Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Acting Ethically

Boards of Directors are always interested in concrete details on how to conduct their duties.  One crucial aspect of governance is ethics.  While this seems like a fuzzy subject, there are universal norms, according to the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Below you will find six values that define ethical behavior. Most of them seem like common sense - but a reminder never hurts! And by modeling the behaviors identified below, a Board member would definitely be on the right path to achieving ethical behavior.

  • Trustworthiness - Like they always say in those police procedurals, “Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.  Speak straight and direct.  Don’t betray a trust. Demonstrate integrity—stand up for what you believe, walk the walk and talk the talk.  Show commitment and courage.  Be loyal.  Be discreet with Board information.  Don’t spread rumors or engage in gossip.  Don’t violate your principles just to win approval.  Don’t ask someone to do something wrong. Keep promises—keep your word, honor your commitments, and pay your debts.
  • Respect - Judge by the content of character, not appearance.  Be courteous and accepting of differences.  Accept others’ right to decide about their own lives.  Don’t abuse or demean.  Don’t exploit others.
  • Responsibility - Consider the impact on yourself and others before you act.  Claim the consequences of your choices.  Set a good example.  Don’t take credit for other people’s work.  Be reliable.  Do your best, don’t quit easily, make all you do worthy of pride. There is a difference between what you have ‘a right to do’ and ‘what is right to do’.
  • Fairness - Be open-minded, listening and considering opposing viewpoints.  Be consistent in your actions.  Use only appropriate considerations.  Don’t let personal feelings improperly interfere with decisions.  Don’t take unfair advantage of mistakes.  Don’t take more than your fair share.
  • Caring - Show kindness, sharing, compassion, and empathy.  Live the Golden Rule.  Don’t be selfish, mean, or insensitive to others’ feelings.
  • Citizenship - Play by the rules, obey laws, respect authority.  Stay informed, vote, protect your neighbors' interests, pay your assessments.  Be charitable, help your community, and conserve resources.
Psychological and organizational factors pressure people to not act ethically.  For Boards, one concern is that ethics can cost the Association money, at least in the short term.  Doing the most ethical thing often appears at odds with your short term goals, or may not have an obvious immediate benefit.  Focus on the results over the long-term, whether you are setting precedence for future Boards, or preventing a deferred maintenance disaster.

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