Making a difference

Although one’s values change over time, I think I can reasonably say that one value that has stuck with me throughout my life is my belief in the importance of making a difference. The earliest illustration of this occurred in my last year of high school when I was personally responsible for my high school not closing for a day as part of an anti-Vietnam war strike but instead dedicating the day to a group of “teach-ins” and discussions led by professors from the local university representing both pro-and anti-war positions. (Fairness always having been important to me!). I had a job in a campus book store and attended a rally designed to disrupt the local high schools as a means of protest, but I reasoned that people would just go off and play baseball or engage in some other meaningless activity and learn nothing about the war.

I presented my idea to the high school principal and he practically fell over himself to offer me the use of his office and telephone to organise this thing, which I did. When I later graduated, I recall the deputy principal jokingly (?) saying, “don’t come back as an outside agitator”, something I had no intention of doing since I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Continuous learning (& professional growth)

Actually, this example illustrates another of my lifelong values, continuous learning. I grew up in a house full of books with two professional parents (oral surgeon, prof of dentistry and economist, town planning expert) who instilled in me a love of learning. My father assembled high fidelity stereo equipment as a young man and was an early adopter of the computer, and my mother taught herself to use Excel in her 80’s having never used any software before in her life. The standards and expectations were high.

These two values combine in my work in a number of ways. A good example is the development of ethics ambassadors as a concept and a reality for several companies I have worked with. The use of “ethics ambassadors”, or employees who have a wide variety of day jobs and dedicate a small amount of their time in some way to improving and supporting the ethical culture and values of their organisation, is a way of making a difference to a many people in the organisation. It involves continuous learning on the part of both the ethics ambassadors themselves, and other employees for whom they act as a “train the trainer” force. To keep an ethics ambassador network alive, one must continuously supply them with new material that is interesting and inspiring. Conversely, listening to your ethics ambassadors will help you learn what is and isn’t working and supply new ideas that can be used to continuously improve your approach.

Do you share either of these values? If so, how do you see them playing out in your work?