In business, as in life, we need to remember five principles, says Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy: Do no harm, make things better, respect others, be fair and be loving.

These ethical principles may seem obvious, but with Wall Street still trying to recover from a crisis of confidence they are important to keep in mind. For example, if you overheard a co-worker talking about confidential client information with a colleague would you confront them?, asked Weinstein, at the IMCA Consultants Conference in New York City on Tuesday.

Some in the room answered a resounding yes. But others said they’d ignore the incident, while some audience members said they’d go straight to a supervisor to report the employee. These differences in reaction styles don’t make certain people good and others bad, but they are important to remember when dealing with clients and co-workers alike.

Michael J. Mauboussin of Legg Mason Capital Management had some other good practice management tips, including how to avoid making investment mistakes. One mistake many investors make is to invest in what has done well before, said Mauboussin. That’s a big no-no. The average investor, he said, does worse than the mutual fund index because of bad timing. “People pour money in when markets are hot and take money out when they are cold,” he said.

The second mistake is not to be aware of the subconscious processes underlying our decision making. We all like to think we are independent and fact-based thinkers, Mauboussin said, but we are affected by what’s going on around us. Mauboussin gave the example of a store that placed French wines and German wines next to each other on a display. On one day the manager played French music; the next he played German. On the day the French music was played 77% of buyers bought French wine. When German music was played 72% bought German wine. The customers felt the music didn’t impact their choices, but it clearly did. For those who run teams of employees, Mauboussin suggests thinking about the decision-making environment that exists in your office? “Think about: Am I creating a good environment for making decisions? For example, stress makes people make worse decisions,” he said.

The third mistake people make is to believe in experts. Yes, they may have something to add to a conversation, but you may be overlooking the expertise your own employees have as well.


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