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Never knowingly sign a false document.

“No matter what type of document is at issue – expense account, stock option, tax return – it is almost always a crime and it is always wrong to intentionally sign an official document that is untrue or inaccurate. Your word and your signature are your bond; consequently, you should never put them at risk by stretching the truth or endorsing something that you know is not right. Your signature is also permanent: it often outlives your memory, and may even outlive you. Therefore, always sign your name with care.” – Hank Shea

Those of you who do not live where I do, in the Vegas valley, may not know about the crisis in our educational system. Before the recession, it was easy to get a job in the service industry where education is not a priority. Now it is different. Because of the economy (14% unemployment), there is a desire to diversify and not depend on one industry – the casinos and the hotels – for jobs. Consequently, five schools have been singled out as turn-around schools, three high schools and two elementary. Most students at these five schools, it seems, can’t read or solve math problems at grade level. These deficiencies have an adverse effect on self-esteem and undermine hope for a bright and successful future.

The insecurities associated with underperforming can lead to cutting corners, cheating on tests, and failing to graduate with one’s class, if at all, and puts some young people at moral-risk for their adult life. Well-educated people, of course, don’t have a ‘lock’ on moral development as we saw in the last decade and see now in some business people and politicians. However, this is a small percentage of the total population. There is simply no better way toward mature character development than education. And, a mature character is needed to live Lesson #9.

Lesson #9 is about accountability. Accountable people live by ethical principles. Canadians David Irvine and Jim Reger, in their insightful book, Bridges of Trust: Making Accountability Authentic (DC Press, 2009), suggest each person develop a personal code of ethics. This code involves three dimensions:

  • Core values – clarity about what matters most in life.
  • Character – clear principles that translate values into action; willing to be held accountable by oneself and by others.
  • Clear ethical boundaries – standards of behavior that are adhered to no matter the personal cost. The ability to see beyond popularity, social approval, financial security, or personal comfort and the freedom to make one’s boundaries known to others.

So, whether it is a matter of filling out an interview form, writing a resume, buying a house, or signing off on an internal audit, the admonition of Lesson #9 is the same: never knowingly sign a questionable document.

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