Tag Archives: integrity

Your personal need for integrity

What has this tea pot got to do with integrity?


For me, it all began with a tea pot.

In February of this year, I bought a tea pot in my local Oxfam shop in Blackheath.

Let me tell you, I had no need of a tea pot.  But I loved this one so much – the vibrant colours, the weight and the feel of it – that I decided to buy it, along with six bowls in the same pattern.

It was a chance purchase, which opened up a whole new hobby for me…  I started to look for items to match this tea pot and discovered eBay.  I decided to make my collecting habit self-funding, selling items for which I no longer have a use and beginning to buy and sell items from Greenwich Auction House and the market at Lee Green.

This was a new habit for me, and at the same time, wholly familiar.  I have always been drawn to objects of beauty.

Owning my personal “quirks”

Such is my love of beauty and order that, sometimes, it is the object of some hilarity.

Last week, for example, I was in Germany, running a development programme with a group of colleagues.  My colleagues were quite taken aback when I realised that my outfit for Day 2 was a terrible match for the name badge I was wearing.  I was able to laugh with them at just how much it meant to me… and still, it did mean something to me.

I can’t help but tidy up the displays when I’m looking for books in shops.

If I decide to do something – learn a language, play a game, write a report, sing, whatever – I want to do it well.

In the language of Hogan’s MVPI (motives and values) questionnaire, I have a primary value, which Hogan calls aesthetics.  This is defined as “focusing on innovation, style and appearance”.  Low scorers care about functionality;  high scorers care about creative self-expression and the look and feel of their work.

Knowing this has helped me to make connections between a wide range of activities in my life… it’s the reason, for example, I’ve gravitated towards roles at work which involve quality in some shape or form… a curiosity about what it takes to be effective as a leader, a desire to embody fully my values around communicating in ways which honour everyone’s needs, a desire to help others – especially people in leadership roles – to find greater ease.  I could go on…

It also shows up all over my private life…  it’s the reason I love to take a house in disrepair and turn it into a place of beauty, or prefer to have a statement “sculptural” set of shelves in my kitchen (thank you, Gary) than yet more cupboards… even though I need the storage space.  It’s the reason for my long-standing relationship with the London Symphony Chorus.  It’s the reason why writing a blog-posting is, for me, a pleasure rather than a chore.

Not only has knowing this helped me to make sense of my past, it is also helping me to plan for my future – to move increasingly towards living my life in line with my values.

Your personal need for integrity

Whatever the pros and cons of employing people with integrity in an organisation, you may already be aware of your own deep need for integrity – a need to live your life in line with your own values.

You know when you’re living your life in integrity with your values.

When you are, you feel comfortable and at ease.  You experience moments of deep satisfaction.  Your life is peopled with activities that you enjoy.  If your values are people-based, your life is peopled by people you enjoy.

There are moments when you feel deeply uncomfortable, too.  Perhaps you are finding no joy in the life you are leading.  Maybe you are doing things in your personal and professional life which lack meaning for you, because they have no connection with your values.  Worse still, maybe you are really struggling with aspects of your life, because those aspects – activities, people, job – stand squarely in opposition to everything you hold dear.

What’s more, we do not live in isolation.

Not just a benign force – values and the amygdala hijack

As we came away from our course in Germany, my colleagues and I took time to review the feedback from participants.  One participant’s comments clearly got under the skin of one colleague – why on earth would anyone say that about the principal trainer?  How could it possibly help?

Our principal trainer was unmoved.

My colleague was expressing one of her most important values – yearning for recognition for her colleagues as much as for herself.  It was not, though, a high value for the trainer himself.

I can claim no moral high-ground when it comes to the amygdala hijack.  Only recently, I was shocked to be on the receiving end of an approach which was the antithesis of everything I aspire to in terms of leadership and communication.

Truly shocked.

And I let that person know.

The thing is, I suspect that the same person who was behaving in ways I found so unacceptable was also responding to her own amygdala hijack.  I had trodden on her toes – her values – by mistake.

It wasn’t pretty.

It’s easy to condemn the amygdala hijack.  Daniel Goleman, in his books on emotional intelligence, highlights the primitive part of the brain which is the seat of the amygdala hijack.  When we “act out” in response to such a hijack, we are likely to do things we later regret.

At the same time, the amygdala hijack tells us – loudly – that some value is not being met.  Sometimes, it’s telling us about something immediate, something about the here and now.  Equally, a clash of values can be a long, slow burner which leads us slowly towards major decisions… can you continue to work for a boss or an organisation which does X, Y or Z without thinking of the consequences?  How can you sustain a marriage with someone whose values, you discover, are so different from your own?

Moving towards greater personal integrity

If you want to move towards a life of greater personal integrity, you need to understand what’s important to you.

The Hogan MVPI is one tool I use in my work with clients.  When I first took it myself, I had been through so many psychometric tests I doubted I would learn anything new.

Its effect has been profound.

If you would like to explore options for you or for others in your organisation, please contact me.

You can though, move towards a greater understanding of your own most personal values without investing in coaching or the results of a questionnaire.

