What’s a moral compass? It is the set of principles and values that guide one’s behaviour. As a rule it is used to signify the presence or absence of morality and high standards. Sadly, it is often absent in business these days.
The moral compass is evident on two distinct levels:
Two levels. Let me explain. Suppose you mention a business idea to your bank manager or accountant, and that person reveals it to others at a networking meeting. You might consider that a breach of confidentiality, and therefore wrong. You would think that the other person lacked integrity. That’s level one of the moral compass.
Level two is when you complain about that breach of confidentiality and the other person cannot see what was wrong in what they did. This is worse than level one.
Some people can make a mistake at level one – they might be loose–tongued and reveal ‘secrets’ without thinking. When they are taken to task they might realise that they did wrong and apologise. Their moral compass may be faulty, but at least they have one.
Some time ago I used the services of People Per Hour, to find an illustrator for a children’s book. I received a string of proposals from interested illustrators. Simultaneously, PPH posted on Facebook, in my name, this statement: “Woo hoo, I have just received a proposal from PPH. Wish me luck.” It included a recommendation (ostensibly from me) to try PPH. A clear example of no moral compass.
On another occasion I joined a mastermind group for mutual (business) support. In the context of implicit confidentiality, I mentioned to one of the others an idea I had to raise the profile of the group’s members. A few days later, without discussing it with me, he circulated his own version of that idea. With no sense of irony, he suggested that we keep it confidential for the time being. That was level one.
When I objected, he and one other member of the group not only said he had done nothing wrong but that I had been wrong to complain. They were unable to see that my trust had been breached. It was the absence of a moral compass at level two.
When free isn’t free
Much more common is the flood of ‘free’ offers which, after several clicks, lead to a requirement to provide your credit card details. There may be a free trial, followed by a commitment to monthly payments for a year or more, or there could be an agreement to pay an amount for postage & packing. The details are not important.
What matters is the lie in the ‘free’ offer. When tackled about this, they might indulge in what I call “equivocation” – demonstrating that the literal meaning of their words puts them in the clear, whereas there had been a demonstrable intention to deceive. That is moral compass missing at level two.
What’s a moral compass?
Moral compass used to be called integrity, but perhaps that word has an old-fashioned ring to it. Call it what you will, it’s about correct and honourable behaviour.
I consider it essential in business. Don’t you?