27 April 2010

Integrity - what is it?

The sports-loving folk of Melbourne have been reeling this past week with the revelations that our sole team in the Australian National Rugby League competition, Melbourne Storm, have been found to have cheated their way to two premierships in the past three years.


Systemic cheating of the Salary Cap rules enabled the Storm to recruit and retain a group of top players that would have otherwise, most likely, moved to other clubs.

And what was the lame excuse from those current and former Storm officials who stand accused of having established and perpetuated this deception? ‘Everybody does it’.

I am appalled.

If you don’t have a foundation of integrity, what do you have? What’s the real accomplishment in victory if you’ve cheated to get there?

I am not saying everyone should be, or is, perfect. I certainly am not.

Every time I go 1km over the speed limit, my integrity (with the road laws) is out. We all manage and battle with our integrity every day of our life.

It’s not about being a perfect person, it’s about your personal standards of behavior and the fulfillment of commitments you make to others.

I’ll give you an example.

On the same day that the newspapers were awash with news of the Storm’s crimes, I had a 10am call scheduled with my friend and mentor, Greg Savage. It was to discuss an important but not urgent matter.

Greg is the International CEO of Aquent. He has responsibilities across 13 countries, in many time zones and for hundreds of people. He’s a busy man with a large and challenging job. We have known each other for 20 years. He knows that being a bit late for a call with me won’t make any difference whatsoever to our friendship or how I regard him.

At exactly 10am, my phone rang. It was Greg.

That’s integrity in action.

Integrity is the foundation of Greg’s success - making a commitment and sticking to it. That’s what truly effective leaders do to build a team or organisation that has substance.

I am not saying Greg’s perfect or a paragon of virtue. He would be the first person to admit that he’s not either of those things (who is?). He’s human like the rest of us, battling with all the triggers, distractions and challenges that come at us every day.

Yet Greg is clear enough about who he is and what’s important to him to keep his word.

I know when things aren’t going my way that there is ‘an integrity issue’ in the background somewhere. In other words something I am attempting to do or accomplish is out of whack with who I am or with commitments I have made to others. It normally takes very little time for me to indentify what’s missing and to then rectify it.

Integrity isn’t complex.

You can practise it every day. Start by keeping every commitment you make to yourself and others. All those little throw-away lines, like ‘I’ll be with you in a minute’, ‘’I’ll call you back in 5 minutes’, ‘I’ll only have one beer’, ‘I’ll order salad for lunch’ etc. Make note of them and stick to them, exactly. Just for one day.

Then assess how this small exercise changes the way you view the concept of integrity and your perception of ‘how much’ integrity you possess.

Note: to read Greg Savage’s recent blog post on the same topic: Integrity: It’s a bit like virginity....you either have it or you don’t! go to http://gregsavage.com.au/category/ethics/

4 comments:

  1. "in·teg·ri·ty –noun - adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. "

    The key words here are "ethics" and "morals". Making a committment and sticking to it has nothing to do with either ethics or morals. I think your confusing integrity with something else.

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  2. Respectfully, I disagree. Making a commitment and sticking to it is directly related to a person's moral character.

    It's a specific, observable, behaviour that demonstrates an element of that person's character. Keeping your word is directly related to honesty - honesty with yourself and honesty with others.

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  3. Respectfully, I disagree. Integrity related to a persons character, yes. Morals, no. Morals deal with right and wrong which is a subjective issue anyway as it deals with a persons value system which is specific to each individual.

    Integrity in the holistic sense, which is the way in which you are using it has more to do with whether a person is congruent or not. This is the empirically observable behaviour you mention.

    To quote Law Professor Stephen L. Carter

    "Integrity requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong. Integrity is not the same as honesty"

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  4. Yes, integrity is not exactly the same as honesty. I didn't say that it was. It is closely related to honesty. There is nothing in your second comment that I disagree with. A criminal could, in their own mind, have integrity yet be dishonest.

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