It is very rare that I meet an unethical influencer ― thankfully! However, there are many I meet whom I wonder about. They operate on the fringes of integrity, in my view. Trouble is, as I have explained elsewhere, integrity means different things to different people. Right and wrong quickly descend into “it depends”. And this is a growing dilemma given the global diversity so many of us now live with.
When I am training people about influence, perhaps conveniently, I often dodge the ethical question. Partly due to the wide divergence of opinion, but mainly because I want people to take responsibility for their own actions ― at the end of the day people on my training workshops have to live with their own conscience.
Yet, I do have an increasingly clear personal notion of right and wrong when it comes to influence. In a later post, I will share my seven rules for ethical influence; but meantime, where do you draw the line?
Below are 21 questions which you can use to search your conscience, or if you are really brave, get your team to search their collective conscience. The idea is to consider a key influencing scenario you are working on right now, and to use the questions here to challenge your actions.
- If the target of your influence knew everything you know, should they still do it?
- If you were in their shoes, would you do it?
- What are you not telling them, and why?
- Have you told them exactly what you will gain from their yes?
- Do you believe that they are willingly doing what you want them to do?
- To what extent have you exaggerated, omitted or conveniently interpreted the facts?
- Are they going to be happy with their decision to say yes in six months’ time?
- What don’t you want them to know? What are you holding back?
- Be honest, have you deluded yourself into thinking it is right?
- In the cold light of day, will you be pleased with what you have done?
- Does what you are seeking to influence make the world a better place?
- How have you manipulated the argument?
- Is this going to cause them harm?
- Have you shared your views about how they may be disadvantaged by saying yes?
- If you had to suddenly make a full disclosure of everything you know, would you be embarrassed?
- To what extent are you using confidentiality clauses to your own convenience?
- What shortcuts are you taking?
- Can you look them in the eye and convince them that saying yes is the very best option for them?
- What is the balance like between your gain and theirs?
- Does what you are doing breach any of your ethical or moral values?
- What have you lied about?
I wonder, how far down the list did you get before you started to feel a little uncomfortable? Perhaps you reached the stage of wishing you had never started this list of questions — maybe this little Pandora’s Box should have been kept closed.
Perhaps you can delete this list quickly before you go to bed, hoping it will all be forgotten tomorrow. Or perhaps, just maybe, you could take this as an opportunity to adjust your actions.
P.S. Bonus idea. At your next team meeting, hand each person a card with one of the questions on. In turn, ask them to stand and answer it if they can.
P.P.S. Don’t use the bonus idea unless you are really sure they and you can survive it.
Colin Gautrey is an author, coach, and trainer who specialises in the practical use of power and influence in large organisations. He has 25 years’ experience helping middle/senior professionals to survive, thrive and enjoy their work.
If you are ready to develop your influencing capability, become a member of Breakthrough Influence. If you are serious about becoming highly influential, fast, engage with Colin and he will help you get there in the most effective way possible.
Other articles by Colin:
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