I was recently asked to review a book titled Negotiating the Impossible by Deepak Malhotra, who is a Harvard Business School professor. Given the bragadoci0us title and the worn out topic, I expected the worst. I am happy to say that this is a terrific book, full of good advice and fun to read – especially the historical examples of critical negotiations. I do recommend having a look at this one.

The 5th Biggest Ethical Mistake

The fifth biggest ethical mistake is assuming that a business practice is acceptable because it is a common practice in the industry. Just because a practice is common in an industry does not mean that it is safe or ethical. It all depends on which companies in an industry you compare yourself to. For example, Enron was the most admired company in the energy industry – until it wasn’t. If you are the first one in an industry caught doing something wrong, you often pay the price of the entire industry correcting its practices. Think of the scene in The Tin Men in which two aluminum siding salesmen sit outside a Congressional hearing saying to one another, “We only did what everyone was doing.” If this sounds a bit lame, avoid putting yourself in the same position.

The 3rd Big Ethical Mistake

The third big ethical mistake that leaders make is allowing managers in an area suspected of wrong-doing to investigate the matter. Leaders believe they should show trust in the their managers and allow them to investigate accusations. But the chances that the manager is conflicted are too great to take this path. By the way, I discuss ways of avoiding these mistakes in my book Make an Ethical Difference.

Optimism for Ethics

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of students and faculty at Boston University’s Kilichand Honors Program. I have done so many radio programs where the host asks me what is wrong with today’s young people that I wasn’t expecting much. My plan was to cover the main points in Make an Ethical Difference in simplified form. I got a big surprise. The students got very involved in the topic and, to my delight, they showed a level of ethical thinking that is not supposed to exist anymore. They were truly exceptional. The faculty at Kilichand were another pleasant surprise as many were dedicated to integrating ethics in the design of the overall curriculum. I know that this was not a representative sample, but it was a sample and the students and faculty were real! So while we are wringing our hands about today’s kids, please remember that there are some good ones – and some good adults too.