Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values
rather than personal gain.
Character is much easier kept than recovered.
Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot
to the town gossip.
In any list of most desirable workplace qualities, you’d be hard pressed not to find the word “integrity.” In fact, I would argue it’s probably number one. During my three-decade career at Russell Investments, our CEO, George Russell, would often say, “We operate on non-negotiable integrity. And, if you’re wondering whether to say or do something, imagine it being the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Simple as that. Zero tolerance.
So, what is integrity and why is it so important? Dictionary.com defines “integrity” as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” While integrity is essential to strong personal character, it is even more important in a workplace context. That’s because employers must adhere to policies, laws, regulations, and governing authorities. A simple misrepresentation can literally lead to a company going out of business. Or, more commonly, for an employee to be fired. It’s always important to remember that in a workplace context, you’re representing yourself and your employer.
Here are some descriptors of integrity in action: trustworthiness, honesty, authenticity, respectfulness, compliance (to policies, procedures, regulations, etc.), courage (to do what’s right), taking responsibility for mistakes or shortfalls, and accurate representations. In the workplace, values can be challenged, career shortcuts tempting, and ethical standards gray. In these and all situations, integrity should be our guiding force.
Just as important is knowing what integrity does not look like. Here are some common examples in a workplace context: falsifying records, misrepresenting product qualities/performance, abusing power or position, cheating, stealing, spreading falsehoods/rumors/gossip, and blaming others for one’s underperformance. More often than not, self interest is the catalyst.
Of course, integrity is just as relevant in our personal lives too, as the above descriptors clearly show. Healthy relationships demand it. At LifeSmart, we encourage people, organizations, and schools to take the “integrity challenge:” not communicating anything negative about someone else who is not present. Imagine how this could change our culture! And, reduce bullying and social drama!
Whether we’re parents, educators, or mentors, here are some tips to help the young people in our lives practice integrity as a way of life:
- Model it ourselves every time, every day.
- Commend them when they model it. (Especially when they own up to mistakes or poor choices.)
- Apply a zero tolerance approach when they don’t. Children need to know the importance of trust and that repercussions of violating a trust will be stronger as a result. It is very difficult to recover a broken reputation.
- Review the above evidences of integrity and the opposite. Which areas are easier to model than others? Where is there room for growth?
- Look for examples in society (including movies and television) where integrity is either modeled or not and have conversations about them. How might they have handled situations differently? There are great opportunities for real life cases to reinforce lessons.
Integrity. It’s one of the most important character qualities of all.
Next week we’ll cover commitment to excellence.