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Integrity is an interesting word. Just as in my last post on the subject of servant leadership, integrity it is a word that has different meanings to different people. When we say that someone has integrity, we are usually speaking about their good or best qualities.
However, the dictionary defines ethics as: (1) a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility. (2) An unimpaired condition; soundness. (3) The quality or state of being complete or undivided; completeness. See, it doesn’t place any value judgments of good or bad; it just is.
Some of the synonyms you may hear used for ethics are: character, decency, goodness, honesty, morality, righteousness, rightness, uprightness, virtue.
Integrity at its simplest means that all the things that go into making you who you are fit together and work together. Most of us work from a set of ethics and core values that help us negotiate the rocky landscape of relationships, both at work and at home, which are positive in nature.
The values that you hold dear, the actions that you take and the ethics that you demonstrate at work are a combination of what has been instilled into you by your parents and life experiences, and your corporate culture. This latter is why people tend to act a lot like their co-workers or pack-mates. It’s also why there are so few whistleblowers. It is all a part of fitting in.
We are each leaders in life. You may not think that’s true, but even if you lead no one else, we lead ourselves. You have free wills and can choose what you do at all times. You also lead your family, and probably much more often you realize people at work. You have an impact on the lives you touch.
Are you well-fitted?
Do all of your pieces fit together and make sense? Your thoughts, should match your ethics, should match your core values, should match what you say and all of this should match your walk. Your walk is basically the way you travel through life. How you act, how you speak, what you speak about, how you do things, what you consciously choose to do…everything. How often have you been around people who are successful at guiding others by saying one thing and then doing something different? Not very often, right? That’s because it just doesn’t work for the long-term!
People learn a great deal more about you by the way you act than they do by the words you speak. What is at work in your heart and mind will eventually show through your actions. When we try to sound off about principles without also modeling them with the matching or integrated behavior, those principles will eventually fall by the curb for those you are trying to instruct, as well as for yourself. When we are in positions of authority, even if is simply interacting with your teenagers, it is of paramount importance to lead by example if you expect anyone to be compliant.
Why is your integrity important?
People learn to support principles and other people based on results. For example, if you’re trying to infuse more honesty into your workplace, when people can see for themselves that you gain the trust of others by being honest, they will likely get on board with your program as they begin to see the benefits of being more honest themselves. If on the other hand you are teaching honesty, and you are frequently caught in lies, a totally different lesson emerges for people.
Integrity brings cohesion and cooperation to your work team. The whole team begins to work with the same or similar set of expectations. When everybody is working from the same script, processes, departments and even families run much more smoothly, cohesively, effectively, efficiently and functionally.
When others can see that you are fully complying with the principles you have been talking about, you will ultimately gain their respect and trust.
Where do you start?
If you think you have lost your footing or your integrity seems out of whack, stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate.
Write your goals and beliefs down. This is an easy place to begin by writing out your expectations. This will also help to make clearer what you want. You’ve heard it said before that, “knowing is half the battle.” Well, it’s the easiest half. It takes a lot of effort to really walk your talk and practice behaviors based on your own ethics, especially when you are moving against the prevailing group-think.
- Cut yourself some slack. Everyone makes a misstep every now and then. The world will not crumble. Get up and start again.
- Incorporate your new principles and standards one at a time. You will easily be defeated trying to change too many of your behaviors at once. Break the process down into manageable and do-able tasks.
- Work hard at allowing each of these new standards to become an integral part of your everyday life. New habits take time to develop, so you must be diligent.
- Celebrate and reward all successes. Be uplifting when you talk about the wins and the “almost-wins.”
Walking the talk, being integrated, having integrity is a lifelong journey, and a full-time commitment. There will be times that you fall below your own expectations and the principles you aspire to uphold. However, what’s important is that you recognize it and take the necessary steps to get back on track as soon as possible!