Leaders: Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Decision Making


Sometimes we need a “guide” to help us discern the proper action for a given situation.

Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Success

Ten Steps to Making Good Moral Decisions

Use these steps as your guide for examining all the possible options in a situation.

Go through each step in order, and make sure you do this process on paper. Writing your answers can be very helpful when you’re in an emotional state about a particular decision.

The writing process directs your emotions through the pen onto the paper, not at another human being!

Step 1

Identify exactly what the problem is

  • Where’s the dilemma?
  • Where does it stem from?
  • Who is involved in it?

Write down everything that’s part of the problem.

Step 2

Identify the goal

  • What’s your aim in solving this problem?
  • What do you want to happen?
  • Is your goal total customer satisfaction?
  • Peace in the workplace?
  • Your kids’ happiness and success?

Whatever it is, write the goal.

According to Dr. Charles Garfield, a goal, i.e. objective, is a dream with a deadline. Without a deadline you have a wish and who’s got time for wishes???

Step 3

Brainstorm as many alternative solutions as you can

“Don’t think logically, and don’t let practicality get in your way.

List as many solutions for this situation as you possibly can.

You can always get rid of impractical ideas later. But unless you have a wide variety of alternative solutions to examine, you can’t really get clear on exactly where you want to go.

Step 4

List the facts—what you know, and what you don’t know

“What do you know about this situation?”

Equally important, write down anything you don’t know and need to find out before you can make a decision.

This may entail asking other people, other companies, other entities for their input, so you can have all the information you need to make the best possible choice.

It’s been my experience that 9 times out of 10, what you didn’t know was crucial to making a better decision! Take the time to find out as much as you can about what you don’t know and you’ll be better off.

Step 5

Identify the people who will be affected by this decision and the principles involved

  • Who in your company will be affected by this decision?
  • Which of your customers?
  • Who in your family and/or your community?

List every person and entity affected. Then make a second list of the principles involved in the decision.

  • On what basis is this decision being made?
  • Is it the company’s mission statement?
  • The values statement?
  • Your personal code of ethics?
  • Customer satisfaction?
  • The bottom-line?
  • What are the key values and principles involved in making this decision?

Step 6

Lists the pros and cons of each solution option

For each solution, write down the risks inherent in using this particular option.

“What are the possible costs to you, your co-workers, your company?

Next to the risks, list the benefits for each solution as well. Be thorough; make sure you list as many risks and benefits as you can for each possible solution.

Step 7

List the importance of each solution and the likelihood it will happen

  • How important to you, your company, or your community, is the choice that will be made?
  • And looking at each alternative solution, what are the chances that it will come to pass?
  • What is the chance you will lose the customer?
  • What is the chance this solution will cause your company to downsize and people will lose their jobs as a result?
  • What is the chance the market will shift?

“Weigh each solution carefully.

  • What’s the importance of the choice, and what are the chances it will happen?

Step 8

List your reasons for choosing each solution

From your perspective as CEO, sales manager, head of sales, parent, friend—whatever the case might be—what would be your reasons for choosing this particular option?

List your motives for each solution you’ve created.

Step 9

List your priorities and preferences

  • If you had your way, how would you like this whole thing to work out?
  • What’s your priority when it comes to this decision?

Step 10

Now, looking at your answers to #1–9, make the decision

Keeping everything you’ve written in mind, make the decision that seems to suit the needs of the situation.

Give it your very best shot—after all, our best is the best we can do.

Following these ten steps helps us to use reason more than emotion when it comes to the tough moments in our lives. The chances of making a better decision after some clear discernment are much, much higher and always more effective.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Frank Bucaro 
is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook Web

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Leaders: Steps to Making an Ethical Decision

Moral Development and Leadership? What a concept!

We all make decisions constantly. We decide what to wear, what to eat, whether to answer the phone, which route to take to work, and so on.

We’re used to making decisions. But the really tough decisions are those where there’s right and wrong on both sides, or where our decisions may cause pain to another individual or to ourselves.

Understanding Decision Making

Right and Wrong

It’s important, first, to understand just how we make decisions, and second, to have a method of evaluating things so we can make the tough choices with a clearer mind and easier heart.

So, how are we conditioned to make decisions?

Jean Piaget
, a Swiss child psychologist, studied the ways children make decisions, and constructed a theory of what he called the “stages of moral development.” Later another psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg elaborated on Piaget’s theory and applied it to adult decision-making as well.

This work states that, as we go through life, our decisions are based upon different factors, arranged in a logical progression.

Stage 1

The first stage is through the threat of punishment.

