The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 4)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Who we include in our ethical thinking, and how broadly we consider our responsibility to others are both important elements of ethical leadership. In Part 1 of this series, I explored the Depth of our thinking, and in Part 2, I broke down issues related to understanding Context. In Part 3, I looked at embracing Complexity. In Part 4, we’ll dig into the importance of Inclusion.

Why is Inclusion Important?

It is easy to exclude. Our brains are wired to keep us safe, and we typically prefer to be with people in our own trusted groups. If we don’t manage our thinking and perceptions, and our reactions to people and situations, we may (intentionally or unintentionally) make decisions that harm others who are not like us.

“A brain structure called the amygdala is the seat of classical fear conditioning and emotion in the brain. Psychological research has consistently supported the role of fear in prejudiced behavior.”

Naomi Schalit, Humans are wired for prejudice but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story in The Conversation

What Does It Require?

Full inclusion requires that we extend our respect, our care and our concern to all people. It means making responsible choices about what happens to people inside our trusted groups and well beyond them. Applying full inclusion, we see that everyone is within our purvue, everyone demands our consideration, and everyone deserves to be treated well. Treating everyone well means going beyond the superficial level, and beyond token gestures of concern, to offer the same high level of care and concern that we extend to our trusted groups.

Who Do We Engage and Listen To?

Inclusion requires treating people with respect and care, but it also includes engaging in dialogue with people outside of our usual circles, finding out what really matters to them and what they need. If we don’t, we’re just guessing at what they need and our solutions may do more harm than good.

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Don’t Do

  • Treat people outside their trusted groups with a lower level of respect and care
  • Think of certain groups as “in” or “out” of their favor
  • Fall into the trap of deciding what groups of people need without involving them
  • Use divisive language that incites discriminatory or harmful behavior from others

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Do

  • Ethical thinkers and leaders know that diversity is part of the leadership sphere and they embrace full inclusion
  • They build inclusive teams
  • They include diverse voices in important  conversations  and honor the needs and perspectives of all constituents
  • They understand that diversity is an asset and inclusion is a leadership responsibility

When we ignore the importance of inclusion, we may play favorites or treat certain groups disrespectfully, calling attention to our lack of ethical competence. By embracing inclusion, we stay on the path to ethical solutions that work for all, fulfilling our responsibility as ethical leaders in a global society.

Stay tuned for Part 5! 

 

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The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical Thinking and Decision Making require staying grounded in ethical values, but there is much more to do than knowing our values and living them every day through our choices. In Part 1 of this series, I explored the Depth of our thinking, and in Part 2, I broke down issues related to understanding Context. In Part 3, let’s take a look at Complexity.

Embracing Complexity is Part of Leadership

Complexity has become a way of life. To make ethical decisions, we must embrace it and incorporate it into our thinking processes. That means digging into issues until we understand their multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions. It means being intentional about decision making and avoiding making snap judgments.

Leaders who develop a high level of thinking complexity will be better able to help our organizations understand and work through a wide variety of challenges, problems, and opportunities. They will make sense of issues and problems that are multidimensional and connected. And they will be prepared to do what all great leaders do – help those they lead deal with increasing complexity.

         — Linda Fisher Thornton, Dealing With Complexity in Leadership 

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Don’t Do

  • Use oversimplified approaches to understanding complex issues
  • Ignore the complexity of an issue because “it’s too hard to figure out.”
  • Fall into the trap of only noticing data that conveniently backs up their current beliefs

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Do

  • Ethical thinkers and leaders know that complexity is part of the leadership sphere and they embrace it 
  • They look for, notice, and talk about complexity
  • They work to find clear and compelling ways to communicate complex issues so that others can understand them

When we ignore complexity, many around us can easily see that we are not operating in reality. They can see that we’re not taking informed action and not solving problems in responsible ways. By embracing complexity, we stay on the path that leads to ethical solutions that work in the real world.

Stay tuned for Part 4 in this series! 

Dealing With Complexity? Use Ethical Thinking

 

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The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 1)

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Welcome to Part 1 in “The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making.” Ethical decision-making is not simply a task. It is the process of analyzing and understanding multiple connected variables in a changing context AND applying ethical values to make responsible choices. It requires doing the work to understand issues clearly before making decisions or taking action. In each post in this series, I’ll explore one aspect of this complex, connected process. Today I’ll focus on the importance of deep thinking. 

