Do You Lack Integrity?

15 Jan 2010

Do You Lack Integrity?

It’s a challenging question

Asked if they had integrity, the majority of people would answer this question with a firm, ‘yes’ without thinking twice about it. Most would feel offended if others thought they had no integrity.

Do You Lack Integrity?

If you are one of these people, then I want to challenge you to stop and think about whether you have real integrity.

Integrity in my dictionary is defined as:
  1. Being complete, wholeness.
  2. Unimpaired condition, soundness,
  3. Uprightness, honesty and sincerity

The 3rd definition is probably what most could agree represents integrity, but what about the first two?

In order to be ‘complete, whole, sound etc.’, your behaviour needs to be aligned with your beliefs and values. If there isn’t an alignment between these, then there is no ‘wholeness, soundness, completeness, or integrity’.

An example of integrity

A company says it values good customer relationships and allows it’s staff to take the time to develop these associations, knowing that they are central to trusting, long term business relationships.

An example of a lack of integrity

A company says it values good customer relationships, but it rewards it’s staff members according to how much each one sells.

Alignment is critical for both business and personal success

Here’s an illustration of how an individual in business might operate when there’s a non-alignment; when integrity is missing.

Justine’s story

Justine had been in business for just 2 years. She worked on her own and her business helped other small businesses make the most of their computers by providing one on one tuition and fixing minor software problems. In her business plan, she’d identified her company’s mission as: ‘To support and enhance business growth by helping organisations fully utilise their computer facilities.’ Her business values were:

  1. Value for money
  2. Quality
  3. Reliability
  4. Flexibility
  5. Responsiveness

Although Justine was ahead of most businesses and individuals, in that she had at least identified what was important to her, she hadn’t clearly defined exactly what those values meant for her and her customers in practical, expanded terms. She hadn’t determined if or how her values aligned with her Mission and the work she did on a day-to-day basis.

Justine started to get into trouble

Justine was good at what she did; she kept her rates reasonable and went the extra mile for her customers. Word spread and pretty soon Justine had more work than she could cope with. She was working long hours with her clients, many of them outside of normal working hours because that was the only free time they had.

Administration on her business took place late into the night, or at weekends. She was making plenty of money but had no time to spend it! Also, her relationship with her partner was suffering because it seemed Justine was always working, tired or grumpy – sometimes working, tired AND grumpy!

Stressed out

Justine was not only busy but was also stressed. If she’d have had the time to revisit her values, she might have noticed that her behaviour was no longer supporting some of the core values she supposedly embraced:

  • Justine no longer demonstrated ‘Responsiveness’ because she often didn’t return phone calls; she began hurrying to get the work done so that she could move onto the next job.
  • ‘Quality’ had slipped. In her rush to get from one job to another, Justine was making mistakes – sometimes big mistakes.
  • Was she really providing the ‘value for money’ she said was important when mistakes cost her customers money.
  • And ‘flexibility’ was a joke. The only flexibility she really had was whether to work late into the night, or get up at the crack of dawn to complete her administration!
The last straw

Finally a customer got so angry, he told Justine point blank that she was unreliable. He said he was sick of calling and leaving messages on her mobile when they were never returned. Her unresponsiveness, he said, was costing his company money, because they couldn’t get their computer issues resolved. He cancelled her contract and got someone else in.

Wake-up call

While one less contract was a relief in many ways, this wasn’t the way Justine intended to reduce business! She was most upset because she finally realised she had compromised her own values. Her integrity had been rightly questioned and she felt miserable.

Worse still, now she was no longer even fulfilling her mission, ‘to support and enhance business growth’; she had in fact hindered that particular company’s business growth!

Justine’s situation illustrates how easily things can go awry, even with the best of intentions.

So how could Justine, or anyone else, fix these problems, or better still make sure they have and maintain that integrity; that personal alignment between values and behaviour in the first place?

Values are the key

Identifying in detail what your values are, what they mean to you, why they are important and what behaviours contribute towards and support those values, is critical in ensuring business, as well as personal success. The identification process makes the values real by bringing them to conscious awareness. Without conscious awareness, you might recognise that things aren’t quite ‘right’ without really understanding why.

Values are your framework

Your values can then by used as a framework from which to determine how you want to ‘be’ in your business or career, how you’ll operate or behave, the sort of environment you want to work in or create, the skills and capabilities you have or need to have and how all these align with your own or your business mission.

Let’s go back to Justine again

Let’s take one of her values, ‘responsiveness,’ and define exactly what it means.

To Justine it means:
‘Answering phone calls and emails promptly when available and returning messages within 2 hours when not available.
Being responsive to customers needs for training and being flexible in when the training is carried out.
It means looking for options that will work best for the company at the best possible price.’

While Justine knew that things hadn’t been going well, if she had had all her values similarly written out, she would have identified the problem, and the reasons for the problem much earlier.

As soon as she’d noticed she wasn’t returning phone calls within two hours it would have been a red light signal to stop and put in place some new measures to ensure she continued to behave with integrity.

It might have signalled a time for business growth; to take on a temporary person, get some help with answering calls etc. Or if she still wanted to work on her own, it might have indicated it was time to stop taking on new customers; form a strategic alliance with another company, create a waiting list etc.

So back to the original question, ‘Do You Lack Integrity?’

Only you can answer this question. Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought and a place to start searching for your answer.

Want to know more?