Wow wish I’d been introduced to this guy early in my accounting career. Perhaps life would have been a bit different (not that I’m complaining however.) Bruce Weinstein is one of the nation’s leading experts when it comes to human behavior and ethics. Dr. Weinstein, but now I’m going to call him Bruce, has the kind of career that most people aspire to. He’s the author of a best-selling book, Ethical Intelligence, and has literally spoken to audiences worldwide.
Bruce helps organizations focus on what is truly important, helping them untangle their toughest problems at work and beyond. So today, to help us answer those pesky ethical questions, I’d like to welcome my friend and guest, Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy.
Here’s a link to the show with Bruce in case you’d prefer to listen: Straight Talk Radio with Bruce Weinstein.
Tired of traditional talk? People pontificating about this or that? The left or the right? Sometimes the truth is just off lost in the noise. Having learned life lessons the hard way, Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency!
Nationally known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns and your success. So tune in, turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.
Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.
CHUCK: Well, we are in for a ride today here on Straight Talk Radio. Hi, this is Chuck Gallagher and we’re here to discuss issues and idea that can transform your life, but every choice has a consequence. Those are powerful words and true.
And I have to say, as we start the show, I knew the difference between right and wrong, ethical and unethical, but took what seemed at the time the easy way out only to find that I created more problems for myself than I could have ever imagined. Boy, I wish then I knew what I know now, or better still, I wish I had been introduced early on to my next guest – The Ethics Guy.
Bruce Weinstein is one of the nation’s leading experts when it comes to human behavior and ethics. Dr. Weinstein, but now I’m going to call him Bruce, has the kind of career that most people aspire to. He’s the author of a best-selling book, Ethical Intelligence, and has literally spoken to audiences worldwide.
Bruce helps organizations focus on what is truly important, helping them untangle their toughest problems at work and beyond. So today, to help us answer those pesky ethical questions, I’d like to welcome my friend and guest, Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy. Bruce, welcome!
BRUCE: Great to be here, Chuck.
CHUCK: You know, it is my honor to have you on the show. I am really so excited about this show and I’d love to start our conversation about your book, Ethical Intelligence, but first, I’ve got to ask, how and when did you come up with your trademark, The Ethics Guy?
BRUCE:[chuckles] Well, I moved to New York in 1999 from Jacksonville, Florida, and I had two objectives. One was to meet my soul mate and the other was to become a force in the culture for talking about ethics and reflecting about ethical issues in everyday life. At the time that I came up, there was a column in the New York Times, and in fact, it still runs, but it had been lots in the late nineties and it was called the Ethicist, which is the fancy word for what I do. It’s a rather highfalutin term and most people, I would guess, don’t know what it is and probably wouldn’t know how to pronounce it. In fact, I was one introduced as an EthiKist.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: Because it’s –cist, I guess, as far as the pronunciation.
CHUCK: Right, okay.
BRUCE: So I thought, “Well, how can I do what the New York Times is doing for its audience but for a much broader audience?” And, of course, I greatly respect what the New York Times does, but I wanted to be a populist version of that, so I thought, “Well, The Ethics Guy kind of captures that.” And I thought, “My name isn’t easy to remember or pronounce,” so I thought, “If I call myself The Ethics Guy and a television station or a network or a radio network wants to book me, they might not remember the book Bruce Weinstein but they might say, ‘Get The Ethics Guy on here.’” And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened because a friend of mine was a producer for the O’Reilly Factor and he told me that when he was at Foy News, his boss would say, “Book The Ethics Guy for the next show,” without knowing what my name was, but remembering I had been on.
So it’s worked well and I trademarked it and any time somebody in the United States uses it, unknowingly, I call them and say, “Please don’t do that.” In fact, you can’t do it because I own the trademark to that term. And I actually made a lot of friends that way. I’ve created some new colleagues by doing that.
CHUCK: Well, I’m sure you have, and it is brilliant when you think about marketing and how we connect in the world to have something that is that clear. I mean, you’re The Ethics Guy, and, Bruce, I’ve got to tell you now, I think you kind of did it backwards though. You went from Florida to New York. I mean, isn’t it normally the reverse?
BRUCE: Well, you know, a lot of people come to New York to reinvent themselves. I had been a professor in West Virginia and I had a really fine career there, but I wanted the world to be my classroom, so I had a detour there for a while, making a documentary film and decided to get back into the fray of teaching ethics and went on the electric circuit, where, of course, I kept hearing your name. At most of the conferences I’ve been to, you’ve either just presented there or about to present there or presented there last year. So you and I have crisscrossed without actually meeting in person.