Deep Thinking

Ethical thinking requires much more than just knowing and following our values. I’ve written about the trap of shallow thinking and how important it is to intentionally “wade into” the depth of issues to fully understand them.

Why is deep thinking so important? 

  • Complex issues involve connected systems which are undergoing constant change
  • Complex issues cross borders and boundaries
  • Complex issues can’t be understood from one or two perspectives

When we dig into issues and explore their depths, we gain insights that we would otherwise miss. Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.

Shallow Thinking and Shallow Breathing

What happens when our approach is too shallow? Think about how easy it is to start using shallow breathing without being aware that we’re doing it. This can happen when we’re stressed or anxious, and it can impact our well-being. We may be unaware that we are using shallow breathing until someone notices we’re turning pale and tells us to BREATHE.

We can medically treat people who are having trouble breathing. But what do we do about thinking that is starved for depth, context and complexity?

When we use shallow thinking, that impacts the “well-being” of our decision making, leading to false conclusions and ethically problematic decisions. It’s almost as if when we use shallow thinking, our decision making is getting less oxygen. 

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Don’t Do

  • Survey issues at the shallow level and make bold statements without all the information
  • Attack the statements or decisions other people make without doing the deep thinking required to understand the complexity of the issues
  • Blame others for being “wrong” without trying to understand their perspective or the data that backs it up

What Ethical Thinkers and Leaders Do

  • Ethical thinkers and leaders do the deep thinking
  • They ask for input and listen to what other people see and believe
  • They wade into the depths of issues to understand them clearly before they make decisions
  • They struggle through a tangled web of complex information to find the truth

In the airline safety briefing before a flight, we are told to “put on our own oxygen mask first, then assist other passengers.” Similarly, we need to do our own deep thinking before we direct others. When we do the deep thinking, we set the tone for those we lead to do the same. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the “Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making” Series!

 

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Healthy Media Consumption

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I’ve blogged about how to spot fake news and variables complicating media ethics. Today I’ll explore the characteristics healthy media consumption. Let’s begin with a dose of healthy skepticism. 

Healthy Skepticism

You can’t believe everything you see. Photographs and videos that appear to be “proof” of a story may have been altered. Your best bet is to choose your sources of information carefully so that you can reasonably be assured that what you are seeing and hearing is real.

Careful Sourcing

Not all media platforms are created equal. Some don’t even try to be objective, and others are trying to sell you things while making you think you’re being entertained. Choose platforms that are considered objective, or sample a wide range of differing sources that each have different perspectives/biases/assumptions.

Time to Think

We need time to think. It is easier to stay grounded in our values when we have the time and space to reflect on them. When we aren’t constantly consuming content, we are more aware of our thought processes and more likely to pay attention to our responsibilities.

Multiple Layers of Truth

Even if you choose reputable news sources, you still have to look critically at the information that is presented. In the rush to share news first, even reputable sources mistakenly share content that may have some problems on closer inspection. We have to watch for layers of truth and investigate things to see if the assertion holds up at more than one level.

Case in point: The Washington Post published a story headlined‘Horns’ are growing on young people’s skulls. Phone use is to blame, research suggests.While the study mentioned in the article was actually published, questions were raised about the way the study was conducted, including existing neck problems in study participants, according to Ari Shapiro and John Hawks in the recent NPR interview: Is Technology Turning Us Into Horned Monsters? Not Exactly. In addition, the Washington Post article has since been updated to include that there appears to be researcher conflict of interest.

Careful Content Consumption 

“Smart” phones change our lives in positive ways, but they don’t remove the need for good thinking. Even though it may seem this way, they don’t simplify things for us so we can do less thinking. The high volume, high speed flood of content we are exposed to actually MULTIPLIES the need for good thinking and careful content consumption.

 

Also See How You Can Stop the Fake News Madness.

 

 

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Top Post Series of 2018: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series this year reflects a concern I have that many other people must share. It is a concern about what can happen when we don’t use ethical thinking.

