Can you ever make a commitment that people can take to the bank? I remember vividly, as I began writing this article, a tattoo I saw on an army officer in one of the films I saw “Death before Dishonour”. How I wish everyone could make this their motto. That’s one of the reasons I am writing.
Our world is in short supply of men and women with personal integrity and honesty. With more sophistication, it’s even easier to throw integrity to the garbage bin. From the salesmen on the street to the CEO of multinationals, from the Student Union Executives of our colleges to the National Assemblies of our nations, people have underestimated the importance of consistently living up to a set of ideals. What a tragedy!
Now, what is integrity? Integrity is from the Latin word “integer” which means wholeness, an unbroken or unreduced completeness, totality, incorruptibility, the quality or state of being complete or undivided. The concept of wholeness or consistency refers to behaviours and decisions which are consistently in line with our principles. These principles should generally be accepted as ethical and honest. Note that the key here is “consistency”.
One of the important elements of integrity is consistency - if we are unpredictable, if our decisions are dependent upon the day of the week, and the way we are feeling, others are unlikely to see us as maintaining integrity. How often have we changed the rules in the middle of the game for our own benefit or to the undue advantage for others?
More than 80% of business is from repeat clients and referrals. Word gets around. If you say that you will do something, is it going to get done? Is it going to get done when you said it will be done? Is it going to be the exact quality (or better) that you committed to? If the answer is yes, I can guarantee that you will succeed in business, for 2 reasons. One, you will get several repeat clients and referrals. Two, it is sad but true that most of your competition lacks integrity. Believe me. Integrity will give you a competitive edge! People are willing to pay extra for guaranteed services.
Businesses built on falsehood cannot and will not last. Read the dailies and listen to the news and you will be confronted everyday with the dilemma of integrity. Today, companies that seem to have done tremendously well 5 years ago do not even exist anymore! Need I give examples? Look closely at companies that have been around for a long time, you will see a culture of integrity. They may not always be right but they are honest. The may sometimes take wrong decisions but they did it in the integrity of their hearts and with the available data. Companies with the foundation of integrity are built to last.
There are several benefits of living with Integrity. Some of them include
-When you stick to what you know is right or wrong, you don’t regret anything you have done.
-People follow your example and act more honestly.
-Your powers of observation are more accurate. You can see the truth about others more easily.
-No needs to keep your stories straight as your stories are facts. Less mental work is required. You don’t have to tell a lie to cover another lie.
-You handle rejection and criticism more easily. For example, you are not bothered if someone says, "You charge too much!" As you have no doubt that your fees are fair, you know the other person has the problem.
-You have fewer personality conflicts with others even when you are aggressive.
-When you make a mistake, it is easy to accept responsibility and move forward. Honest men also make mistakes. They accept responsibilities for such mistakes, fix what is wrong and go on to succeed. They are honest also with what worked and what didn’t.
-You earn the reputation as a person with integrity. For example, employees brag about honest bosses. "He might be more honest about your work than you might want to hear, but he’s fair and doesn’t lie." This way, you build a performance driven organization. Your people know you are honest and upfront with them about their performance and they will do their best to improve.
-Your odds of being sued, fined or convicted of a crime go way down.