A quick check of where we’re at in this large book. The main structure starts inward-most and works out:
- Self trust (credibility).
- Integrity. ← You are here.
- Relationship trust.
- Organizational trust.
- Market trust.
- Societal trust.
Integrity vs. other aspects of credibility.
To see Integrity’s importance in overall credibility, imagine you have a coworker like this:
- Full of good intentions; he wants to see himself and his company succeed (Intent).
- Very talented, smart and driven; an excellent communicator and persuasive negotiator (Capable).
- He brings in sales, beats competitors, and closes deals (Results).
Quite a force to be reckoned with! But though he has all this, if he has almost no Integrity, it casts a dark, even frightening shadow over this character. He is “credible” in important ways, but such a manipulative, deceitful person would likely engage in fraud, extortion and scandal to accomplish his goals.
Now let’s flip the coin a bit: imagine a man who is a practical angel in terms of Integrity; would never lie or cheat. Yet he is aimless in his direction (Intent), he can hardly do anything on his own (Capabilities), and has no track record of getting things completed (Results). We have a nice, honest man, who is irrelevant.
Integrity vs. compliance.
Another aspect of the Integrity discussion points out that if, for an individual within an organization, “ethics” is seen merely as compliance with the rules, you have a major problem. A simple “follow the rules” mentality is insufficient to produce integrity. In my (Jason’s) opinion, this will lead to textbook legalism’s duplicitousness. I particularly like this quote:
Rules cannot take the place of character. -Alan Greenspan
Instead of legislating ethics by a code of rules one must comply with, an organization should clarify its values, emphasize them constantly, and foster integrity to those values. I’m going to pull in a bit I’ve learned about company values here from Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast. A company’s values are not a list of 12 adjectives that are framed on a wall somewhere. They are two or three core things that an organization lives and dies by.
The story was told of an airline company that has “humor” as one of its core values. They received a complaint from a customer who was bothered by the use of humor during the safety instructions. The CEO of this airline responded personally in a way that remained steadfastly integrated with the core value. The entire response:
We’ll miss you. -CEO
The core values were not negotiable. They weren’t to be sacrificed or compromised, even if staying true to them would be costly. That, in a nutshell, is integrity: holding firm to one’s values even when it’s costly.
Improving your integrity.
I’ll lastly mention the book’s three suggestions for improving your integrity; the book elaborates on these suggestions; I’ll just bullet them here:
- Make and keep commitments to yourself.
- Stand for something.
- Be open.