This series answers the important question “Why should we take the time to think intentionally about the ethics of our decisions and actions?” Today I’ll share a quote from each post in the series that will give you a quick overview of the topic.

Here’s the most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2018 – Why Ethical Thinking Matters. 

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

“If we just teach people skills, without upgrading their thinking, we are not preparing them for success in the real world.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

“You can’t solve a complex multidimensional puzzle a few pieces at a time.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

“In a world of ethical complexity, leaders need to learn CLEAR and COHERENT ethical thinking.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

“Leaders are ethical brand value ambassadors.”

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)

“Ethical thinking doesn’t just HAPPEN in a rapidly changing global environment.”

This timely series includes compelling reasons for making ethical thinking a priority in your board rooms and training rooms this year. 

 

 

 

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The Seductive Power of the Status Quo

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Why do we have such a powerful negative reaction when we find out that we need to change? The status quo literally has a grip on us.

“Bearing in mind our natural propensity for the status quo will enable us to recognize the allure of inertia and more effectively overcome it.”

Rob Henderson, How Powerful is Status Quo Bias, Psychology Today

According to Sue Langley, at the Langley Group, “It takes more effort to think about and do something new than react out of instinct or habit.” Fortunately, she adds, “willpower, focused attention and mindful action can be used to push through resistance and rewire habitual patterns.” (The Neuroscience of Change, Langley Group)

Being aware of the brain’s tendency to want to keep things the same is important in terms of ethical decision making. What could we be missing? 

  • Does that change we’ve been putting off put us at risk of failing to keep up with changing ethical expectations? 
  • Is our discomfort with change causing us to make decisions that harm individuals or groups?
  • Are we thinking short term because it is more familiar, when a long-term perspective is really needed?

It will take an intentional effort to overcome the seductive power of the status quo. Take charge of the decision-making process and use ethical values to make ethical choices. 

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 1

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 2

Ready To Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 3

Ready to Change the Ethics Quo (For Good)? Part 4

Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us (Part 2)

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

 

 

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“Is It Ethical?” (Decision Tool Based on the Book 7 Lenses)

7LensesStack

By Linda Fisher Thornton

A new ethical decision-making tool is available for readers of 7 Lenses! If you have read the book and want to take your decision-making to a higher level of complexity, visit the new 7 Lenses Tools page. You’ll find the decision-making worksheet “Is it Ethical?” based on the book.

So often decisions are made based on cost or convenience without considering the full ethical impact. This new 7 Lenses® decision-making worksheet guides you through all 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership to get the full picture.

It’s important to think long term about our leadership impact (from 7 different perspectives). When we fully consider the impact of our choices, we can make decisions that meet our own needs and the needs of others and society.

Use this tool for informing:

  • your individual decisions
  • group decision-making conversations
  • coaching and mentoring other leaders

My hope is that “Is It Ethical?” will help you honor all 7 Lenses in your daily leadership. Leaders who are using the 7 Lenses® framework tell me that there is a startling clarity in this approach and that having this framework for understanding ethical responsibility is transforming their leadership and changing their lives in positive ways.

Please share your story with other readers – How is the 7 Lenses® framework helping you stay grounded in ethical values? How is it improving your decision making? How is it changing your daily leadership? 

 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes case examples and questions.

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Which Values Are Ethical Values?

Tell-me-what-you-payBy Linda Fisher Thornton

My Applied Ethics students asked a great question that I want to answer in today’s post:  “Which Values Are Ethical Values?”

Quick Overview

Not all values are ethical values. Some values, such as efficiency, do not have an ethical component. Some ethical values involve qualities of an ethical self (such as honesty and integrity). Others describe positive and ethical behavior toward others, the environment and society.

Ethical values by definition are positive and they often require that we stretch outside of our own interests to respect, protect, serve and help others.

