Lessons from Enron: Are ethics part of your business plan?

Do you recycle all of your bottles and cans? You know you should. Do you cheat on your taxes–inflate those entertainment expenses just a tad? You know you shouldn’t. Do you know someone who you think may be breaking some law, but you’re not sure, and you really don’t want to find out? These are little questions that add up to a big question: How ethical are you? We talk about the importance of integrity all the time(and that’s a good thing), but how do we really define it? More important: Do we walk the walk as well as we talk the talk.

I am not about to cast a stone here. I’m going to recommend you to see a movie. It’s the documentary, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”. It’s out on DVD and I noticed it’s on my cable pay-per-view too. I’m telling you, it is really mind boggling. It has a great deal to say about ethics, and about the difference between what’s wrong and what’s illegal. It makes you contemplate what any one person could do if they suspect wrongdoing, but actually finding out it’s true or doing anything about it could destroy them personally and professionally.

Most of us know the difference between right and wrong when two choices are before us, but this documentary shows how much more complicated the situation at Enron was before it all fell apart. I know it made me think for weeks about what the people who worked there didn’t see (or didn’t know), about the deception that was going on. Ken Lay claims he had no idea, and who knows, he may be telling the truth. Who wants to think the company they run is a house of cards? How much do we kid ourselves day to day?

I’d love to hear from any of you who have already seen it, and if not, make time for it and let me know what you think.

By the way, search for “ethics” using Yahoo, and you will find it can be purchased for $8.69 at overstock.com…. I found that humorous enough to share (I’m guessing it’s the title of a book). You can look it up, you can read about it, you can take a seminar on it. In our culture, people would like to purchase it. But can you live it? Is it part of your life plan? Is there mention of it in your business plan? Is it covered in the employee handbook? Watch this documentary, and I bet you’ll agree maybe it should be.

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