CHUCK: Well, we have crisscrossed a bit and your name comes up a lot and, again, I love the brand. You wrote a book called Ethical Intelligence, which I think is a captivating title because we’re obviously dealing in a world of, “What is ethical behavior and how do intelligent people make that,” so first we’ll start a little bit by telling me your motivation to write that book.
BRUCE: There is a popular book called Emotional Intelligence, and one of the struggles that I’ve had in talking about ethics in public, in person, on television, on radio is the term is really off-putting to people. When you hear the word ‘ethics’ in the paper or you hear it on the news or whatever, what is it normally associated with, the term ‘ethics’?
CHUCK: Well, normally, what you end up hearing in the news, unfortunately, is someone screwing up somehow.
CHUCK: And making unethical choices.
BRUCE: The word that normally follows ‘ethics’ or ‘ethical’ is ‘violation’, so it’s linked in the public consciousness to bad behavior, to wrongful conduct, to wrongdoing. Somebody did something they shouldn’t have done, and that’s certainly part of what ethics is about, but it’s also about good people making the best possible choices and good people trying to figure out how to be the most honorable person of people they can be.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’m going to try to downplay the word ‘ethics’ and play up the idea of this being a smart way to live. Until then, the term ‘emotional intelligence’ has been in our culture for a while and I thought a nice complementary notion to emotional intelligence would be ethical intelligence. Like Daniel Goleman, who popularized emotional intelligence, he did not invent that term. I did not invent ‘ethical intelligence’, but I’m trying to popularize it and so instead of referring to an action or a choice as ethical or unethical, I’ll ask an audience, “Is this the most ethically intelligent choice you could make?”
CHUCK: Okay, that makes sense. In the book, you have a lot of examples, some business examples, obviously, but I get the clear impression that the principles that apply to work and business also apply to work in your personal life.
BRUCE: It’s a great observation, Chuck, and in fact, as I can claim ownership or authorship of the term ‘ethical intelligence’, the five principles that I talk about in the book, which we can get into a moment, but I didn’t come up with those either. And what they are is a more accessible formulation of principles that are used in a classic book in bioethics, formatical ethics, that was promulgated by one of my professors at Georgetown and a book that he wrote for Oxford University Press, called Principles of Biomedical Ethics, is a classic in the field. It refers to, for example, the first principle of biomedical ethics in the book is the principle of non-maleficence. That’s a term that other philosophers know, but probably not a lot of people outside of academics know or understand what that means. All it means, it’s just a Latin word for ‘do no harm’.
BRUCE: So I took the books, Principle Of Non-Maleficence, and reframed it as the ‘Do No Harm’ principle, and I took it outside of medicine because it applies not just to physicians, and dentists, and clinical social workers, but to talk show hosts and producers of talk show programs like Jessica and just about everybody. Really, in fact, I asked a group of eight graders recently, “When you hear the phrase ‘do no harm’, what group of people do you normally associate it with?” and a kid raised his hand and he said, “Hippies.”
CHUCK: [laughs] Okay.
BRUCE: And another kid raised his hand and he said, “Vegetarians!” And then the teachers in the back of the room said, “Police officers.” And I agree, ‘Do No Harm’ applies to physicians, and nurses, and social workers, and hippies, and vegetarians, and police officers, and talk show hosts, and everybody else.
CHUCK: With the few minutes that we have left in this segment, let’s start with ‘Do No Harm’ and give me some quick examples of how you see that playing out in life.
BRUCE: Well, it happens every day, especially in New York when a common way of reading people is to insult them or their mother.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: Outside of New York that actually is an offensive behavior. Here in New York when you do that, it’s just another way of saying, “I care,” but a lot of people still take offense and insults, especially insults, about someone’s mother, and what’s a natural tendency, what’s a natural response when somebody insults you?
CHUCK: Well, mostly—
BRUCE: Curses at you while you’re driving down the highway.
CHUCK: Yeah. Most of the time you become defensive and that brings up feelings of anger and other things.
BRUCE: And what kind of behavior does it prompt?
CHUCK: Well, it doesn’t prompt ethical behavior, it prompts more of an attack really.
BRUCE: Absolutely! Someone insults you, you’re going to insult them right back. In fact, in the movie The Untouchables, I’m reminder here, when Sean Connery calls Kevin Costner, “If somebody insults you with a baseball bat, you come out at him with a gun or a knife. That’s the Chicago way.” So not only do you return like for like, you go one step above it or below it, wherever your perspective is.
The ‘Do No Harm’ principle, in that context, when someone insults you on the street or while you’re driving, is to do nothing. It’s a principle of restraint. And the reason it makes a lot of sense when you’re driving is because if you return like for like, if you respond the Chicago way, what Sean Connery is talking about, what’s going to be a consequence? I mean, as you rightly point out in your talks and in your books, actions have consequences. What will be the consequence of responding with an insult to someone if you’re driving on the highway?
