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Code of Ethics – Festive Season, not Silly Season.

As a professional organisation, BNI has a Code of Ethics that all members are required to adhere to. Often, we talk about “what” our Code involves. But now, in the lead up to the Festive Season, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the “why” as opposed to the “what”.

The BNI Code of Ethics has been carefully thought about and implemented with one overarching reason in mind. Protection. BNI’s Code of Ethics protects our members, their network, our Chapters, and the BNI brand itself. By requiring all involved in BNI to hold ourselves to a professional standard, we ensure our success as an organisation can continue. The organisation’s success is directly linked and proportionate to the success of each of our members.

So, we’re all in this together, and as such, our behaviour is a reflection of us, our fellow Chapter members, and BNI.

When an individual loses sight of the Code of Ethics and behaves in a manner that we’ve all agreed is not up to our standards as a group, it’s not just that individual whose image is at risk, it’s all of ours. This is why the Code of Ethics needs to be recognised and respected.

One story that stands out was when a highly respected member and leader of a local chapter referred another member to their best friend. The member who received the referral proceeded to yell at and intimidate the client, to the point where she told her friend “Never refer any of your BNI people to me, or my family, again.”

Fortunately for the Chapter members, the valued contributor to the group is still within the BNI network, largely because the Membership Committee had the courage to act in a firm and fair manner. Because this incident was symptomatic of a pattern of behaviour, the MC advised the member who had violated the trust other members placed in them, to find success elsewhere.

The Code of Ethics doesn’t just apply to the meeting room. It also covers social events, and, in fact, any environment where interaction between BNI members, or their referred network, occurs.

The Festive Season sees us all invited to events where we are encouraged to “let our hair down”. Letting our hair down can certainly be done professionally though. Not in a stuffy manner, or a boring, official manner. But still within the standards of what we find acceptable as professionals.

BNI doesn’t explicitly tell people how to behave, however we have a Code of Ethics in place that every member agrees to adhere to when we are first inducted into the organisation., When members don’t adhere to that code, their actions are considered and, where necessary, addressed by the Membership Committee, who are custodians of each Chapter’s culture. There have been occasions (thankfully not for a long time) where members have acted in such a way that the only suitable course of action was for their position in the Chapter being opened. Likewise, there has been behaviour occur that has instigated the resignation of valued members from the Chapter, on the basis that they did not find the behaviour they witnessed to be of a professionally acceptable standard and did not want to be associated with it,

No-one wants their position in the group opened because they got just a little bit too loose. Similarly, I’m confident none of us wants our own actions to be responsible for valued members leaving our Chapter, for fear of being tarred with the same brush.

So, enjoy the Festive Season, and the social company of your fellow Chapter members, and make sure you can hold your head high next time you enter the meeting room.

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