COMMENTARY: Rebuilding Your Life and Reputation

Larry wrote me the following letter: “I’ve been a small businessman for almost 23 years in a business where people lie, cheat, and steal. I’m sorry to say I became one of them. In the short term it may have helped, but long term it came back to haunt me. There’s no amount of success that’s worth it. I am …

COMMENTARY: The Ultimate Solution to Bullying in Schools: A Student-Led Culture of Kindness

Olivia Gardner was a sixth grader in Northern California when her life began to unravel. It started when she suffered an epileptic seizure in front of her classmates. Immediately, the name-calling began. The hallway insults and ridicule — “freak,” “retard,” “weirdo” — escalated into cyber-bullying when a few particularly nasty students set up an “Olivia Haters” website. One student dragged …

COMMENTARY: Excellence Is Achievable

As I watched nearly five dozen eager graduates of the Los Angeles Police Academy throw their hats in the air celebrating their achievement, I knew they were the survivors of a rigorous training, and that their journey wasn’t over. Ahead of them would be a full year of supervised field training, and it’s unlikely all of them would make it …

COMMENTARY: Planned Abandonment

Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, …

COMMENTARY: School Principal: The Most Difficult CEO Job in the Nation

Schools all over the nation are struggling to modify their strategies to meet the Common Core demands regarding critical thinking and problem solving. They must also find ways to teach 21st Century workplace skills, enhance students’ social and emotional development, and, of course, build their character so they become responsible and productive citizens. Oh, they must also be sure to create an …

COMMENTARY: The Parable of Brother Leo

An old legend tells of a monastery in France well-known throughout Europe because of the extraordinary leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks began a pilgrimage to visit Brother Leo to learn from him. Almost immediately the monks began to bicker over who should do various chores.

COMMENTARY: The Greyhound Principle

Racing dogs are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit that always goes a little faster than the fleetest dog. This causes them to run faster than they otherwise would. Companies that annually set overly ambitious performance objectives for their employees employ this greyhound principle. To a point, it works. Most people achieve more when expectations are set high. The strategy …

COMMENTARY: Enough Is Enough

What does it take to make you happy? How much do you have to have to be grateful? To the barefoot man, happiness is a pair of old shoes.

COMMENTARY: Learning From Pigeons

During an experiment, pigeons were put in cages with one green and one red button.  In one cage, if the birds pecked the green button they would get food every time.  In the other, the green button yielded food erratically and the pigeons had to persist to get enough food.  In both cases, pecking the red button did nothing.  Both …

COMMENTARY: Being Decisive

Frank is a new supervisor who wants to do well. Maria consistently comes in late. When he confronts her, she makes a joke out of it. Hoping to win friendship and loyalty, Frank is painfully patient with her, but Pat, a conscientious employee, urges him to do more. Soon others begin to come in late, and Pat quits. Frank feels …

COMMENTARY: The Road to Significance

The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want and most people want wealth and status. Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will …

COMMENTARY: The Struggle Between Wants and Shoulds

As a full-time ethicist – can you believe there is such a thing? – I spend most of my time talking about right and wrong with parents and politicians, kids and corporate managers, journalists and generals. One thing I’ve learned is that ethics – being a good person and doing the right thing – is easier said than done. Ethics, …

COMMENTARY: Sharpen Your Ax

Ben was a new lumberjack who swung his ax with great power. He could fell a tree in 20 strokes, and in the first few days he produced twice as much lumber as anyone else. By week’s end, he was working even harder, but his lead was dwindling. One friend told him he had to swing harder. Another said he …

COMMENTARY 986.5: Teach or Punish, That Is the Question

As Greg paces the floor, waiting for his 17-year-old daughter Sandy to return from a school event, he feels two conflicting emotions: fear and anger. Fear that something terrible has happened to her. Anger because he thinks his fear is probably unfounded and Sandy is not hurt, simply irresponsible. Finally, Sandy calls. She’s all right. She just lost track of …

COMMENTARY 986.4: Self-Control

A frazzled mother with a fussy child caught the eye of a grocery store manager. He overheard her say, “Lily, you can do this. We just have to get a few things.” Moments later, when the child became more upset, the mother said calmly, “It’s okay, Lily. We’re almost done.” When the child became hysterical in the checkout line, the …

GRADUATION: Greatest Quotes – Invocation & Advice and The Nature & Value of Education

INVOCATIONS AND ADVICE Now that you’re getting your degrees it’s a good time to set goals and devise a plan. You need a roadmap, but be prepared for unintended detours, confusing signs and closed roads. Don’t be afraid of change or unwilling to change. Enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you, because that’s your life. — Michael Josephson Put your future …

COMMENTARY 986.1: There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics

Some years ago, a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company objected when I asserted that corporations have an ethical, as well as a legal obligation to keep promises and honor their contracts. He said that the decision to live up to or ignore contractual commitments is a business decision, not an ethical one. The other party has legal remedies, …

COMMENTARY 985.5: A Call for More Civility

When George Washington was 16, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave. He was so convinced that these maxims would help him become a better person that he set out to incorporate them into his daily living. Among Washington’s many virtues, his commitment to civility marked him as a gentleman and helped him become …

COMMENTARY 984.2: How to Change Attitudes and Behavior

In yesterday’s commentary, I talked about a teacher named Shavonne who was at wits end with several students, including Leon, whose lack of self-control when he became angry or frustrated constantly created trouble.  She was certain that nothing short of intense therapy could change his behavior. Changing Leon’s behavior will be a challenge, but it has to start with changing …

COMMENTARY 984.1: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

Shavonne, a third-grade teacher, was at the end of her rope with disciplinary problems, but she wasn’t enthusiastic when she was told that her school had adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Now she was expected to explicitly seek to instill and enhance in her students core ethical values like honesty, respect, and responsibility, and to help them develop positive social …

COMMENTARY 981.2: The Illusion of Success

Reach for the stars. Pursue goals beyond your grasp. These are good life strategies. We never know how much we can accomplish until we try. But what happens when we’re told we must reach the stars or suffer consequences? A common workplace strategy to spur employee achievement is to set aggressive productivity objectives that, like mechanical rabbits that lead racing …

COMMENTARY 980.5: Blessing or Curse?

A man and his companion lost their way in a forest. The companion despaired, but the man said maybe some good would come of it. They came upon a stranger who needed the man’s help. The stranger turned out to be a prince who gave the man a beautiful horse. His neighbors praised his good luck and said, “How blessed …

COMMENTARY 979.3: What Do You Want to See More of and Less of?

Inspirational author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “Start with the end in mind.” So whenever a company wants to launch an ethics initiative, we at Josephson Institute use a simple exercise: “Look at your organization today – its managers, line employees, and customers – and list behaviors and attitudes you’d like to see more of and less of.” We …

COMMENTARY: Learning and Believing

One of the marks of our species is our limitless capacity to learn. Sometimes we learn how to do something we’ve never done before. Sometimes we learn facts about the world, about other people, and about ourselves.

COMMENTARY 978.3: Curing Victimitis

Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes. Watch your attitudes; they lead to words. Watch your words; they lead to actions. Watch your actions; they lead to habits. Watch your habits; they form your character. Watch your character; it determines your destiny. These words of unknown origin tell us that our silent and often subconscious choices shape our future. Every …

COMMENTARY 974.4: Responsibilities of Management

Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive. I’ve …