CHUCK: Bruce, it’s hard to do this, but ‘the cliffhanger’, what is that response as we go to break here with Straight Talk Radio. This is Chuck Gallagher with my guest, Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy, so we’ll be back in just a few minutes to find out what that consequences and talk about the other four principles in his new book, Ethical Intelligence. Join me in just a few moments.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher, we’re coming back from the break with Straight Talk Radio and I have my guest with me, Bruce Weinstein, known as The Ethics Guy. Bruce is a best-selling author. We’ve been talking about his book, Ethical Intelligence, and we’ve really got some interesting things that have come up, but Bruce helps organizations focus on what is truly important. He is a gentleman that speaks literally nation-wide and it is my honor to have Bruce.
Bruce, before we broke, we were talking about your book and one of the first principles of the five principles you list is ‘Do No Harm’ and we were at this ‘Cliffhanger’. What happens whenever someone responds in a negative way? So take it from there.
BRUCE: Well, I posed this scenario: suppose you’re driving along the highway and someone speeds ahead of you and turns to you and curses. And I asked, “What’s the natural response to that?” For a lot of people, probably most people, the natural response is to curse and to get angry and to respond in-kind. But the problem with doing that on the highway is that you’re increasing the risk of an accident because you’re temporarily losing control of the vehicle and if you’re with a child or anybody, you’re risking the harm to yourself, to the people around you and to your passengers. So, the ‘Do No Harm’ principle says, “As difficult as it is, and it is hard, to restrain that impulse to do nothing.”
CHUCK: And that makes sense, and I guess for those that want maybe a Biblical perspective, it’s, “Turn the other cheek.” It’s just, “Accept the fact that whatever someone is doing to you, do no harm back to them.”
I love the principles that you have, but another of the five principles is ‘Make Things Better’. I’ve got to ask, though it may be making things better, isn’t that relative to the object or the person because what is better for some may not be better for others?
BRUCE: In some respects that’s true, but most people want to be able to eat, and put clothes on their backs, and feed their families, and to make difference in the world. I think the idea of doing better in life is a goal that many of us have and we understand better in a broad sense, I think, pretty much the same way, but certainly for you making things better, say with your hobbies, might mean… What do you for a hobby, Chuck?
CHUCK: I’m a pilot. I like to fly.
BRUCE: Okay, now that would make things worse for me because I hate to fly.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: But that’s a great example. Do you like hard rock music?
CHUCK: I like rock music, I don’t know how hard we want to make it, but I like rock music, you know? Look, I’m 56, I can go back to the seventies when people sing about love and joy and let the sunshine it, for goodness’ sake.
BRUCE: Is that something you like or don’t like?
CHUCK: Oh, no, I like it! That’s good.
BRUCE: Let’s say that music about peace and love might be buying a CD or downloading an album of that might make things better for you, but for other people it might be something that’s not as pleasant, as dental suture without anesthesia.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: But your point’s well taken. The thing about the ‘Make Things Better’ principle, well, there are two things. First of all, the law requires us not to harm people. So the first principle of Ethical Intelligence, ‘Do No Harm’, is rooted both in the law and in ethics, but the law doesn’t require us to make things better. The law doesn’t require us to use our knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in the lives of others, but ethics does. Ethics asks for more of us than the law does.
The other point that is worth of mentioning is, well, you’ve been on a plane, right?
CHUCK: Of course.
BRUCE: You’re on a plane all the time and at the beginning of the flight, the flight attendant will say, “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down and if you’re with a small child, you should help the small child first.” Right? Because that makes things better for the child.
CHUCK: I get that. What then?
BRUCE: It’s a trick question.
CHUCK: Actually, if I remember correctly, they say, “Place the mask on yourself first—“
BRUCE: That’s right! Exactly!
CHUCK: “…. So that you’re able to help the child.”
BRUCE: And why do they say that? Even if you’re with a child, why should you put the mask on yourself before you help a child?
CHUCK: Well, in reality, if you lose cabin pressure, you have seconds to be able to recoup the oxygen and since the child is incapable of making those decisions, the adult has to be conscious to do that.
BRUCE: Right, so if you’re not in a good shape yourself, you’re in no position to help other people.
CHUCK: That’s true.
BRUCE: So the ‘Make Things Better’ principle applies not just to how you treat other people but how you treat yourself. I think this is the missing piece in most discussions about ethics. We tend to think of ethics as having to do with our responsibilities to other people, but it also applies to how we treat ourselves.
BRUCE: And I think if more people recognized that, it would not only be not an off-putting topic, it would be something that we would embrace.
CHUCK: You know, Bruce, one of the things, and I’ll say this, it’s really somewhat confusing to me because making things better seems to be the principle at the core of the debate in Washington between the two political parties, and they seem to be worlds apart on what that means.
BRUCE: I’m sorry, I just have to get in because this often comes up in the Q&As and the way that Washington exists now and the way that it’s run for a long time has nothing to do with ethical principles and it has to do with politics in the worst and most perverse sense of the term, which is who maintains power? Politics used to be about, in classical times, how to use power and influence to enrich the lives of the people you’re representing. Now what it means is enriching the lives of yourself, the politician, so I don’t think that ethics plays a role at all in modern political discourse. It should, but…
CHUCK: Yeah, it should, it should and probably the unfortunate thing is, I believe, maybe I’m wrong, that the population in general would like to see ethics play a central role in public discourse. And yet for whatever reason…
BRUCE: Absolutely. How many times, Chuck, were you asked when you’re on the road, how many times has someone said, “Oh, you talk about ethics, you need to go to Washington.”
CHUCK:[laughs] Oh, that happens all the time.
BRUCE: All the time! And let me ask you this, with all the clients you had, how many of your clients are in a local state or federal government?
CHUCK: Let’s put it this way,[Bruce laughs]
CHUCK: there are some in one state. An association of counties hired me and they did so because their state has the highest incarceration rate of elected officials in the Union and they felt like they needed to do something drastic to try to keep that from taking place.
BRUCE: And it’s the trick, but there was a Trade Association that hired you, not the Government itself.
CHUCK: That’s true. That is absolutely true.
BRUCE: And yet, the Government hires lots of different kinds of contractors and vendors, but not us! Yet!
CHUCK: No, not us yet. Perhaps the problem with hiring someone like you or myself or whoever to come in is if you apply your principles, those principles will fly in the face of amassing power. And that’s where the problem then tends to be.
BRUCE: In the short term, that might be true because, for example, campaign Finance Reform, the reason that’s never going to happen is because it’s not in the interest of the people voting on it to change it.
BRUCE: Because they would have to limit the amount of money that get from packs and super packs to keep them in power. But in the long run, they would be doing themselves a favor because the people they represent would like what they’re doing and keep them in office.
BRUCE: Did you see that movie Bulworth by Warren Beatty in the late nineties?
CHUCK: No, I don’t think so.
BRUCE: It’s a wonderful film and, unfortunately, not a lot of people know about it. It’s a comedy and the premise is suppose a politician told the truth.
BRUCE: And it is a comedy because without premise it has to be comedic, right? But it shows that in fact good things can happen from that, although, ultimately, in this film it didn’t, but people are so surprised when someone in that position tells the truth, they don’t know what to make of it.
BRUCE: Well, it does seem to be telling the truth, being honest, being fair, respecting others, which, by the way, is your third principle. So, before we go to break, let’s talk about principle no.3, ‘Respecting Others’, and some practical examples of how you see that playing out in folk’s lives.
BRUCE: There are three ways that we can apply the principle of respecting everyday life, like keeping confidential things confidential, by telling the truth and by keeping our promises. Do we have time to go into any more detail?
BRUCE: Yeah, actually we can and the first, when you were talking about keeping things confidential, and I have to say, I’m always humored when someone comes up to you and says, “Bruce, I need to talk to you and let me share something with you confidentially,” because, fundamentally, there is a pretty good idea that out in the workplace somewhere, someone else is sharing something confidential and the next thing you know, there’s nothing confidential, but everybody thinks they are being confidential.
BRUCE: The only way to keep a secret is never to tell anybody.
CHUCK: Isn’t that the truth?
BRUCE: And hard to do. I was in a hospital elevator once and I overheard two physicians talking about a patient. They mentioned the patient’s full name and they mentioned that he had just had a quintuple bypass procedure. It was hard not to hear them in an elevator. What these physicians probably didn’t know is that I knew who they were talking about, but I didn’t know that fellow was ill.
CHUCK: Right. In that circumstance, here you are, you’re in an elevator and here are two physicians talking about someone that you by chance happen to know and you know, based on the Privacy Act and just respecting others, that conversation shouldn’t be taking place in a public place. So what does one do in that circumstance?
BRUCE: There’s a technique I learned while I was a professor. It’s really helpful whenever you need to help someone get back on track or respect confidential information or simply when you have to give criticism to someone, it’s called the praise sandwich, and it has three elements. It begins by saying something complimentary, flattering even to someone, such as, if I had the courage to do this back then, I could have said something like, “Doctor Smith, Doctor Jones,” and I would have done this privately, not in front of other people in the elevator.
BRUCE: I might have said, “Doctor Smith, Doctor Jones, I just want you to know that it’s a pleasure serving with you on the institutional Ethics Committee. I really respect what you do.” Now, assuming that’s sincere, what effect will it have on Doctor Smith and Doctor Jones?
CHUCK: Certainly, they should feel a positive connection with you because of the compliment you’ve paid them.
BRUCE: They’ll like me and they’ll want to hear more.
BRUCE: Now comes the criticism. Now you stick it to them, but not in a way that feels like criticism. So, a thing not to say would be, “How dare you for violating patient’s right to confidentiality and you should know better and blah, blah, blah.” That will throw their defenses off and they’ll shut down and tell you to get lost or words to that effect. If, however, I would have said something like, “I’m sure you’re not aware of it,” giving them the benefit of the doubt, “but I overheard what you were talking about and I wonder if I could hear it, maybe other patients could, too. Maybe family members could hear it.” That’s the criticism, then you end with praise, something like, “And I hope you’ll take what I’m saying to heart. Again, it’s an honor to serve with you and thank you so much for hearing me out.” Praise, criticism, praise.
CHUCK: Praise, criticism, praise, and with that we’re going to take another break. My guest is Bruce Weinstein. He is The Ethics Guy and we’re talking about his book Emotional Intelligence and five—
BRUCE: Ethical Intelligence.
CHUCK: Excuse me, Ethical Intelligence. Gosh, you had me hooked on the other one now that you’ve mentioned that—
BRUCE: That guy sold that book. I need to get some of mine. [25:35]
CHUCK:[laughs] Not a problem. My fault. Ethical Intelligence. In any event, we’re going to be back with Bruce. We’re going to talk about several more of the principles, principle no.4, and then talk about his other book, which I think you’ll find fascinating, so stay with me. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: Hi, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and if you’re just joining us, my guest is Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy, an international speaker and author and a man who is everywhere when it comes to ethics and ethical behavior. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek. Bruce and I have been talking about his book, Ethical Intelligence.
By the way, let me mention that you can take Bruce’s ethics quiz or sign up for his weekly ethics newsletter, or book him to speak to your group by going to theethicsguy.com. I’ve got to tell you, I took the quiz I scored well, Bruce, but I took the quiz and it was really kind of fun and it was a great series of questions that really caused you to think a little bit about what in reality would you do if anything?
But in talking about your book, one of the things that we’ve done, as you have indentified, that there are five principles. The last one we talked about was respecting the others, but the fourth principle is ‘Be Fair’. Help me define ‘fair’, because it seems so much of life is about opposites, winning versus losing, success versus failure. So how do you find fair in that mess?
BRUCE: You often hear people say, “Life isn’t fair,” and when they say that, they’re referring to a couple things. First of all, let’s say that you become ill for whatever reason. It’s hard to see how that is a fair thing to do to you, or to have done to you, especially if you make good choices, healthy choices throughout your life. But I use the term ‘fairness’ with respect to the choices that we make toward one another, so to be fair is to give others their due, and there are several ways that we do that, how we allocate, for example, scarce resources, how we allocate our time. Time management is something that’s often presented as a business or strategic issue and it certainly has a strategic component, but ultimately it’s an ethical one because if you give so much of your time to one area of your life, let’s say your work, that you’re not able to meet your responsibilities to your family and your friends and yourself, that’s not unfortunate, that’s unfair, and therefore ethically unintelligent.
BRUCE: probably something that everybody listening to this can relate to how we punish or discipline other people says a lot about how fair we are as human beings.
CHUCK: That’s interesting. I have to say, I can’t remember the first time I have ever heard people talk about fairness in ethical terms, especially when it comes to time and discipline. I’m kind of curious, let’s get on the discipline route.
CHUCK: Fair discipline versus non-fair.
BRUCE: Yes. Well, let me ask you this, when you’ve had to discipline or punish someone in your life, Chuck, what prompted that? You don’t have to give a specific example, but what was the situation that gave rise to your having to punish or discipline someone?
CHUCK: Well, I’ll tell you a kind of a funny story related to that. Typically, the one that really sticks out in my mind was my 4-year old, this was a long time ago, Bruce, but he was sitting in the back seat of the car in his little car seat and he wouldn’t sit still, he wouldn’t pay attention, he wouldn’t be quiet, he was just going crazy. And I tried reasoning and so forth to try to get or elicit appropriate behavior. Eventually, I’m not saying I’m proud of this, but eventually, I got really frustrated and just reached around and popped him on the leg to try to get his attention. And I have to admit, after that I kind of felt bad so I went to McDonald’s to get him a Happy Meal.[Bruce laughs]
CHUCK: The parental feeling of guilt and a cop’s in line behind me and hits his lights.
