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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The many faces of integrity – with thanks to Al Watts

Integrity. Seems like a perfect topic to me to start with in 2012.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a diverse group of business people and entrepreneurs in a discussion on integrity, led by consultant, coach, and author Al Watts of inTEgro. Al’s extensive business experience, his personality, and the wisdom derived from his other endeavors combined with the multiple perspectives and experience from the audience made this an energizing and inspiring morning. Top this off with an engaging speaker who turns the often as ‘fuzzy’ described concept of integrity into a practical one, and you can imagine how I left this early morning meeting.

Al Watts convinces many leaders to make integrity their #1 business strategy, and for a good reason. Integrity has as many faces as it has benefits. Borrowed from Gardner and colleagues, Al talks about the Triple E of “Good Work”. It has to be effective (which organization doesn’t strive for that?), it has to be engaging (we all know that engagement significantly increases accountability, focus, motivation, and therefore effectiveness), and ethical (something we all think we strive for and deem important but it doesn’t, in my opinion of course, show in many of the “operating procedures”). At the heart of these three E’s and overlapping all three of them is Integrity. So what’s this thing called ‘integrity’, a term that has been popular for some time and that turns many conversations on financial organizations or on the obscure practices of too many businesses into heated discussions?

Dictionary.com defines integrity as:

1.    adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2.    the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

3.    a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition

And Merriam Webster defines integrity as

1.    firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility

2.    an unimpaired condition : soundness

3.    the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

Al Watts argues that the basic ingredients for integrity (resulting in effective, ethical, and engaging work and results) are identity, authenticity, alignment, and accountability, topics I have blogged about repeatedly and from different perspectives. Let me be clear about this, I have added some thoughts and questions, but most of what follows in this post is based on the beliefs and insights of Al Watts.  

A closer look at these four main ingredients

Identity: Can you answer the following questions regarding your identity, whether you’re a leader, a freshly hired youngster or anything in between:

1.    Who are you?

2.    Which are your strengths and your shadows?

3.    Which are the defining moments in your life?

4.    What do you value?

5.    Which are your principles?

6.    Where are you going?

7.    Which are your purpose and goals?

Can you really answer these questions? And how have they changed over time? What caused them to change? What can possibly endanger your values, principles etc.?

Authenticity: Can you answer the following questions regarding authenticity:

1.    Are you true – really true – to your mission, your vision, and your values?

2.    What would other people say about your trueness?

3.    To what extent do you turn your promises into promises ‘made good’?

4.    Are you truth-seeking in all situations and circumstances?

5.    Are you courageous and eager enough to be truth-telling, no matter what?

6.    When are you and when are you not?

7.    Do you know what drives you when you’re not truth-telling?

8.    To what extent are you transparent in your words, your decisions, and your actions?

Alignment: Al illustrates alignment with a quote by Upton Sinclair: “It is hard to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.” This quote goes to the heart of alignment, missing or defective in too many organizations, families, and other groups. Can you answer these two questions regarding alignment:

1.    Is there a fit, is there congruence between all you say and do?

2.    When and how do you adapt and integrate, since alignment should not lead to rigidity?

Accountability: How about the questions concerning accountability, how do you answer them?

1.    How do you score on keeping promises?

2.    How responsible do you perceive yourself to be?

3.    How do others score you on keeping promises and on acting responsible?

4.    What does stewardship look like for you?

5.    Do you really measure (and reinforce) what matters and what you say that matters?

Based on my own life and on 20 years of experience with many different people and organizations, I believe it takes a great deal of humility, courage, interest in multiple perspectives, curiosity, a desire to continually learn and grow, self-knowledge, resilience, persistence, and discipline to not just score high on all of the above, but to even just work hard to score your personal best on integrity. It’s likely a work in progress. Work hard and smart at it!
Again, credits and thanks to Al Watts of inTEgro.

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