Why Integrity Matters
Integrity, as author Dr Henry Cloud says in his groundbreaking book of the same title, is important because “It affects our real results in the areas of our lives which matter to us most”. (Preface, Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality).
In other words, integrity is all to do with joining up the dots between personal character and the actions which flow out into the real world around us. Dr Cloud aptly describes how a right approach to dealing with integrity or its lack, both within ourselves and with those around us, leads to incalculable yet measurable benefits to all.
The pathway to producing people who have a firm commitment to following this path is one of the most important considerations in business and any interpersonal relationships.
So, what exactly is integrity? The bulk of this article will describe it different facets, or dimensions, leaving you with a very clear understanding of what you must do in order to realize and plan out how to foster a culture which embraces the values each dimension represents.
Integrity is Six Dimensional
Treating integrity as multi-dimensional allows us to map out each facet in a clear way. In reality, these dimensions are not independent of one another, but are inextricably meshed and intertwined within the very fabric of human relationships. I’m only separating out the different strands to help steer a careful pathway to make things easier!
Dimension 1: Establishing Trust
Being able to successfully follow through on what you say you are going to do is a significant part of trust-building. In old-fashioned language, someone who “is as good as his word” is a person who has a dependable consistency that others can rely on.
But establishing trust not only entails consistent actions, it also involves consistent behaviour. People trust others who they feel are stable in their response to challenges.
Trust runs deeper than this alone however, and it’s to do with the way in which we express understanding and empathy as we relate to others.
Cultivating empathy – being able to put yourself in the shoes of others, and being able to communicate that to them, is a sign of caring for others that I will examine in more detail when I look at transcendence, but for now, hang on to the fact that establishing yourself as a trustworthy person entails becoming a master of consistency as well as empathy.
Dimension 2: Oriented Towards Truth
This dimension is summed up in the phrase “actively seeking after and communicating the full reality of the situation”.
In other words, people who are oriented towards the truth aren’t merely those who don’t lie, but they have a tendency to be honest even when it might be painful to themselves or others.
The reason for this is that they understand that the full reality of a situation is the description within which there is the best likelihood of a solution that will work.
Dimension 3: Getting Results
Finishing well is the best way to sum up this dimension of integrity. Those who finish well have a very good understanding of their key strengths, and at the same time they recognise where they require the help of others to manage those areas where they lack skill or experience.
Getting results depends on the awareness that to bring order, to make things work, you have to invest your and your team’s skills in a wholehearted and skilful way, matching each person’s strengths to the different aspects of the task in hand.
For example, you wouldn’t ask the creative director of a company to audit the company’s finances. Likewise, your finance officer wouldn’t necessarily be most suited to think of new ways to market you company’s products.
But getting results goes deeper than just skills or talents.
Finishing well is a character trait of someone who is mature – they are able to realistically assess what they can and can’t do, they are not afraid to be vulnerable to their team; they have confidence in their own strengths and yet fully recognise and validate the strengths of others around them.
Dimension 4: Embracing the Negative
When was the last time you welcomed criticism, even embraced it? How easy do you find it to separate out the message from the messenger?
“Tell me the last 10%” sums up someone who is willing to hear the valid criticisms of others, knowing full well that there is the real risk that the messenger may not want to withhold their grievances in a kind way.
But a person or business that has learned the value of not only allowing the criticism, but actively seeks it out gains immeasurably over those who would want to avoid the painful realities that encompass the untold 10% of any given problem.
As Henry Cloud puts it so aptly:
No Problem, No Profit.
Facing into the wind of a problem is a tough call, but for those people or organisations who dare, they understand the fullness of the extent of the realities surrounding them, and are in a much better position to bring real and lasting solutions that remain totally inaccessible to others.
Dimension 5: Oriented Towards Increase
Cloud beautifully sums up this dimension of integrity:
You will not grow if you do not attempt to do things you cannot yet do.
Being oriented towards increase means that you or your organizations are on a continuous pathway to learn, to develop, to want to be stretched and challenged.
Muscles that don’t get used eventually wither, and the effects they were intended to produce eventually die through lack of exercise.
Likewise, a person or organization that loses that hunger to develop, to increase – to become more of who they are, eventually loses those skills and abilities.
Conversely, those who have an insatiable appetite to grow, to become more of who they are finish up with a greater sense of mission, purpose and direction.
They surround themselves with others, who coach, mentor them towards excellence. They pursue this goal by allowing others the permission to have an important say in how they are doing.
Dimension 6: Oriented Towards Transcendence
Lastly, integrity has to do with cultivating an awareness that there is a bigger picture that you are part of, that you as an individual or organization are a necessary jigsaw puzzle within which to fit.
This last characteristic of integrity is perhaps the hardest to achieve, because it involves a willingness of self-denial, self-correction and the ability to adjust to the demands around us.
As Dr Cloud puts it:
The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life.
Action: An Integrity Audit
If you have read the above and realise there are gaps within yourself or your company, now is the time to do something about it. Don’t let the experience of the past dictate the patterns of the future. There are many good organisations which can help struggling companies and individuals make the breakthroughs they know they need to achieve.
The key thing, if you lack integrity in significant ways, is to take action. Failure to do so will invariably result (sooner or later) in negative consequences that could otherwise be changed before they look imminent and unstoppable.
You owe it to yourself, and those around you to make those changes happen.
About the Author
Dez Futak, is an online entrepreneur, business owner and teacher who devotes his time and energy helping others achieve the results they want for their business and lives.
Visit Dez’s website now if you would like to find out more about training in online marketing.