Can Somebody Explain Integrity?
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
― Oprah Winfrey
Everybody’s Buzz Term
It would be hard to find a major company in the United States that doesn’t have integrity as one of its core values. Likewise, most senior executives, civic leaders and (believe it or not) politicians regularly talk about the value and importance of integrity.
It seems everyone loves this value. As a result, you would think almost every company and person, acts with great integrity-right? Well…
It’s Nice To Say, But Not To Do
Unfortunately, although it looks nice on the inside cover of the annual report, and makes for good talking points when addressing a company, Wall Street, or a community organization; integrity is a quality that is often highlighted, but not necessarily upheld.
Enron-The #1 Example Of Saying, But Not Doing
Case in point: In 2001, the Houston Energy Company, Enron, posted over $100 billion in sales. However, shortly after reporting this number it was discovered that most of its sales and profit results had been made up. The company had created an entire system to lie about how much money it was making.
Integrity was second on Enron’s list of corporate values. However, failure to honor this value drove the company into bankruptcy and affected the lives of literally tens of thousands of employees and millions of investors.
Everyone’s (not) Doing It
Enron is an extreme example of how easy it is to talk about integrity, but much more difficult to consistently act with it.
Each day, we are challenged to act with integrity in all aspects of our lives. Whether it’s something as small as trying to sneak that 16th item through the “15 items or less” line at the grocery store to major offenses such as cheating on your taxes (ouch, I know I just made a few of you cringe), integrity is a hard value to uphold.
Do you want to know a major component of “playing offense”? It’s making a decision. A decision that YOU will be the ideal and example that others can strive for.
So how does one make integrity the center of their life? There is no easy way, but the steps below will help you make integrity an unshakable pillar in your personal makeup:
1. Don’t Rationalize: Can you remember the last time you lied to a friend? You rationalized it by telling yourself “you didn’t want to hurt their feelings” (oh, got you again, didn’t I?).
Integrity means being honest even when it’s uncomfortable. You don’t have to be totally rude and mean to your friends, but always tell them the truth. Each time you fail to act with integrity makes it easy to do it again.
2. Commit to integrity in all aspects of your life: Make no mistake, this is a lifestyle, not a “when it’s easy” thing (remember the ideal that others can aspire to). Act with integrity in all areas of your life – even when completing your tax returns.
3. Act as if you are on stage 24 hours a day: We live in a 24 hour information society in which we are constantly barraged by updates on what the biggest movie stars, politicians, and recording artists did earlier in the day (good and bad).
What would be reported about you if you lived your life in the unblinking eye of the 24 hour camera lens?
4. Do what you say you’re going to do: When you make a commitment to friends, customers, co-workers, family members or anyone else; follow through, no matter how easy or difficult it is.
Our ability to keep our word has a direct affect on how much trust people have for us. Others will do almost anything for individuals they trust-fight wars, engage in personal sacrifice, follow them to a new company.
The Good Infection
Integrity is infectious. The more you commit to it, the more others want to emulate you. That is creating true change, which is what being an example is all about
Angelo Lombardo is a Fortune 500 executive who is dedicated to giving other business people the mentality, motivation, tools and processes to “Go On The Offensive” to create the career and/or life they choose.
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