Lots of media oxygen has been given to cheating, perceived conflict of interest and let’s say ‘entitlementality’.
Our daily news thrives on showcasing unscrupulous behaviour, and invariably it’s almost the same stories, just new faces. Baddies and dark angels will always generate attention and often a morbid fascination.
Less tantalising, but far more necessary for our aspirations and evolution as a society is the quality of integrity and honesty. What should integrity mean for business and employees in an increasingly secular and competitive world?
Integrity brings together the following components:
This means telling the truth, being open, not taking advantage of others. It does not entail “sharing” unnecessary information, and has little to do with witch-hunts of any description.
Truth may be inconvenient, as former US vice president Al Gore memorably observed, but it does involve using one’s discernment. Blurting an opinion isn’t always honest. Nor is pussyfooting around with words when confronted with an unpalatable reality.
Honesty speaks to what must be done, in the best interests of everyone. And sometimes the timeliness of the honest communication is as critical as the content.
We have all witnessed reckless single-minded insensitive behaviour in a plethora of situations, and the consequences are seldom pretty.
Respect necessarily means exercising a broader sense of what’s going on, and giving the other party / parties the benefit of the doubt, and a chance to articulate their concerns or interests.
When everyone is making an effort in this fashion, we see the beginnings of respect.
Seek information, ask polite questions, give the other person the opportunity to speak and explain. Respect can only be earned, and it is achieved when there is mutual effort applied.
3. Generating trust
Trust develops when people demonstrate their reliability, and positive commitment. Actions do speak louder in this instance than words.
Trust, as we’ve all learned, is broken through actions, and few words can patch it up convincingly.
‘Show me’ is better than ‘trust me’, and always be ready to account for your actions.
There is unhealthy pride (the sort that goes before a fall, and which is entwined with ‘entitlementality’) — and there’s the pride which grows from caring about expectations (of oneself and others), demonstrating enthusiasm and commitment, appreciating and responding to what needs to be done.
Perhaps the latter can be described as caring about an outcome, going to considerable effort, and knowing that you’ve made a valuable difference.
Economists describe this as ‘multiplier’. When a government builds a new road to solve a traffic problem, the effect is such that people start using it right away and it has flow-on benefits (multipliers can also work in reverse, as we know with interest rates).
You know the glow from a job well done; you immediately feel energised and want to do more. Pride of this kind is wonderful.
Demonstrating responsibility is very much aligned with trust. If you are responsible, live up to it.
You are a steward, entrusted with looking after something. Use care and foresight; not mindlessly carrying out a task.
Being responsible demonstrates awareness and caring of those around you — most particularly your stakeholders.
6. Keeping promises
It’s really disappointing when someone says they will call you back and they don’t. Or they promise something by a certain time but nothing eventuates.
Who wants to collaborate with or be connected to a shifty unreliable quantity?
None of the other components of integrity have much resonance if you’re perceived as unaccountable. If you’re unable, for whatever reason, to deliver, be upfront as quickly as you can, communicate and find a way to make good.
7. Helping others
This should not be a cliché like: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
A person is really only being helpful when someone has demonstrated a need.
Of course, we all have goals to reach and jobs to do, whether dealing with the public or otherwise.
If a task’s responsibilities have been adequately articulated, then the things that help everyone else should generally be built in.
Too often they are not, which is why it can be a pleasure to experience a person who — recognising that you’re seeking help — has grasped what you’re needing, and has a good idea of what can be done to remedy the problem.
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture — standing up for people in public transport is one, or assisting a person to cross the road safely, or providing meals to a family in need.
Just listening properly when a complaint is being made, resisting the urge to parry, is another.
The quality of helpfulness can be boiled down to two crucial elements: responding promptly to requests (and/or locating the person that can really be of assistance); and being prepared to shift one’s own schedule to accommodate others.
Like pride, being helpful is its own reward.
All of the above traits exist independently of each other, true, but integrity combines the lot.
Irrespective of which market demands and fads exist, integrity in one’s life and work shines through and provides a vital certainty in a confusing, sometimes threatening world.
Judy Olian, dean of the Anderson School of Management at UCLA (and an Australian) says integrity must be upheld 100% of the time.
This may be easy when things are clear-cut but Olian says: “It’s where they are ambiguous, where there aren’t clear rules and guidelines of dos and don’ts … if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Don’t use the excuse of, Everyone else is doing it.” (Reference: 4 Ways to Enhance Your Career video from Insights and Strategies Series.)
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.