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Using the "5 perfections"at work - Discipline

Last week, I published the first in a series of articles related to how several virtues can be strong guidelines in our working lives.    This week, we will consider the second paramita - discipline.     Discipline can be interpreted in a number of ways, but is often thought of as relating to ethical behavior.   Arguments as to what is "moral" may abound, but most clear thinking individuals can easily recognize strong ethics and the lack thereof.    Some obvious manifestations of ethics in the workplace include:

  • Adhering to the written letter of the law in all business dealings.
  • Adhering to company policies and procedures.
  • Delivering on goods and services that have been contractually promised.

This list is the absolute minimum we should expect from our co-workers, customers and vendors.   Realizing the virtue of discipline at a much deeper level could include the following behaviors:

  • Delivering what you promise, whether contractually bound or not.  Period.  This may sound painfully obvious, but we too often see examples of missed deliverables for flimsy reasons.   If a deadline is missed, the parties involved should honestly and forthrightly examine why and fix the core issue.  A technique known as the "5 Whys" is a useful tool for getting to that core issue.
  • Practicing "right speech".    Right speech is one of the aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism.  There is a pithy  guideline for determining if you are practicing right speech.  Each time you open your mouth to speak, ask yourself if what you are about to say is kind, useful and true.   Simple in theory, extremely challenging in practice.
  • Tackling the hard problems that others avoid.   A former co-worker used to always say "no one ever won on the downhill" - not sure who originally made that quote, but it is a great metaphor for taking on a challenge.  Disciplined people thrive on making the most difficult customer happy, solving the toughest engineering challenges and increasing revenues in down economies.