A (Starter) List of Ethical Values

  • Accountability
  • Altruism
  • Avoiding Harm
  • Benevolence
  • Care
  • Citizenship
  • Collaboration (See also Mutual Benefit)
  • Competence (Ethical)
  • Confidentiality
  • Doing Good
  • Fairness
  • Global World View
  • Greater Good
  • Honesty
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Long-Term Thinking
  • Moral Awareness
  • Mutual Benefit
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Personal Congruence (Thoughts, words and actions aligned)
  • Positive Intent
  • Precaution (Choosing safe, healthful ingredients in food products, for example)
  • Preventing Harm
  • Respect For Boundaries
  • Respect For Others
  • Respect For Human Rights and Dignity
  • Service
  • Support For Well-Being of Others
  • Sustainability
  • Taking Responsibility
  • Transparency
  • Trustworthiness
  • Valuing Differences

Our values define who we are and drive the choices we make. Don’t let your daily decisions be made on autopilot. Choose the ethical values that will guide your life and your leadership.

 

For more on ethical values, see ChangeThis.com publication “What Ethical Leaders Believe” and Linda’s leadership book 7 Lenses, which gives a clear picture of ethical values through 7 Lenses and 14 Guiding Principles. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog

 

 

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Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses® of Ethical Leadership. 

Includes case examples and questions.

 

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Want To Thrive in Leadership Future? Tether Yourself To Values

ethical values

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It would be “easy […] for organizations and leaders to become frozen by the magnitude of the changes under way” (McKinsey & Co., Management Intuition For the Next 50 Years). Success in future leadership requires being nimble and adaptive, flexing with constant change, and being ready for anything. 

How should we stay grounded as we avoid crises and manage our way through a maze of increasing expectations?

Without  a place to stand where we know what we believe, without a center to which we can return, we are adrift and at risk from the strong winds of short-sighted opportunism and unethical leadership.

Our center needs to be firmly grounded in values.

Without attaching ourselves to ethical values, we risk being swept toward the next shiny, compelling opportunity that presents itself (but is ethically the wrong thing to do).

We are assaulted with information (overloaded doesn’t begin to describe it) and desperately searching for meaning. 

To thrive as leaders in this unpredictable future, we need to create meaning for ourselves and those we lead in the form of ethical values. Those values which we hold tightly will guide us as we make difficult decisions. They will help us avoid mistakes.

Values will guide us and those we lead through difficult times. 

Without ethical values to guide us, we can forget who we are creating value for, and what our responsibilities are to our constituents. To thrive in leadership future, we need to tether ourselves to ethical values and hold on for dear life as the storm rages on.

7LensesStanding

 

We believe that ethics, integrity and trust are critical to our success.

…But what are we doing to clarify them, to tether our work to them, to teach our organizations how to apply them?

…Are we doing enough?

 

7 Lenses™ Workshops Engage Organizational Leaders in Learning:

  • what it really means to lead with “integrity”
  • how to center daily work in ethical values
  • what is means to be morally aware and ethically competent
  • how to lead in ways that bring out the best in others
  • how to use clear ethical thinking and decision-making
  • how to build lasting trust
  • how doing all of the above transforms organizational results

Scheduling Now for 2015:  Info@LeadinginContext.com

 …Are we doing enough?

 

 

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7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
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Focusing on Profits? Watch Out For the “Blinder” Effect

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We need money to exchange goods and services, pay bills and grow our businesses. So what’s the problem with it? The problem is that profitability cannot become our defining business goal, and it cannot replace values as the central beacon of our decision-making.

Money has no inherent moral grounding. 

Since it has no inherent moral grounding, we can’t ever let money be the deciding factor in our decision-making. We have to balance the quest for dollars with strong ethical values.  It is this moral grounding that ensures that we will consider how our decisions benefit or harm others. Making profitability a singular goal leaves an organization stuck in self-serving mode.

In self-serving mode, anything that brings in dollars looks good.

A focus on money alone causes leaders to plod on, as if wearing blinders, ignoring unintended consequences and harm.

We can’t put money where morality should be.

Have you ever lived in a house constructed by a builder who saved fifty cents by using a cheaper part, and that “savings” interfered with your enjoyment of your home or cost you major repair problems? How do you feel about food companies that choose the cheapest ingredients without regard to the health impact of the products they sell? The self-serving pursuit of profit doesn’t work in today’s world. People expect much more.

Ethical leaders care for constituents (not just profits). 

Money lacks inherent meaning and ethical values. It is just a token of exchange. It is our responsibility to add the ethical values.

 

Follow the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts that help you Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™

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For more, see 7 Lenses  and the related 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

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