Integrity – Don’t be a Fraction of Yourself

Business is the extension of a person or group of persons as an applied expression of their internal values and character.  Business is both an expression of their thoughts and an application of their moral will.  We can therefore examine any business on two levels.  First, WHAT it does.  Second, HOW it does it.  There is the mechanical/technical side of business, and there is the culture, conduct, human interface aspect of business.

A business can produce a superior product/service, or it can produce an inferior product/service.  Likewise, the business can be operated with honesty and good conduct and fair employment practices and customer service policies, or it can be operated in a dishonest and unfair manner towards employees and customers.

Generally, good products/services align with honest and fair policies, while poor products/services align with poor culture and practices.  Why?  Again, what a business does and how it does that are expressions of the character and values of the owners/operators.  Your business is a reflection of who you are internally.

The word that can best describe the internal quality of a person is “integrity.”  Commonly, we use the word integrity to define someone having strong moral principles as in, “he/she is a person of integrity,” or, “he/she lacks integrity.”

Integrity comes from the same root word as “integer,” meaning a whole number or complete in itself.  A whole number is in contrast to a fraction.  1,2,3,4,5, etc. are whole numbers; whereas, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc, are fractions.  A person of integrity is a “whole person” inside; they are complete inside, no fraction is  missing; whereas, if someone is incomplete inside, we could say, “He/she is only a fraction of what they could be.”

Unfortunately, many people are not complete internally.  They are a fraction of honesty, a fraction of self-control, a fraction of being generous or a fraction of what they could produce.  And thus we see businessmen/women and politicians and blue- collar workers and white-collar workers and teachers and police officers and senators and mayors and truck drivers and neighbors and sales people and customer service reps, et al who are partly honest, partly dishonest; partly fair, partly unfair; partly authentic, partly fake.  And regularly we see products that have bad designs, cheap content, misrepresented materials, fraudulently passed off as genuine, 100% real, whole, etc. that are not, but are only a fraction of what they could or should be.

And each of us has experienced customer reps or sales personnel or politicians who were dishonest, who lied, who made false claims, who readily would have cheated us in some way to gain a sale or greater profit or garner our vote.  These people are a fraction of what they could be.  They lack integrity.  And everything they do is subject to their less than “whole”some values.

So …. my team and I have identified this good word as one of our five core values.  We want to see what our business looks like “whole.”  What would YOUR business look like if you operated it with  strong moral principles?  No cutting corners, no false representation?  We all want other businesses to treat us with integrity, but are we as diligent to treat our customers and employees with that same attitude?  For many businesses in this county, the answer is a resounding “yes!”  There is a surge nationally to focus on sustainable sourcing for materials, fair and generous compensation packages for employees, sensitivity to climate impact, safe and appropriate behavior in the workplace, and mission purpose beyond shareholders’ interests alone.  All of these identify with integrity.

Integrity is the only foundation for true authenticity.  Some misguided leaders have abused the word “authentic” by hiding behind it as an excuse for their crude or brutish language or behavior.  Authentic does not imply “just being who I am;” it demands an authentic character.

Integrity is also the only foundation for customer interaction.  The so-called Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – could transform customer interactions.  If our suppliers, investors, and customers saw our actions as coming from that core value it could revolutionize our business and an entire industry.  Perhaps some may think that is asking or expecting too much.  My answer to that is let’s start with what we control and see if our example can influence others.

So, what exactly is integrity in business?  It is doing the right thing. at the right time. for the right reasons.

I’m all in.  How about you?