ask them if
they would, as citizens, engage in the
process of building that community together. So I think it’s an
important part of the mix, learning how to live together
in the midst of our diversity. We just have about a minute,
but what part does courage play in pulling all this together? Well, my own reflections on this
is that courage is essential. And that begs the
question, of course, is where does courage come from? The root of this word gives
us a little bit of a hint. It’s a French word
which, essentially, means from the heart. So courage is
something that is not so much an intellectual
choice that we make but it’s an emotive choice. It’s something that is more
from our gut in our heart than it is our head. And I believe that– this is a bold
statement– but I believe that there is only really
one source of courage with two expressions. And I believe that the
one source of courage is relationships. And the two expressions
are either community or spirituality. And it comes down to,
am I in relationship with someone or
something that calls me to my best behavior,
that calls me to greatness, that calls me
to try to live most deeply out of my values? All right, well,
thank you very much. There’s a lot to
say about ethics but we appreciate the time
you spent with us today. Thank you very much. This has been Carol Spalding
with Florida Community College and Worth Quoting with Bill
Grace, who is husband, father, and the executive
director and founder of the Center for
Ethical Leadership. Thank you for being with us. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *