A framework for making decisions must support consideration of other people while looking toward achieving a desired objective. What is the balance? How much should we lean toward insuring other people are not harmed and are taken care of during the process of making decisions?
If we go to an extreme of completely focusing on others without consideration for ourselves, we would all be in the streets without food, shelter, and water… wouldn’t we? One counter thought is that if everyone was purely caring for other people, then we would be an “other” for someone else, and all would be good.
In our world, we recognize a pure caring for others does not exist. So, what can we do? Our perspective of decision-making can still be other-looking while we dial it back a bit to insure our own self-preservation and defense. This is necessary for survival in this world. Think about it… if we are not around, then we cannot care for or serve others.
We have been developing a decision framework over the past couple of months. The purpose of this framework is to provide a perspective that if followed, will result in ethical decisions. This is not a problem solving approach to determine a best solution. Using this framework alongside a method of problem-solving will result in a technically good solution (the problem solved) that does not bring harm to other people (ethical).
The framework has five basic components of love, honesty, integrity, stewardship, and justice.
Love – to focus attention on others and to serve selflessly
Honesty – to communicate the truth
Integrity – to align the outside with what is on the inside, not deceiving
Stewardship – to care for and put to good use the resources over which we are responsible
Justice – to protect the rights of others and insure protection from harm with compassion
The basic question to keep in mind while making a decision is: Am I (are we) living out __________ in this decision? while filling in the blank with each of the five components. Living it out points to the fact that the aspect of love, or honesty, or any of the other five components has to come from within and truly believed… not just a demonstration for the sake of appearance. While truly demonstrating any of these five components would disallow a mere surface demonstration for appearances, we make obvious and must not lose sight of this necessary perspective.
Am I showing love toward others in the decision I am making? How often do we ask this during the day? The decision framework starts with love. Love should be the foundation for all other thoughts and activities. Love focuses our attention outward to others. Love is giving, kind, serving, just, compassionate, patient, humble, courteous, trusting, and more. It is not self-serving or self-seeking.
When making business decisions, are we taking into consideration others first? Are we intentionally not trying to bring harm to others, including the competition or faceless regulatory agencies? Love as a consistent approach in business appears to fly in the face of business principles. Does it really, though? In our limited understanding of a situation, it may not make sense to love and serve others first. We really never have one hundred per cent of the facts when making a decision. But we do have control over our approach and thinking while making the decision.
Loving and serving others is the foundation of the decision framework.
The commitment to sharing the truth and not deceiving is the second component of the decision framework. Leaders are faced with the opportunity to share enough truth to persuade their followers in their thinking. It is sharing truth with the motivation to not harm or deceive that should be adopted by our position of honesty.
Believing that a chair will actually support our weight coupled with the chair actually supporting our weight is a picture of integrity. The chair appears to be able to perform a certain function, and internally, the composition of the legs, the seat, and the back are strong enough to actually perform this function. What is on the inside aligns with what is on the outside.
Integrity is this agreement of what is on the inside (thinking and beliefs) with what is on the outside (appearances and actions). During our decision making, are we living out integrity?
We have a responsibility to care for and protect the resources over which we have control. Primary resources are not only natural resources from the earth, but also our time, intelligence. Secondary resources are a result of combining these primary resources in such a way that intermediate or finished goods are produced.
Are we putting to good use resources, are we optimizing the effectiveness of the resources. Are we protecting the resources, guarding against misuse?
People are hurt by other people. Decisions are made that result in hurting people. The simple side justice within our decision making is to not bring harm to people. Are we bringing harm to other people as a result of a proposed decision?
The difficult question is when we extend our decisions beyond the simple ones to engaging in business transactions with vendors or customers that bring harm to others. A passive decision would be to not conduct business with the company in question. An even deeper question is how much effort should be made in actively protecting others from harm.
Balancing activities also brings us back to stewardship and how effectively resources are being used to accomplish a particular mission. There is much injustice in the world. To be most effective, focus and make an impact.
We are faced with the opportunity to make decisions every day, every moment. There are varying degrees of consequences resulting from these decisions. We have a choice in how we approach decisions, and what we allow to motivate our decisions.
When we choose to be ethical and to not bring harm to others, we are choosing a particular path that requires certain framework for making decisions. The decision framework presented here is one that can be adopted to support and enable ethical decision-making.
How can you use this type of framework in your everyday decision making? What aspects of decision making are more difficult to consider within the context of this framework?