Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The word Integrity is one of those words which is largely misunderstood. It is often assumed it means someone who acts a certain way. An honest person. And that is part of it. This is the word that is the first to be thrown around when I run a facilitation on Values and it is the one value I push back on the most. Firstly because most people don’t really understand what it means and secondly integrity should be a “permission to play” Value, meaning: it is a given that your customers and suppliers (and staff) are assuming or hoping that it is there before you even start.
Integrity comes from the same Latin root as the words, “integrated” and “integer”. A person has integrity when there is no gap between intent and behaviour… when he or she is whole, seamless, the same - inside and out.
Integrity has less to do with being honest and more to do with the state of a person “walking their talk”. Now my intent is not to be “judgy”, because lets be real here, most of us don’t have all our ducks in a row in every part of our life. My intention is to get us to stop and think about what we say and check to see if it actually aligns with how we do. This is something I have been doing over the last while, it is confronting and exciting at the same time. Because once you see a blindspot, you are now in a position to do something about it.
This all came about while doing research for a client when we ran a session for them on one of their Core Values, which happen to be integrity. And let me just add, they definitely live it out, but even so as is my practice, I provoked them to really think about what the word meant and we were all surprised to find that they all had different thoughts. This is normal. What I really loved is the conversation that it opened up for them about all their other values.
This conversation lead them (and inspired me) to dive deeper, because it touches every part of our life and business. It makes us stop to think about what we say and stand for and what we actually walk out day to day. I think we can get caught up in life, love and business with the noble ideas and ideals of what we would like to be and we then, especially in business, have to find the language around what it is we stand for and I think this is where things get a little fuzzy, because we go into a room and brainstorm all the sexy words that will attract clients. It becomes a marketing exercise, which eventually it is, but we run the danger of having a bunch of values and words that are Aspirational values at best.
You see, there is a difference between what your Core values are - the ones that you actually live out - and a bunch of cute or sexy words in the coolest fonts. If you aren’t actually living them out, people are feeling the disconnect but often can’t explain why. Your actions are screaming at them and your words get drowned out. It makes them walk away feeling distrust but not knowing why.
As leaders, we have to walk in a state of actively checking if what we are saying is really lining up with what we actually live out. Since that session I have been constantly checking myself and I am embarrassed to admit that there are some areas that although I have always maintained that I value something I have realised by my actions that it isn’t the priority I claim it to be.
A great example a friend of mine shared, is when you say you value “obeying the law” but your value for “being on time” overrides it by traveling over the speed limit to avoid being late for an appointment.
It is better to be honest about what you really value than trying to convince yourself and others of something you should or ought to value because you think that is what client, family or friends want.
Are you clear on what your Inspirational Values and your Core Values are?
Are your sexy company values really being lived out, not only but especially by you?
Are you willing to get honest about it?