A New Year’s Resolution or Reflection - The Integrity Advantage

With the New Year upon us, resolutions abound.  Some will last, some will fade.  Many are based on achieving a healthier lifestyle of better food choices and more gym time. Others are made based on making a change that can positively affect their careers.  Recently, I read a book for my FEA designation that lends itself well to starting off a new year with new aspirations and hope.  With the newsfeeds full of questionable behavior by leaders or figures of authority; of fake news and questionable decisions or intentions, one could ask – are we simply kidding ourselves in believing that the good guy can finish anywhere but last? 

The Integrity Advantage - How Taking the High Road Creates a Competitive Advantage in Business by Adrian Gostick and Dana Telford, suggests that there IS benefit to keeping one’s integrity intact in carrying out everyday behavior, both personally and in business. 

Integrity is alive and well in modern day organizations.   In fact, it is said that a person cannot achieve success in business without a reputation of trustworthiness and integrity.   Well known business leaders have suggested that Integrity is at the core of any good business decision and any good business person.  When asked how he hires, Warren Buffet stated:

“I look for three things.  The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence and the third is a high energy level.  But…if you don’t have the first, the second two don’t really matter.”

Making the deal, achieving bonus upon financial bonus or promotion upon promotion, using selective language to present the ‘truth’ eventually fades, when the realization sets in that one no longer is being true to him/ herself, and ultimately to an organization and its people.  In other words, they have stretched their own moral fiber at the direction or even suggestion of someone else, to the point where they have lost all integrity. 

By understanding what Integrity means in everyday actions and decisions, one can assess themselves, their organization and then adjust accordingly, in order to each life-long success.

