‘I suddenly saw it so clearly. Quite simply, John lacked integrity. Never ever appoint a person like this to your committees and above all, never employ people like this.’
I used to serve on a farmers’ committee with a colleague who took delight in saying tongue-in-cheek “I have principles, but if you don’t like them I have others.” In practice he was a person of great integrity and could always separate his own interests from those of the organisation, which he vigorously protected even when he knew it didn’t suit him personally.
Another member, let’s call him John, was completely unable to do the same. No matter how clear it was what decision was required in the interest of the organisation, if it wasn’t in his own interest, he fought tooth and nail to get his way. To aggravate matters, when a decision was going against him he’d berate his fellow committee members for “acting irresponsibly” and “lacking integrity”. As you well know, when this happens, temperatures rise and the quality of discussions declines rapidly.
Shortly after the 1994 elections, I was watching a TV interview with Nelson Mandela. He was being questioned about the success of the CODESA negotiations, and said something that gave me an epiphany. “If you question the integrity of another person,” said Mandela, “you are yourself displaying a lack of integrity. And when you do this, you usually destroy whatever chance you have of a successful negotiation. We never did this.”
I suddenly saw it so clearly. Quite simply, John lacked integrity. Never ever appoint a person like this to your committees and above all, never employ people like this.
But what about you? Are you a person of integrity? Do you manage with integrity and is it so ingrained into your company and team it remains steadfast no matter what?
Let’s test with a few sample questions
When working with your colleagues, have you always recognised when you have a conflict of interest? And more importantly, have you clearly and loudly declared this conflict and offered to recuse yourself?
Have you always practised ethical competition? Do you bad-mouth or question the integrity of your competition? Does your staff understand that you won’t tolerate denigrating or belittling them?
Have you ever breached privacy or confidentiality agreements, whether verbal or written, no matter how minor?
Have you and your company always strictly observed the rights of others in protecting intellectual property? Is there or has there ever been any unauthorised use of copyright material or pirated software in your business?
Have you always had sound safety, health and environmental standards? Are you truly focused on the triple bottom line: profit, environmental protection and social responsibility?
Have you and your company always practised equal opportunity, and do you have a clearly stated and enforced policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment?
The Johns of this world have no sustainable future, and no great business was ever built without a sound ethical foundation. If your answers to any of the questions are less than a loud and clear “yes”, you might be heading for trouble. – ([email protected], or call (013) 745 7303). |fw