That’s how a lot of us were raised growing up: “If you don’t clean your room, you can’t go to the party.” Punishment deals with fear and external motivation—not a very high place from which to make a decision, and certainly not a way to run a business or corporation.

Stage 2

The second stage is with reward.

“If you clean your room, I’ll buy you that jacket you want.” This is how we turn our kids into capitalists. Reward is great motivation, but unless you want to be held hostage by constant demands, it’s not effective. If your kids or any of your employees ask you, or imply this attitude of: “If I do that what will you give me?” you know they’re motivated only by reward.

Stage 3

The third stage is the concept of good and bad.

You’re a good employee if you do this, a bad employee if you do that. However, the terms “good” and “bad” are relative; they mean the person doing the speaking is making a value judgment. If I call my employee “good,” what I’m really saying is, “You did what I wanted you to do.”

But does that necessarily mean that the employee sees it in the exact same way?

No. He or she could be saying inside, “Boy, that was a stupid way to get that done,” or “Gee, that wasn’t the kind of service I wanted.”

Stage 4

The fourth stage is rules and regulations.

Did you ever hear your parents say, “As long as you live in this house, you’ll do the dishes” or “take out the garbage” or some other list of chores? Every business also has rules and regulations for its employees’ behavior.

We all have to live with rules and regulations.

However, what’s directing our choices in all of these cases—punishment, reward, good and bad, rules and regulations? It is all based on external forces. We’re deciding based upon what other people are telling us, not what we’re telling ourselves.

Stage 5

The fifth stage is choice and commitment.

As you grew up, you began to make more and more choices for yourself, right? You chose the courses you took in school, whether to go to college, what you majored in, where to live, who to date. You chose and then committed to that choice.

Whether it’s the kind of peanut butter you buy or the job you take, choice and commitment form the basis of most adult decisions.

Stage 6

The sixth stage is internalization.

You become what your choices are. You are a doctor, or a cop, or a secretary. You’re married or single. And the great thing is, you can continue to evolve based upon your choices every minute. None of us are truly stuck in what we are because we’re constantly evolving, constantly becoming something different and hopefully better. Becoming is the essence of living—you only stop becoming when they put dirt on your face.

We need to be operating from the highest possible level of decision-making, where we have internalized the ethics and values that are important to us and we allow ourselves to evolve as human beings, managers, workers, parents, spouses, and children.

These stages of development are extremely useful when we examine our decisions from an ethical perspective. The first step is to identify your own level of decision-making. It’s an important question, because you cannot lead people beyond where you are. The goal is for you and your associates to make decisions based upon choice, commitment, and internalization.

You want to choose and commit to the values of your company, and internalize those values so completely that there is no question about the appropriate response in any situation.

Understanding the Stages

How can you tell where people are on this scale? If someone is working on levels one through four, they will use the phrase, “What do I have to do?”

If they’re operating on levels five and six, they will be using the phrase, “What can I do?”

Your people will tell you where they are.

It’s your job as the leader to empower them to move to a different stage, to a different level of relating and motivation, but only if you are on the level you want your people to function on.

Therefore the onus is on the leader to be able to discern not only where your people are on these “stages” but more importantly the “stage” you’re on, as a leader, because you cannot lead beyond the stage your on.


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Frank Bucaro is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook Web

Image Sources: illustrationsource.com, freepictures.in

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On Leadership, Excellence, and Tough Love

Tough Love

Strong leadership demands excellence and tough love. The balance between these attributes is oftentimes difficult to juggle. It is sometimes even more difficult to know in which direction one should go during times of stress or problems.

So how should a leader think about leading others with excellence and tough love?

Ask Yourself Some Questions

In order to help get and keep your leadership bearings, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I demand excellence of myself?
  • Do I think excellence is a realistic expectation for others?
  • Is there a moral obligation associated with my work?
  • As a leader do I have an obligation to do my best to create an environment where each person feels included and empowered?
  • Does my behavior convey that I place importance on accountability and responsibility?

Getting a Grip

Life is difficult…

…and once I accepted this fact, life seemed to get less difficult.

When I attended a commencement speech a few years ago the speaker made quite an impression on me with the statement “life is a bumpy road with the occasional smooth spots along the way, not the other way around.”

Many of us seem to go through our days expecting life to be easy, and to mostly stay that way. When the “bumps” come our response is often to get upset, angry, or super-stressed.

The simple act of viewing life as a bumpy road (while reminding myself that it is probably one that I can navigate capably) helps me to respond with equanimity when troubles arise.