CHUCK: I’m like, “What in the world?!” Seems like, and you’ve got to remember, this is a long, long time ago when cell phones just came out, it seems like somebody saw me pop the kid in the car and called me in for child abuse.
BRUCE: Oh, boy.
CHUCK: So the cop pulls me over, of course, looks at the license and registration and then looks at the kid in the backseat, and I can see my 4-year old now, who is very mischievous, say, “Oh, yes, he beats me all the time.”[Bruce laughs]
CHUCK: Fortunately, he didn’t do that. Most of the time these incidents, the long story made short, the incidents of disciplining someone is because they have done something that is either not in their best interest or not in the set of rules that are established to be followed for a particular behavior.
BRUCE: Or they’re just playing to annoy you.
CHUCK: Well, that’s true, too.
BRUCE: So when somebody else says something that we feel they shouldn’t be doing or that we don’t want them to be doing, what is the natural response to that? It’s to be upset, to be angry. In thinking about your response in popping your child on the leg, would you say that that was an appropriate response to what he was doing?
CHUCK: Well, you know, probably not in reality, by that point he had probably irritated me and made me angry enough that I was willing to take a more aggressive approach.
BRUCE: Yes, and what you were doing, and it’s understandable, is allowing your emotion, anger, frustration, to determine what you did and the challenge in being fair and punishing or disciplining someone is to harness that emotion and to channel it appropriately so we don’t allow it to create outcomes that are inappropriate or unfair.
CHUCK: Okay, that makes sense.
BRUCE: By the way, are you a fan of The Andy Griffith Show as I am?
CHUCK: Oh, yes, absolutely.
BRUCE: There’s a wonderful episode called “Opie Wins a Medal”, and I highly recommend it. It’s in season 2, I highly recommend it to your listeners as an example of how to discipline or punish someone appropriately by using your anger appropriately. It’s a wonderful example of how to do that and I often show that to kids. One of my friends, who’s about 10 years older than I am, said, “Bruce, you should not show The Andy Griffitt Show to 8-year olds, to 10-year olds. That would be like us seeing films from the twenties or thirties, when we were growing up, as lessons.” Of course, as a film lover, I would have liked that, but his point’s well taken. And yet The Andy Griffith Show is so well made, so well written, so well scripted, so well acted, produced, that even something that’s slow and black and white and 50, 60 years old still holds their attention. Amazing!
CHUCK: Yeah, it is. While we’re here, I want to go to your last principle before we start talking about your work with kids, but the last principle is ‘Be Loving’. I’m not trying to be funny here, but I can almost hear some of our listeners saying, “Really? Loving? Do you know how hard it is to love someone’s folks?” And I guess some people probably think ‘Be Loving’ is kind of fru fru.
BRUCE: It is fru fru, that’s why I don’t use it any longer.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: The trouble with doing a book is that once it’s out there, it’s a snapshot of the way you thought at the time you wrote it, but it’s incapable of changing in response to feedback, so what I learned after writing this and putting it out there is that, like you say, the term ‘loving’ is fru fru and I don’t want to be, I mean, I have nothing against it, but as a business ethics speaker, I don’t want anybody shutting down because they don’t like the word. The term I use now is ‘to be caring’, ‘to be kind’, ‘to be compassionate’, and essentially means the same thing.
CHUCK: It does.
BRUCE: It plays out the same way. Without running the risk of being accused of being fru fru…[Chuck chuckles]
BRUCE: Not that there’s anything wrong with it!
CHUCK: I like it.
BRUCE: I don’t want anybody shutting me down as an audience member because they don’t like the word I’m using.
CHUCK: And it makes more sense, it does, to say, “I’m going to be compassionate and I’m going to be caring,” because most of us would like to feel like that if we were facing a challenging circumstance in life that someone would be compassionate and caring.
BRUCE: Absolutely. If I had known that then that I know now, then it would have… But when I teach now that’s how I put the fifth principle ‘To Be Caring’ or just ‘To Care’.
CHUCK: Got you. You and I often speak about ethics in business, so before we go to our next break, what do you see as the landscape regarding ethical action in business today?
BRUCE: I’m often asked what is the most pressing ethical issue that businesses face today or that people face, and, hands down, it’s the use and abuse of technology. You can see this anywhere from at the most severe level of national security being compromised, but on a day-to-day more practical level that all of us can relate to is multitasking, not being able to focus while driving. Every day when someone calls me, I have to ask them, “Are you behind the wheel? I can hear a low roar in the background. Yes, but I’m using a hands-free device. But you’re still four times more likely to be involved in a car accident if you talk with someone while you’re driving.” That’s an example I think that everybody can relate to, but there’s so many more that involve technology, its uses and abuses and as you always remind us, rightly so, the consequences of that abuse.