10 Key Characteristics of Integrity – How Integrity Shows up in Everyday Life

  1. You know that Little Things Count
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that what you do matters. It is with the smaller actions that you take on a daily basis that you build upon the integrity that you have or want to establish.  Conversely, with each action and decision, you make your integrity can be easily eroded.  Over time, it is these small actions that define you and that you must be aware that it happens one decision or action at a time, and not necessarily with the bigger decisions.  If the smaller decisions and actions have been made with integrity, it essentially leads to following that same pattern with making the large decisions with integrity as well. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you do not lie or cheat on the small things; and as a result, you are not corrupted by the larger temptations – the lure of power, prestige or money.  Just as importantly, if you have integrity, you stick to your internal code of morality, even at the risk of losing your comfortable place in the world.”
  2. You find the White when others See Gray
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that you find out what the truth is. You don’t remain in the ‘grey’ area and think, maybe it’s true and then act.  Instead, you seek out the truth so that you know what is right and what is wrong and how to act accordingly. Where there is no clarity on what is right, you don’t stop there.  You make a point of finding clarity in order to make the best decision.  With this as the end goal, the due diligence you put forward in making the decision is just as important, if not more important than the decision itself.
    • With every decision, there are essentially 2 roads that can be taken. If you find yourself having to create an elaborate justification for making that decision than most likely you are not doing the right thing. “Sometimes people are good people but they make judgment errors. It’s not a question of morality; they just make a mistake.”  Ask questions, be transparent, look at the difficult parts of an issue so that the decision you make can hold up if it is remembered as part of your personal legacy. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you do not make tough decisions alone.  You ask questions, receive counsel, reflect, and take a long-term view. In short, you ensure that you never make a decision that would violate your internal code of integrity.”
  3. You Mess Up, You Fess Up
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that if you have made a mistake you own it and take responsibility for your actions, to then make the necessary decision to correct the situation or provide appropriate restitution. Full disclosure will create a culture of integrity. If the leader is making integral decisions when it counts, regardless of the consequences, the rest of the organization sees that, that standard has been set and will be followed.  This is an important characteristic, as often it is “not only what you say but what you don’t say that leaves you open in terms of breach of trust and integrity.”  It should be understood that people can handle the truth – whether they are employees or investors or other stakeholders.  When the truth is kept from them, which is when the question of integrity comes in.   Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, an integral part of leadership is the pursuit of integrity.  You are open and honest, disclosing good news and bad. You share all pertinent information, not just that which will help make your case.  You acknowledge failure, apologize, and make amends.”
  4. You Create a Culture of Trust
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that it is critical the environment and the people within it must both be of integrity. Trust must flow every which way so that a positive environment exists that has the right people in it that are of integrity. This does not just happen, but instead, efforts must be made to create such an environment - continually.  Controls, principles and values should be in place so that employees are not tempted to make poor decisions and justify those poor decisions. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you help create the right work environment, one that will not test the personal integrity of your employees or coworkers.  You reinforce integrity through principles, controls personal example. And you reward those in your employee who display personal integrity in their actions.”
  5. You Keep Your Word
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that relationships are built on trust and by keeping your word, trust is built. Commitments that are made should be honored. Your reputation is built on people being able to predict that you will follow through with what you have committed to, as you have indicated. Trustworthiness is a characteristic that holds a great deal of value.  Business deals and decisions will be made with individuals who can be counted on. Essentially,”to have the Integrity Advantage, employees don’t follow leaders they don’t trust.  Employers don’t hire people or promote employees they don’t trust. You act with integrity to gain trust.”
  6. You Care about the Greater Good
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding of following the Golden Rule, or what goes around comes around. Not only must a good leader care about the organization, and the business objectives, the products and services, etc., a leader of integrity looks out for its own teammates and its employees. This implies making decisions that are best for the organization and its employees, ahead of your own gain and knowing that this action will be rewarded in the end. Living one’s life with humility and a careful awareness of what others are going through and the impact decisions could have on their well-being, will still lead to success because a purpose is found by focusing on the bigger picture and not oneself.  Honest and fairness is at the core of this, especially in the area of being truthful about one’s performance – regardless of how difficult such a conversation can be. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you are deeply committed to and make decisions that will benefit the entire organization to which you belong.  You care personally about your company and especially the employees.  Through your work, you gain a sense of deeper purpose.”
  7. You’re Honest but Modest
    • The premise of this characteristic is the basic understanding that honesty is important, but cannot be claimed. It is a judgment made by the people around you based on your actions you carry out in everyday life. A humble leader is courteous and respectful and treats all employees with this same courtesy.  It is their everyday actions and not once in the moment crusades, that result in extraordinary achievements. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you do not proclaim your virtue or honesty.  That’s like boasting of your humility. You allow your actions to speak louder than your words.”
  8. You Act Like You’re Being Watched
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that every action you take is well thought out and aligned with what is right and truthful knowing that it would not be altered if you had an audience. Decisions should be made knowing they can be scrutinized, at any time. When faced with tough decisions, you would not buckle under pressure and take the easy route or hold back negative information because you know that not only your words are being considered, but so is your behavior. Most people are good and these values are then enhanced and can be reinforced through modeling positive behavior. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you assume every move is being watched. You ensure that your integrity is passed along to future generations through your example.” 
  9. You Hire Integrity
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that integrity must be inherent, and by being a leader of integrity, you would also hire employees who have integrity. Employees build relationships with their employers. “The best way to predict what someone’s going to do in the future is to know what they’ve done in the past – watch how people address difficult business issues, how they deal with the people who work for them, how they deal with the people for whom they work with and who they interact with on a daily basis – internal or external to the company, regardless of rank.  It is expected that hiring with integrity is a must as it will guide decision in the proper direction during times of stress. The ends do not justify the means, and if there is an issue, then employees need to feel they can be vocal and the employer needs to know that issues and concerns will be raised. “People with an ethical core answer to a higher law.”  It is these employees who will not be tempted by the noise around them at the expense of the greater good for everyone and the organization. Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage,   you hire and surround yourself with straight arrows who have a strong sense of personal integrity. You promote those who demonstrate an ability to be trusted.”
  10. You Stay the Course
    • The premise of this characteristic is a basic understanding that consistency will ensure long-term success. At an organizational level and even at a personal level, consistency pays off as people with integrity have this consistency, this predictability, this believability – you can predict how they will react in situations as they arise.  Consistency is proven over time – “you may be able to show a certain face for a day or even a week.  But you’re not going to be able to be other than the person you are for five or ten years.”  Consistent people are to the point, confident about saying what they believe, they is very little obscure information provided, and they are courageous.  Others can count on the consistency and they can count on these people to do as they say, continuously.   Essentially, “to have the Integrity Advantage, you have ethical consistency and predictability.  Your life demonstrates wholeness and harmony between your values and your actions.”

Integrity is one of those attributes that you carry with you wherever you go and with whatever you do.  It is a part of you. It is its own reward for doing good deeds.  If the goal is to be good, integrity follows and with that comes success and happiness.  Consistency must exist in both behavior and outlook.  Integrity needs to be present if, in fact, one is to fit - within an organization and within life.

So, with the 2018 just beginning, the idea of ensuring you incorporate Integrity in all that you do, could perhaps be a very good new year’s resolution.  For some, it could simply be a point of self-reflection more so than making a resolution about integrity.  After all, I would like to think that at the heart of everyone’s best intentions are to display integrity.  Does it always happen?  Of course not…assumptions are made incorrectly, miscommunication occurs, emotions interfere, and plans derail, unnecessarily. However, I have to believe that in most all situations, when dealing with foundationally good people, good leaders, and good employees, integrity does exist, even if it appears to be slightly waning.  A reset of the situation can only support the notion that there is an advantage to integrity and that it’s never too late to make things right.

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