You are not that important…

…and in the grand scheme of things, we all really are not that important on a global scale.

There have been millions and millions of people who lived before us and only a small number made their way into history books. While babysitting my two-year old grandson, one day I found myself pondering my own mortality and wondering “Who will remember me after him?”

Then I thought, “Who cares, just as long as he remembers me!”

A sense of our place in the universe, living an honorable life, and do a good job with the gifts we have been given seems a worthy pursuit– even if we might not be destined to make the impact of a Mozart, Thomas Edison, or Nelson Mandela.

You are not in control…

…and yet, many of us spend a lot of effort trying to be in control.

How much of our lives can we actually control anyway? Can we control the weather, the traffic or what happens tomorrow? Have you ever had the experience of everything going nicely according to plan only to have some person or unexpected event come along to “mess things up”?

I prefer to view each day as an opportunity for influence (preferably positive) rather than an opportunity for a wrestling match with control.

You life is not just about you…

…and with a little humility, we can see that none of us achieved our successes in life totally on our own.

Parents, teachers, coaches, mentors—someone else helped us along the way. In that sense we stand on the shoulders of others. So some fair questions are these:

Are your shoulders strong enough for the next generation?

Who will you mentor?

Who will you encourage?

What can you do?

And the last fact is the biggie… You are going to die…We try not to think about it, but it is a fact…

In some of my programs I offer what I call the greatest time management principle of them all.

It is this: Live each day as though it is your last day and some day you’ll actually be right!

It is an easy way to keep priorities clear.  Did you enjoy the sunrise this morning? Have you told those important to you how much they mean? Is there a kind word or deed you can offer today? Why wait?


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Frank Bucaro is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook Web

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On Leadership and Ethics: The Great 8 Habits

Right or Wrong? Right or Left?

Your values, code of ethics, and the internalization of the same are the basis for your development of conscience. Ethics have to come from the inside out, not from the outside in. 

According to Aristotle, we can grow and expand in our virtuous behavior through habit.

Aristotle states:

“Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.”

The Great 8 Habits

Start building ethical habits by using these 8 reflection points each day:

1. Find every opportunity to practice the virtues of integrity, trustworthiness, honesty and compassion.

2. Ask yourself this: “How is my organization better today because I am in it?”  And “In what ways?

3. Weigh out your actions  in order to cause more good than harm.  (Consider the short-term vs. long-term consequences of your actions.)

4. Ask yourself this: “How am I a better person because I am part of this organization?

5.  Remember to treat each person with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.

6. Be aware of whom you benefit, whom you burden , and how that decision is made.

7.  Find and name strengths of the organization  that can help you become more human.

8. Practice getting beyond your own interests to make the organization stronger.

Making Them Real

Would you like to make these 8 habits part of you life so that you can better lead others? Then work to mentally internalize these ethics and values. You will need to make them a natural part of your decision-making process.

It has been said that “Ethics are what you do even when nobody is looking.”

When you internalize your code of ethics—when principles like honesty, decency, and looking out for the other team member form the basis of your daily decisions and actions—then you can make the tough choices with more confidence. I’m not going to kid you: even when you have a clear code of ethics to guide you, the tough choices aren’t any less difficult; they’re just clearer.

Often the “right” course is simply the one that will cause less damage in the long-term.

Short and Long-Term Thinking

For example, the ethical choice may mean you refuse to support your boss in fudging figures on a report.

~ In the short-term this might cause a rift between you and your boss, perhaps even make you both look bad to company management.

~But in the long-term your credibility (as well as your boss’s integrity) will be less damaged by telling the truth than by lying and possibly getting caught.

Once we have internalized our personal code of conduct, then comes the hard part: we must choose to abide by those ethics and values in each situation that arises.

Remember, ethics are honesty; not just in principle, but in action.

Frank Bucaro
 is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc. 

He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook Web

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Ethics, Leadership, and the Alamo: Where’s Your Line in the Sand?

Line in the Sand

The story of the Alamo has always captured my attention, both as a kid and as an adult.

I don’t know if this fascination grew because I have been a history buff most of my life, or if it has more to do with the spell that was cast upon me as a child by the Walt Disney movies about Davy Crockett. Business and professional meetings have taken me to San Antonio many times and each trip includes a stop at the Alamo.

The story is a powerful part of Texas history, in which this year 2011, marks the 175th anniversary of the battle and fall of the Alamo.

