Whether it’s a massive Enron-type scandal or the unreliable tradesman who doesn’t call back, everyone seems to have an opinion on what integrity is and many examples of what it isn’t. So what is business integrity and why is it so important?
If we examine what business integrity is we may discover there is more to it than simply being honest and delivering
on a promise. Derived from the latin word “integer’’ its root comes from the concept of
“wholeness and completeness”. This gives us a pointer to a deeper sense of what business integrity really
Many organisations include integrity in their key values. Indeed, it often comes first on the list. But rather like
the promise of good customer service can’t we assume this goes without saying? And as with customer service
aren’t there differing degrees of business integrity and a minimum level that we are willing to accept?
As soloists considering business integrity, we might start by asking ourselves a few questions:
- Is my business congruent with my values?
- Is the contract I am doing right now in line with a deeper sense of purpose or mission I have in my life?
- Does the vision of who I want to be and the life I want to create fit with the business decision I have just
- Am I certain my success is not coming at the expense of my health, my relationships or the planet?
Unless we can honestly answer ‘’yes’’ to all of these questions, I don’t believe we can
claim to have integrity in our work or our lives. I would add that I know of very few people who actually do. Indeed,
there are many areas in my life where I slip up from time to time! But I also recognise that lack of integrity seems
to cost the thing I am most looking for, happiness and fulfilment.
I also believe it is impossible to be materially successful, at least in the long term, without having a deep sense
of integrity. I recently lost a potentially very lucrative client because he felt that my heart wasn’t really
in what I was proposing to do for him. It was true, if a little humbling to hear!
At the macro level we now live in a world that is no longer willing to permit corporations making a profit at the
expense of their workers, society or the planet. Such organisations have to change or they will go out of business.
Win-win is no longer enough. Our business deals and decisions in life need to take account of the wishes of the wider
community and the effect we are having on the environment. It is now a case of win-win-win!
Similarly we must begin to consider multiple bottom lines. I like to think in terms of the Five P’s which I
list here in what I believe to be their order of importance:
- Principles (or values)
- Purpose (or sense of mission)
- People (our impact upon our family, friends, clients and customers, business associates and society in general)
- Planet (our impact on the environment)
How are we as soloists performing against our targets, goals or minimum standards in each of these areas? As Henry
Ford once said “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business”.
Gauging whether we are have business integrity is not always easy. Our values may change over time and what was once
congruent with who we were, perhaps no longer is.
But if you ever find yourself thinking “I’m only doing this for the money”, chances are problems
soon follow, whether your clients desert you, relationships break down, health problems manifest or your bank balance
takes a nose-dive. Life will soon let you know if you’re acting without business integrity!