CHUCK: Yeah, it is amazing what technology brings. It brings us the ability to come together via Skype for this radio show, which is wonderful.
CHUCK: But I do recall, you and I talked a couple of weeks ago, and the first question you asked me is, “Are you in your car driving?” I said, “Yes,” and you said, “Let’s schedule another time to talk,” and there’s a reason for that and now that becomes crystal clear because, obviously, it’s not in my best interest to do that. And even though I wasn’t willing to see that, you were and I appreciate you for that.
BRUCE: You’re very kind.
CHUCK: One last quick question before we go to our last segment. Do you think as a society we have a greater focus on ethical action or is there less of focus?
BRUCE: Just says with everything else, there seems to be more of everything in our culture. I mean, 25 years ago, there weren’t folks on an electric circuit and newspapers or certainly online at the time talking about ethics, but now we have the Kardashians that are on a reality show, we have every possible reality show on every network, so there’s a lot of everything now in our culture. And the challenge for us, I think, in wanting to stimulate discussion and reflection on ethics is to rise above the den [37:15]. It’s to get above the noise and to help people appreciate why it’s in their own interest to think about some of these things.
CHUCK:Well, to help folks get above the noise, my guest is Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy, and let me encourage you listeners to go to theethicsguy.com and take Bruce’s ethics quiz. I promise, the quiz doesn’t take long, it’s a great quiz with questions that are thought-provoking and Bruce, as a contributor to the Huffington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek, is an international speaker and author when it comes to ethics. We’ve been talking about his book, Ethical Intelligence, but when we come back from the break, we are going to talk about another book, and the title of that is Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? So, stick with me, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: Thank you for sticking with us on Straight Talk Radio. This is Chuck Gallagher and, boy, have we been having some fun in this show. My guest is Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and international speaker and author and is the author of a book called Ethical Intelligence. I’ve said this a couple of times, but I’m going to reiterate it, go to his website theethicsguy.com and take his ethics quiz. This is one of those things that you might want to take it, but you also might want have some family members take it. The questions are really cool and it really puts you into a state of thinking about the choices that we make in life.
Now, Bruce, in our last segment, I noticed something and it’s similar to me in the same way that both of us, as speakers, tend to also find that we will speak to groups of young people. And you wrote a book for youth, and the title of it I love, Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? So, tell me a little bit about the motivation behind this book.
BRUCE: I wish that I could say that I came up with the idea for a children’s book myself. Like a lot of people, in the back of my mind, I have always thought about writing children’s book on the false assumption that it would be easier. It’s harder, actually, to write for children. But US Airways magazine had done a profile of me when I had a weekly segment on CNN, and a publisher read it and landed and then called my agent and offered me the opportunity to write this book. It was really hard to write and the only way I could keep sane during it was to play poker music. So any time I hear poker music now, I think about writing that book.[Chuck laughs]
BRUCE: But I’m pleased to say that it’s been translated into Chinese.
CHUCK: Wow, that’s a big market.
BRUCE: It’s the toughest audience in a way because unlike adults, if they’re not interested, they’ll just get up and leave. But unlike adults, in a positive way, they speak their mind, they’re willing to answer any question you put to them, they’re full of life, they’re not checking their phones because in schools they’re not allowed to have their phones with them so there’s a vitality and energy and a crack hole in the air and when I have the privilege of speaking to young people, it’s a blast. They really take to this. In fact, parents usually get the book first, read it themselves, talk about it with their kids. There are a couple of schools that have built learning plans around them.
CHUCK: That’s really cool because one of the challenges that, I think, we all face, especially if you’re the parent of young children, is how we start training our youth today to think before they make choices that can’t be changed. I was speaking to a group of junior high kids about four weeks ago and knew the answer to the question, but I posted it anyway. I said, “What’s that social media app that you can take a picture and it deletes in 10 seconds or so?”
CHUCK: Yeah, they all jumped up, “Snapchat!” So what’s the purpose behind that? We’ve got to talking about the choices that you make, the whole premise behind it is when you take a picture, but it disappears, so therefore there’s no footprint, there’s nothing left, but that’s not necessarily true. There certainly may be something left if other people are taking pictures of a picture and it appears on the phone.
BRUCE: Or Screengrab. You can take it. [42:12] screen image.
CHUCK: Absolutely. I have to tell you, I was actually on an interview on a radio show and one of the comments that came up was, a call comes in and Dad’s sitting on a couch, he’s had a tough day, he’s watching his favorite show, Mad Men, whatever happens to be, and a call comes in for Dad. A little 5-year old picks up the phone, answers the phone and it’s, “Dad, you’ve got a call,” and he says, “Tell them in the shower.” And I sit back and I think to myself how often are we training our children that if we don’t like whatever the circumstance is, just lie about it? That’s somehow okay, and boy, what a powerful imprint that teaches to a 5-year old that carries through their life.
