Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nothing Works Without Integrity

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

And depending on how that statement landed for you, you may even be wondering what’s new, or different, that I could possibly bring to this topic.

For starters, put aside your traditional view of integrity, which is still important, and forms part of the conversation on the subject, but what I am suggesting is that you look at whether or not you are bringing integrity into everything that you do, even when you may think that it doesn’t matter.

You see, people think of integrity, as an example, as “keeping your word” which again, is important, but in the leadership group that I have recently been spending my time with, they think of integrity as “honouring your word” which is much more than simply keeping your word.

To compound that further, they consider it giving your word any time you commit to something – in short, if you say you are going to do something, be somewhere at a certain time, etc., they consider that having given your word to the situation.  

Now you may have jumped ahead and thought to yourself; that’s impossible, no one can keep their word to everything that happens, things come up, unexpectedly and out of your control, which is true.  It’s also why they emphasize honouring your word, because they too know that there are times when you are not going to be able to live up to what you promised, or, you simply need to break your word.  Sh** happens.

The difference is, when sh** happens in their world, they are committed to taking immediate action to restore their integrity, by honouring their word and taking responsibility for the impact that not having kept their word has on those around them, and they “clean up” the situation.  They get in contact with the people who have been impacted by the situation, they genuinely apologize for the impact on them, and they take responsibility, without adding any excuses, reasons or justifications.

As a result, people know them as someone whose word is golden, someone who means everything that comes out of their mouth, regardless of whether one item may appear to be more significant than the other, they know nonetheless, that if they said it, they meant it, fully and completely – not in degrees of importance or shades of gray.

Consider another example; let’s say a four-legged chair that is missing one leg.  The chair is out of integrity. Sure, you could use the chair, if you’re careful, which is to say that you can operate when your integrity isn’t at 100% but it takes some effort, and it’s not sustainable, but you could make it work.

Is anyone going to want to sit on that chair?  Not if they don’t have to, because they can see that the situation is not stable, they can see the integrity that is missing, so they’ll use the chair, if they have to, but they will do so cautiously.

Then consider that a lot of the people that we deal with are much the same as that chair, we think of them as people that we can probably count on, most of the time, for the big stuff, but if pushed on the subject, we’d admit that we can see instances where promises were made, that were subsequently broken, phone calls not returned, meetings missed or late arriving, all without so much as a word to recognize the impact on those affected by their actions.  In short – they are not their word.

If you’ve pushed through to this point but seen all of this as a morale judgment or preaching on my part, let me just say that it was intended as neither.   But it is important to remember that as leaders, what we say matters, people are counting on us, and if you are willing to continuously evaluate your leadership, then in this case, it will mean asking yourself if you really mean everything that you say, when you say it, or, are there degrees to which you are your word?

It’s just a question, and no one really knows the answer, except you.

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  1. Great post. I find people that use the word Integrity usually have it!

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