Recently I was asked to join Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA on his Ethical Voices PODCAST. Mark is an exceptional communicator and PR professional who started his Ethical Voices Podcast and blog to help others navigate the daily ethical challenges faced by us professionals. He chose the title “the importance of really small things” after our conversation because I do believe it is our daily small ethical choices that prepare us for the big ones when they hit.

In our interview, Mark asked me “What is the most difficult ethical challenge you ever confronted?”

I’ve thought about that question a lot. Oftentimes, we’re looking for that one big time where we really stand up and we make a difference. But I’m here to tell you, it starts with the small things. It starts with those really small things. Aristotle talks about habituation and development of our virtues, and it starts with those very small things. That’s what we’re teaching our students at the Naval Academy.

As I was considering “what is that one thing?” what came to mind is an incident early on in my career. I walked into the squadron one day and some of the guys were saying, “Hey, Barb, thanks so much for the card that you put on the board.” I thought, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I walked over to the bulletin board and there was a card with a picture of a woman on the front. She had her skirt flipped up and she was bent over. Inside the card it said, “To the men of the squadron, from your number one fanny,” with my name was signed on it.

I was FURIOUS, but I waited to cool off before our morning meeting.

At our morning meeting, we went through the reports from the different departments. Then the commanding officer, as he normally would do, said, “Are there any comments from the audience?” I stood up and said, “Whoever put that card on the board, I expect an apology. I will not tolerate this type of behavior in this squadron.” I remember the CO looked at me and he said, “We need to talk.” I said, “Sir, we do. We do need to talk because there is no place for sexual harassment in this organization.”

I brought this example forward because although I was young, I was well-trained. I had four years at the Naval Academy where I learned a lot about grit and persistence and how to stand up for myself. In that moment I was standing up for myself, but I was standing up for everyone else who was different. It starts with those small things and oftentimes we’re afraid to stand up, but it changed the environment, and it changed the culture.

Want to know more about navigating ethical challenges? Please listen to Mark’s podcast.

Fly high,


Need help with your work environment? Drop me a line at captainbarbarabell.com and, of course, check out my book, Flight Lessons: Navigating Through Life’s Turbulence and Learning to Fly High.

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