BRUCE: It really is and all these kids can relate to examples like that or you hear somebody badmouthing a friend of yours, should you tell your friend? How should you respond to that? You know that someone’s cheating on a test, what’s the right way to respond to that? Kids deal with this all the time, just like adults do so it was really an honor to be able to write something for them and it’s funny, though, what appears in China, in Italy the illustrations are different.
CHUCK: Oh, really?
BRUCE: Yes. The cover for the American edition shows one child passing a note to another, but the Italian edition focuses on this frustrated teacher who can’t get a grip on the unruly students in front of him.
BRUCE: So the acts is as if they are under authority. It’s funny how it reflects cultural norms where the book is, but this Italian edition is beautiful. They did such an amazing job and I got a letter from a parent recently saying, “My 8-year old daughter read your book and wants to know, Dr. Weinstein, are you a vegetarian?”
CHUCK: [laughs] Okay.
BRUCE: I don’t even remember talking about that in the book, so I wonder, as Art Linkletter used to say, “Kids say the darndest things.”
CHUCK: Oh, isn’t that the truth? I absolutely do.
BRUCE: Maybe some of your listeners remember, too.
CHUCK: I’m sure some of them do. One thing, and I think you probably experience the same, is when you speak to a group of kids, they will absolutely ask any question that’s on their mind and that’s the thing that I love as compared to the corporate audience where [44:33] a little more restraint.
Before we wrap things up, in a recent blog post, you mentioned there were three obstacles to doing the right thing. You said it’s fear, focus on short-term benefits and foul mood. I guess I have to say, I looked at that and I thought, “Hm, that’s interesting, but it seems like that focus on the short-term benefit thing is the primary problem we face in business today.
BRUCE: That’s true. This obsession with doing well each quarter that can sometimes line the company to looking beyond that. I mean, just look at Amazon, or to take an example in entertainment, look at the Seinfeld show. That show took a couple of years to find its voice, to find its footing, to find its audience. If the powers of [45:22] looked at it after the first season, it said, “This isn’t working, let’s cancel it,” imagine what the culture would have been deprived of.
BRUCE: They said, “But we’re going to invest in this, we believe in this guy, we believe in this product, if you will, and we’re going to stand behind it,” and that’s exactly what happened and the results speak for themselves. I understand the impulse, especially how competitive the world is, to look closely at the profits each quarter, but it can blind us to making our good choices on behalf of the shareholders and on behalf of the product or service we’re providing.
CHUCK: Well, it certainly can from a business perspective and also on a personal perspective, because if you look at children, if you look at our young people, they have different motivations and different talents and different skills. If we judge everybody based upon just what you did this semester or the grade you happen to get in Chemistry, that may not be the best judge to determine where that child’s ability to shine is going to be.
BRUCE: Absolutely true. I couldn’t agree with you more. I will say that since I came up with the three Fs, if you will, what gets in the way of doing the right thing, and an audience member came up and added a fourth and I think it’s absolutely right on target, it’s not having enough time. The pressure of time can sometimes narrow our focus and prompt us to make choices that we might not make if we had more time.
CHUCK: Yeah, that’s true, and with the issue of time we are now getting pretty close…
BRUCE: Oh, wait a second! I did not even know that setting that up.
CHUCK: You set me up so well. Look, let me do this. Let me encourage everyone that’s listening to Straight Talk Radio here, let me encourage you pick up a copy of all of Bruce’s books. I want to say this, I absolutely know that Ethical Intelligence is an outstanding book, but I also want to say if you’re a parent and you’re sitting there dealing with issues of, “How do I train my child to make those positive ethical choices?” pick up the book that Bruce wrote Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? I think it would absolutely be worth it and, of course, you can find all of Bruce’s material at theethicsguy.com or visit Amazon or pick them up in a bookstore near you and if you don’t see them on the shelf, ask them, I’m sure they’ll be able to get it for you.
BRUCE: I was going to say if they order through my website, I’d be happy to sign it, personalize it if they’d like.
CHUCK: Oh, now, that’s even better! So, go to theethicsguy.com and pick up a copy of Bruce’s books and therefore you get signed copies. And if your organization is planning a powerful meeting that seeks an inspirational presenter and one that earns standing ovations time after time, visit Bruce Weinstein’s website, The Ethics Guy, because I’m sure he’ll welcome the opportunity to talk to you.
Bruce, let me thank you so much for joining me and to all our listeners, join us next week for more Straight Talk, transformational talk radio to live by. This is Chuck Gallagher, tune in next week and you won’t want to miss our show and remember every choice has a consequence. Here’s to the power of positive choices. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio.
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