Leading a Gigantic Task

The task of leading the Alamo defenders fell to Colonel William Barrett Travis. It is difficult to imagine the range of emotions that he experienced as a leader….specifically as he came to the awareness of these dramatic facts:

  • They were alone in a small adobe church-turned-fort
  • Help was not coming
  • They faced certain defeat and death

When it came time to make a decision and convey it with strength and conviction, Colonel Travis stepped forward, tracing a line in the sand with his sword.  He asked the defenders to cross the line if they wanted to stay with him to fight to the end.

The  image of that moment spoke to me about leadership, courage, and making difficult choices.

Draw a Line in the Sand

I use this story to illustrate that there are times and circumstances that may require us to “draw a line in the sand,”

Or conversely, we may be faced with a situation where we may be asked to “cross a line.” While we may never be asked to respond to a request as serious as the one made by Colonel Travis, it is quite possible that we may be asked to make a choice that is quite difficult.

As much as it would be ideal, we cannot count on always having the luxury of long and careful deliberation on difficult issues. A little advanced thought and planning might help if we are ever in a tight spot down the road and charged with making a difficult choice.

Is there something we can do now about a possible future situation? I think so!

1. Keep alert and periodically check what is going on in your industry, department or workplace.

2. Make sure that you are familiar with your industry’s best practices and your organization’s code of ethics and conduct.

3. Consider, before something really serious happens, what would you do if you are asked to do something which goes against your personal code and/or your organization’s code of right and wrong.

Draw your own “line in the sand” ahead of time and keep mindful about where you stand on difficult issues.  Doing so can help to make good choices, for good reasons, on auto-pilot.

The defenders of the Alamo knew why they were there and 189 men crossed that line.  Those men crossed the line knowing they would never go home, never see their wives and children again, yet they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the future of Texas.

What’s your line in the sand? When are you going to be called to duty for a greater cause? What are you doing today, tomorrow, and beyond to prepare for your next line in the sand? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Frank Bucaro
 is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc. 

He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook Web

Image Sources: soccermastermind.com

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Leadership Ripple Effect

Leadership Ripple Effect

Do you ever think about how the decisions you make as a leader affect others? Do you ever consider the far-reaching effects of both the small and large choices that come before you on a daily basis?

As a leader, almost everything you do has a ripple effect on other people both inside and outside of your organization.

Rock-in-the-Pond Ethics

Over the years as an ethics expert and speaker, I have tried to find an analogy that would help my clients understand the importance of discernment before making those tough decisions.

It was while watching some kids throw rocks in a pond that I finally came to this realization that decision-making is like throwing a rock in a pond.

No matter how big or small the rock is, water is displaced and it causes a ripple effect.

Likewise, no matter how “big” or “small” the decision is, people are affected by the decisions that leaders make. The key question here is when is the the time for leaders to think about those “ripples” from the decisions they make?

Is it after you’ve thrown the rock? Or is it while the rock is still in your hands?

Decisions and Consequences

Haven’t we all been in the position where a decision needed to be made and proceeded with our natural process to make that decision. And in that process, we think in our own mind that we had “all our bases covered.” But after making the decision we find that there are “ripples” (i.e. consequences) that appeared that we didn’t event think of.

And now we find later that we are the ones being held accountable.

Another reality is if the rock is big enough and you throw it, it may splash up and have the repercussions come back on you. Hasn’t this been the story of the recession? Companies, politicians, and executives in many different industries have made decisions that have adversely affected the entire financial world, especially the 14+ million unemployed in America and many others around the globe.

A Few Leadership Lessons

There are a few lessons here. Check and see where you fit:

1. When a decision needs to be made, hold the rock before throwing it. Hold it until you are certain that first you know what the obvious ripples are. And secondly that you can and will deal with any unforeseen ripples that occur based on your analysis.

2. Don’t let emotions dictate when to throw the rock. Get communal wisdom from trusted colleagues, etc., that are “for you” and get their wisdom. Reason must always control emotions in decision-making.

3. Sometimes you just need to put the rock down and gather more information before picking it up again for a toss. The danger here is that you think too long on it or it stays in committee too long to be really effective.

4. The bigger the rock (the decision, the bigger the ripples, i.e. consequences.) Go slow choose well! Ask yourself, what does my gut,i.e. conscience, intuition, etc., tell me about this? Then do it.

5. It is important to know BEFORE a decision is made, what one’s values are so as to minimize any regret after a decision after it is made or ”the rock is thrown.”

Will these points save you from making tough decisions? No, but they will decrease the odds of making a seriously flawed or outright wrong decision. It’s all about odds. So what are YOU willing to gamble?

Frank Bucaro
is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc. 

He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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