The Right Thing
How to Make Smart Choices
"Doing the Right Thing" is a phrase that has lost some meaning in recent years. As a result, there are a confusing number of interpretations about how to do the right thing. My goal here is to focus on how the concept can be applied to making decisions within small businesses. As some astute experts have pointed out, there is a critical difference between "doing things right" and "doing the right things."
No matter whether we are talking about doing the right thing from an individual or business perspective, making smart choices is an important part of the decision-making journey. I hope to make this path less stressful and more productive for small business owners and other individuals involved in the wide world of business and finance.
The Why and How of Doing the Right Thing
Because It's the Right Thing to Do
Let's start with "why." We have probably all heard variations of someone saying, "Because it's the right thing to do" when talking about why a particular action should be taken. There is often an abundance of uncertainty, conflict, unease and debate about what is "right" because it is rarely the "easy" option. As noted in one of the quotes below, "Right is right even if no one is doing it."
"How" is somewhat more practical to accomplish.
Fortunately, there's a book for that! Actually there are at least two superb ones, and I have recommended both of them in this Hub.
There are also expert opinions from other sources. I have done my best to consolidate several of these viewpoints in the videos that I produced and included below.
Planning Ahead to Do the Right Thing
Sometimes our best "doing the right thing" moments are in the future rather than now. On both a personal and business level, my most practical solution to prepare for this possibility is the following advice:
Always Have a Plan B.
Did I just hear somebody say, "I wish there was a book to help me make better choices and decisions?" If so, here is the book to make your wish come true! This has been one of my favorite books for a long time (originally published over 10 years ago), and it is the perfect book to help you learn more about making smart choices that will enable you to do the right things.
The Role of Ethics in Making Effective Choices
Making "better" choices apparently means different things to different people. I have spent the better part of my career focusing on how to do the right thing. Our early surroundings clearly influence how easily each of us is able to confront later challenges involving ethical choices and decisions. This correlation can also apply to other learning experiences. For example, I have written an illuminating article about the Marshmallow Test given to children at an early age. In this case, there is growing evidence of a clear connection between the early willpower of a child (to postpone receiving a reward such as a marshmallow) and later success in life.
What if a person is raised in an environment in which ethics and ethical decisions play little or no role? How difficult is it for such individuals to acquire the ability and mindset for doing the right thing? Can we really learn to make effective decisions?
In my opinion, the skills to make effective and ethical choices can indeed be learned later in life. A major part of my small business consulting practice is devoted to helping both individuals and small businesses acquire a number of critical business skills via specialized training. Some of these skill sets include the ability to use cost effectiveness and other decision-making criteria to make smart choices.
However, an ongoing business communication problem (and it's a big one) is that we are constantly dealing and working with individuals and companies that have discovered that there are profits to be made by "going to the dark side" and generally not doing the right thing. After some events in recent years, how many of us regularly trust that politicians and bankers will do the right thing? It seems that many of these guys have received their own specialized training in self-interest and conflict of interest. It's a real-life drama with the good guys against the bad guys.
A rapidly-evolving piece of the puzzle when it comes to ethical lapses and doing the wrong thing is the world of internet information. Cheating, stealing and plagiarizing have all become profitable business strategies on the internet. Realistically there should be a zero-tolerance policy when these transgressions are discovered, but this practical standard is proving to be an illusive target. Where are the ethics and smart decisions? Are we all going to let the bad guys win?
Am I being too optimistic to think that the good guys will win even if it takes more than one attempt to do so? A Margaret Thatcher quote might say it as well as anything else:
"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."
The Right Thing for Military Transition to Business
Military Personnel Could Use a Little Help from Their Friends
Helping military personnel in their transition to a new career after completing military service certainly seems like an easy candidate for Doing the Right Thing. But day after day, there are ongoing reports of historically high rates of unemployment and homelessness among returning veterans. This is not "Right" under any circumstances. So in my opinion, whatever we are already doing is not enough. We can and should do better.
It seems like each of us can do something to make this a little (or a lot) better. As a Navy veteran, perhaps I have a different perspective than those without military experience. For my own part, I spend a considerable amount of time in the career training and mentoring of military personnel who are interested in pursuing small business finance consulting careers. I produced the training video shown below to highlight some of the avoidable problems that are likely to be encountered during most transitions to small business careers.
Improving the Transition to Small Business Careers
"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." (Peter Drucker) As we all know, getting the right things done is a constant and difficult challenge. As identified by Peter Drucker in this book, there are five key business effectiveness practices that can be learned. This superb book is one of several masterpieces written by Peter Drucker.
Five of the Right Things for Small Businesses: 5 Effective Choices
When we talk about "Doing the Right Thing," there is often a moral and ethical element that is assumed to be part of the process. From a business perspective, there is usually an expectation that "Doing the Right Thing" will also lead to increased effectiveness and productivity for the company.
As Peter Drucker observed so astutely, "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." In fact, his primary measure of an executive was the ability to "get the right things done."
Based on over 30 years of working with small business owners, here is my short list of five smart choices for getting the right things done for (most) small businesses. All five activities are highly related to each other and require some adept coordination.
1 — Contingency planning. This smart choice is represented by the theme of "Always have a Plan B" that is never absent from my business consulting efforts.
2 — Training. This smart business choice usually does not get enough respect whenever it is discussed and analyzed.
3 — Business proposal writing. Any business needs all the smart choices they can find when it comes to increasing sales, and business proposals represent the smartest choice of them all in most cases for small businesses.
4 — Reduction of business expenses. Paying attention to the cost-effectiveness of any business expenditure is a very smart choice.
5 — Business negotiating. This is an activity that many individuals love to hate, but it is still a smart choice for getting the right things done.
More About Peter Drucker's Positive Influences
Wrong Is Wrong Even If Everyone Is Doing It
(Quote: Augustine of Hippo)
- Reverse mortgages
- Zombie banks
- Article spinning
- Paying for likes and favorable reviews
- Annoying and excessive advertising
Ancient and Recent Wisdom about the Right Thing
- "Doing what's right is seldom easy." (Janice Hardy)
- "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." (Winston Churchill)
- "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst you can do is nothing." (Theodore Roosevelt)
- "Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it." (Augustine of Hippo)
Business Writing: Doing the Right Thing
Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.— Mark Twain
© 2013 Stephen Bush