There is nothing original about justice. There is nothing new about honesty. Virtues haven’t been invented recently. In fact virtues are the oldest language in the world. They are the common thread running through all sacred traditions, cultures and religions about what really matters in the world.

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Virtues have had some bad press over the years, being identified with prissy morality. Yet, today the world is yearning to get back to the basics of decency and moral courage, of honour, justice, integrity, love and service. More and more corporations are seeking ways to contribute something to the community, to have a double bottom line, one of profitability, the other of service and corporate responsibility, the ability to respond ably to the needs of the wider community.

Organisations are asking what can we do as good corporate citizens to impact the world positively? The list of companies with a conscience is growing. Ben and Jerry’s of the US have had a campaign for years to support the preservation of the environment and to promote peace while selling the best ice cream in the world. They sell a lot of it because of their commitment to excellence. Anita Roddick of the Body Shop sells soaps and cosmetics. She expects all of her employees to give time to community service and her business has empowered rural indigenous peoples throughout the world to establish businesses, sending their native products to be marketed at their stores while eradicating poverty in their communities.

The Virtues Project™ is a multicultural initiative to help us all to remember who we really are, to reconnect with the meaning of life. It is a call to remembrance that we are people of justice, honour, love, gentleness, creativity. Many people wonder if it has a hidden religious agenda of any particular faith. It is about the practices or beliefs of any one religion. It is based on the simple wisdom about virtues found in all sacred traditions.

The Virtues Project™ and its simple strategies for living by our highest values is being used in cultures throughout the world, in corporations, families, schools, correctional institutions.

These are the simple Five Strategies of the Virtues Project are helping people to live by their highest values.

1. Speak the Language of the Virtues
When used as a language, virtues have a great power to transform behaviour. Virtues are the elements of spirit to which all sacred traditions call us. Virtues are also the keys to success in anything we undertake. Language has great influence to empower or to discourage. Self esteem is built when shaming, blaming language is replaced calling each other to the virtues. It is applied both when acknowledging or correcting someone. If you fill a home or a school or an office with words like lazy, stupid and bad, that is the behaviour which follows, but if you use words such as courage, helpfulness, and flexibility, you are empowering those behaviours, whether in a child, an employee or a friend.

The language of the virtues is an empowering way to hire, fire and to give performance appraisals. We teach managers to ACT with Tact™ to Acknowledge, Correct and Thank using the virtues to pinpoint ways an employee is succeeding and the things that need to be improved. With this language, and the power of Tact used in a “positivity sandwich”, you can tell anyone anything.

2. Recognise Teachable Moments
This is a way of viewing life as an opportunity for learning, recognizing the tests and challenges as opportunities to hone our virtues. When we remain lifelong learners, humble in our teachability, there is no failure, only opportunities to keep on growing. In the workplace, it is the humility to be continually teachable, to be flexible in the face of crisis, to learn from our mistakes, both individually and as an organization.

3. Set Clear Boundaries
Clear boundaries and clear expectations go together. The authority of a manager should not be based on dominance or people-pleasing but on virtues centred leadership. An employee without boundaries is a person without a clear job description. Every organization needs the rules of the road, the things that work, the non-negotiables. A programme in North America that empowers peole to move from welfare to employment has a slogan, “On time every time” focused on the virtue of reliability. In most organizations, team unity is undermined by backbiting. An organization with zero tolerance for back-biting, which expects employees to work out problems assertively and peacefully will see a huge improvement in morale and productivity. When corporate ground rules are established in the context of virtues, they empower people to act on the best within them.

4. Honour the Spirit
This is an approach which involves accessing meaning and purpose by awakening and touching people’s true spirit. Remember that people are human beings, not human doings. The only way to transform corporate culture is to have virtues – personal practices of being – in tandem with corporate strategies.

Honouring the spirit is about capturing the unique spirit of the organization. How do we do that? By identifying the core virtues which are at the heart of what an organization is about. Discover and name the virtues upon which are the focus for the vision of the organization. Naming the core virtues is a powerful incentive, particularly when leadership walks the talk with integrity and recognizes individuals, catching someone in the act of committing one of those core virtues. “John, your assertiveness today saved us from a costly mistake. Thank you for having the courage to speak up and tell the truth.”

5. Offer the Art of Companioning™
This is a skill and an art to be used y families and counselors in times of grief or celebration, with the dying and their families, to help children and adults to make wise moral choices. In an organization, it is a way of getting to the heart of a matter by asking questions rather than giving quick answers. In times of conflict it is the willingness to stop and to ask questions. When an employee is having a moral dilemma, or has strong feelings of any kind, the Art of Companioning™ involves being deeply present, listening respectfully, and helping them to empty their cup. At the bottom of the cup there is usually a solution.

The world needs people who are willing to take personal responsibility. It needs organizations dedicated to a double bottom line, one of corporate profitability and of community responsibility. Let it be this generation.

© Linda Kavelin – Popov

{ Founder of The Virtues Project™}