The good news is, according to Junior Achievement's latest poll of teen-agers, that 62 percent of those polled feel that businesspeople who practice good business ethics are more successful than those who don't. The bad news is that nearly one-third think "bending the rules" is a way to succeed.
Junior Achievement has, for years, been honoring business leaders in its Hall of Fame for being positive role models for our future business leaders -- not just for their business acumen.
In this post-Enron business environment, the public's faith in large corporations has been shaken. But unethical practices can be found in any size company. And with more pressure being placed on our children to grow and succeed, shortcuts can be tempting.
While there are more laws today governing public companies, and many private companies are following the same standards, we shouldn't rely on any government or private agency to make sure we are acting ethically.
We might think that our business ethics are in place, but all it takes is one employee making one unethical decision, and your company could gain a reputation it does not deserve.
The JA honorees say any person in an authoritative role needs to serve as a role model to all employees -- that doing so is one of the easiest and most important ways leaders can mentor others. So start your company's ethics audit at the top. Make sure you are providing the role model the rest of the company needs.
Then examine your company's policies and listen as employees interact with customers. Emphasize ethical business practices during company meetings and communications. When ethics are uppermost in peoples' minds, there is less chance they will act unethically.
But most of all, be that positive role model. Remember, as a business leader, you are- consciously or unconsciously -- shaping and mentoring tomorrow's business leaders.