Integrity In Business and Life
Whether in personal life or in business, many opposing forces are at play. Choices constantly have to be made between your own values, the values of others, your own best interest, and the interest of others, etc. etc. Never does a decision stand alone; a decision always comes with its own list of effects and consequences. Integrity in business and life is one of those values, and I like to discuss it in this article.
As you may know by now, I am a firm believer in what I call the “Pull Principle” (in other terminology: the “law of attraction”): what you do unto others and the world in general is what you will be pulling back into your own life. Like attracts like. Personal and professional integrity IN, personal and professional integrity OUT.
Wikipedia describes integrity this way: Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity in business and life is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.
Recently, I observed two events, to do with –in my opinion anyway- breaking integrity.
One was relatively close by, to do with a mentor of mine, who I always regarded highly in terms of integrity in business. He decided to step away from a professional group he had been part of (and in which he has always been a fervent and outspoken supporter of integrity), join a new one, and was recruiting members of his old group to join him in the new one –all for his financial gain, and to the detriment of the old group.
Another came from one of my neighbours, who had been an employee for a small, community orientated company. This company’s CEO had wilfully neglected to pay superannuation (pension) payments and salary sacrifice payments into the employees’ superannuation funds and salary sacrifice funds for over 12 months. Now, the company was facing bankruptcy, so payments couldn’t be made anymore anyway. My neighbour, who was their payroll officer, did find out that two days before bankruptcy was declared, a property was sold (and the deal settled) for cash, and SAR500,000 suddenly disappeared from a bank account as well. No-one had a clue where the money went (I do……).
Integrity in business and life has the tendency to go out the window for some people when their own financial (that is the most prominent one) interests get too much involved. Me before you. Save yourself, then the other ones. As long as I am right, it is all good. That kind of attitude.
In the long run, this attitude is going to bite you in the bum. The intention you put out into the universe is that you don’t give a rip about someone else, as long as your business is in order. From a Pull Principle point of view, this potentially has two consequences:
- You will most likely come across more circumstances where you have to let go even more of your sense of integrity. In other words: the situations will get more “severe”.
- You will very likely run into people who have similar ideas about (the lack of) integrity, who will blithely do similar things to you as you have done to others.
How Does Lack of Integrity in Business and Life Affect You?
Now, this is not to say that “you will get punished for your evil deeds”. I am not talking about revenge and retaliation. I am purely talking about an intention level, that will set off a chain of events that will not serve you in the long run, integrity wise. The Pull Principle is not a “good vs bad” type principle. It is a “what goes out, must come back in” principle. If your lack of integrity has the consequence of damaging someone else’s interests or livelihood –which was definitely the case in the two examples I mentioned- then you shouldn’t really be surprised if at some point a curve ball comes straight back at you, and you will not be able to catch it properly.
The ultimate consequence of lack of integrity in business and life is loss of trust. Trust is a MAJOR factor in being able to do business profitably and consistently, and in having fulfilling relationships. Once trust is lost, it is hard –if not impossible- to earn it back. The word spreads quickly, and a blemished name is a nasty possession.
What to do to ensure maximum integrity? Margaret Thornsborne in her book “The Seven Heavenly Virtues of Leadership” states:
“It is not for nothing that the development of emotional intelligence involves the capacity to self-reflect—to understand self—before being able to understand others! Which is why integrity has such a strong role to play if you wish to develop and maintain emotionally healthy relationships….. The people you manage and lead need to know what you stand for (your values) and where you are taking them (the goals of the organisation and for their own work). You must demonstrate that you are reliable, honest and trustworthy and that you walk your talk. They need to see your values in action, that you value healthy relationships and that you have their best interests at heart. They need to see that you value openness and honesty in interpersonal transactions. They need to know that they will not be deliberately diminished by your actions.
In other words, to maintain healthy relations with those you lead, you must act with integrity. If these things don’t happen, people will experience disgust and shame, often felt as confusion and anxiety, betrayal, rejection and isolation..
She also describes a number of ways you can ensure maximum integrity in your personal and professional life, which will ultimately –in conjunction with the Pull Principle- make your life a downstream journey. You just have to enjoy the ride. Here are a couple of key points and suggestions, that will assist you with maintaining your integrity at all times.
1 Integrity is essential for fulfilling and profitable relationships. Realise this at all times, and stick to it. Trust is a massively valuable commodity.
2 What you do unto others, will come back to you; this is the essence of the Pull Principle. Be aware of what you would like to happen to YOU, and do the same to OTHERS.
3 Observe someone who has spectacularly failed in terms of integrity. Take this piece of “contrast”, and flip it around 180 degrees. What would IDEALLY have been the right thing to do in this case? Commit yourself to doing THAT.
4 Find a coach/mentor who you know has high standards of integrity. Pick their brain, and learn from them. How are they behaving? How do they deal with lack of integrity in others?
5 What are YOUR values? What do you stand for? Why is this so? How would you feel if someone else with certain values didn’t stand for them? Would you like to feel this way about yourself?
6 Be courageous. Having high integrity means you will have to sometimes “take a beating” short term. Instant gratification may seem really attractive, especially if it solves a pressing issue. If this is accompanied by loss of integrity, it will not serve you in the long run. Have the courage to opt for the long-term advantage.
7 Aim to always do what you say you will do. And if that becomes impossible for whatever reason, take responsibility, and be open about it.
Final Thoughts on Integrity in Business and Life
Personally, I could not live with myself if I dropped my sense of integrity in business and in my life for some instant gratification. That is not to say that I am therefore “good”, and others are “bad”. What it does mean, is that I will always make choices based on what I –at the time I make the decision!- believe to be the best option for both myself, and for the people
and environment around me. I believe that, if we would all act this way in business and personal affairs, the world would be a much better place.