Integrity matters: Doing the right thing when no one else is around.

Author:LaManna, Rock
Position:THE BOTTOM Line

People often define integrity as doing the right thing when no one else is around. That's a great line from an article on business integrity written by Brenda Barnes. I think it really hits home, because today, more than ever, it seems like "no one else is around." No one is talking about integrity.

How often do you bring up this subject to your business partners, peers and staff?

Unless you're bucking the norm, I'd guess not much. That's because we, in the business world, have a herd mentality. And no one is talking about integrity.

No, sadly, it's not customary to take a step back. To really sit and think about what we're doing, and whether it's right or wrong.

The customary excuse is, "It's business." We wash our hands of anything that we, in our heart of hearts, know to be wrong. The stuff that, when we are in bed at night alone with our thoughts, keeps us tossing and turning until the morning light.

At the end of the day, however, integrity is what defines us. It's what people will remember about us, long after we're gone.

No one remembers your money or your house or your business. They remember your deeds--how you have acted and what you have done unto others.

So how then, do we define integrity?

MORE THAN A VALUE STATEMENT

Let me guess: At some point, your organization created a value statement. Maybe it was during an executive retreat, and it was a little add-on when you also created your mission and vision statement.

The value statement was filled with all kinds of platitudes. Naturally, you threw "integrity" into the mix.

"We will operate with utmost integrity."

"Our employees will conduct themselves with integrity."

Then that value statement gets hung on the wall and never looked at again.

Look, I'm not slamming value statements. I just think they're the first step, and no one knows how to get to the next step: Defining what integrity is to your company. To your family. To yourself.

Brenda Barnes notes that a reason why integrity is so different is that "everyone defines it differently."

That's true. And it's nearly impossible to define, because it's like "quality."You know it when you see it, but it's something that is hard to qualify and quantify.

I think it can be done. I think it must be done. I have a few suggestions on how to make it happen.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE MEASUREMENTS OF INTEGRITY

Every time my company assesses a business operation, we take a two-pronged approach.

First, we consider the quantitative...

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