Instead, try these questions on for size and see what they tell you:

  • When have you been most happy in your life?  Your moments of greatest satisfaction tell you a lot about what’s important to you.  Take time to reflect on events and experiences that have stimulated the greatest sense of joy, contentment or meaning for you.  Notice what themes there are across these events – what is it that made you happy?  In my work with leaders, for example, I have seen how some love to develop their people and others to knock targets to smithereens.  What is it for you?
  • When have you been most angry in your life?  Say hello to the amygdala hijacks in your life – they have a lot to teach you about what’s important to you.  Notice what themes there are at times when you’ve been most angry.  Notice what themes unite the themes.

Me and my tea pot

I hope that, by now, you understand the relationship between a humble tea pot and personal integrity.  For me, the Denby arabesque tea pot speaks to my love of beauty.  Your values will certainly be different and have different manifestations even if they are the same.  But I tell you this, the more you are living your life in integrity with your values the more you will find pleasure in life.

It’s interesting, too, that when you are living life in integrity with your values you will, increasingly, take pleasure in the tiniest of things.

Recruiting for integrity? Be careful what you wish for!

What is your concept of “integrity”?

Recently, I worked with a client to shape a new competency model for leaders across the organisation.  There was a time when organisations would pay a lot of money for deep research to establish which behaviours marked out their most effective leaders, but this seems to be less fashionable nowadays.  Few organisations have the budget and some find it hard to believe that yesterday’s stars are the right people to meet the very different challenges of today – let alone tomorrow.

No, this was a more pragmatic approach, mining the wisdom of leaders themselves about the core leadership challenges they expect to face in the next 5-10 years, about those people who are handling these challenges most effectively, and about the core behaviours demonstrated by their chosen role models.

One behaviour, integrity, came up as key – and not for the first time.  It seems that, no matter what the challenges of the era, organisations aspire to employ men and women of integrity.

What is “integrity”?
Often, when clients discuss integrity, they think of someone who has clear values and who acts in line with those values.

The person who shows integrity makes promises and keeps them, and acts in ways which are consistent with the values they espouse (some call this “congruity”).  What’s more, they are not easily swayed from their values, even when acting on personal values carries a high risk.  Ideally, the man or woman of integrity speaks up about wrong-doing in the company and challenges poor decisions, with the greater good of the organisation in mind.

Implicit in the concept of integrity is the idea of “good” values – honesty, for example, probity, perhaps.  Clients also associate integrity with wisdom and emotional intelligence, too.

“How,” you may be asking yourself, “could such a person be anything other than an asset?”

Why organisations don’t like integrity in practice
Years ago, I was briefly the colleague of Annie Machon, a former MI5 officer.  She left the organisation I was working for quite suddenly after her partner, David Shayler, hit the news here in the UK after blowing the whistle on some aspect (I do not remember what) of MI5 practice.

Whistle-blowing is just one thing that people do who act with integrity.  In recent history, for example, whistle-blowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been talked about around the world. (Read 5 Famous Whistleblowers Who Shaped History to learn more).  But who loves the whistle-blower?  Rarely is it the higher echelons of the organisations whose practices (mal- or otherwise) have been revealed.

There are other reasons why organisations don’t much like integrity in practice.  If you’ve ever been in a meeting, for example, in which one of your colleagues has made the case – repeatedly – for or against some proposal based on a set of personal values that you don’t share, you will know how much time can be lost in circular discussion.  Especially when the individual’s values are out of alignment with the values of an organisation, integrity can be – quite frankly – a real pain in the arse.

There’s something else, too… that integrity without insight, the behavioural flexibility or even the position to influence or persuade can impede progress towards an organisation’s most fundamental goals.  And who judges whether the (wo)man of integrity is appropriately standing his or her ground or (as Jeffrey recently said of Edward Snowden in the New Yorker) a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison”?

If you want your leaders to show integrity, and if you want the result to be positive for you or your organisation, there are things you need to get right.

Getting it right when recruiting for integrity
Here are just four things for you to think about before you include “integrity” as a competency in your model of effective leadership:

  • Are you clear about your organisation’s core values?  Integrity can be a hindrance as much as a help if your leaders show integrity in line with values your organisation does not espouse.  Before you look for integrity in your leaders, you need to get clear on the core values of your organisation.  Only then is helpful to understand if your recruits share your values and can embody them in practice as well as espouse them in theory;
  • Integrity is just one behavioural ingredient:  Think carefully about what other behaviours your leader needs in order for integrity to be an asset to your organisation.  Do your leaders show empathy, for example – the ability put themselves in the shoes of their colleagues and to look at things from another point of view?  Do they show judgement – the ability to see the issue under examination in a larger context or to weigh the pros and cons of a particular forward path?  Integrity without empathy or judgement can look like just plain bloody-mindedness;
  • There may be other things besides leadership behaviours:  If your concern is to promote a certain set of values, you need to look beyond the integrity of individual leaders.  Recent scandals in the UK’s NHS, for example, point to a wide range of issues which undermine patient care.  What checks are in place when recruiting new staff?  What training is provided to develop core skills associated with good patient care?  What is the impact on staff of short-staffing or other issues?  The list goes on;
  • It may not be integrity that secures adherence to values:  This is something organisations struggle with and still, when your organisation’s values are clearly outlined and reflected in policies and practices which have been designed to support them, it may not be the integrity of your leaders that keeps people on track.  Instead, it may be other behavioural qualities such as a desire to do well.

And what about you?
I hope this posting has helped you to think through some of the issues that face you if you are thinking of including integrity as a core leadership behaviour in your organisation.

Having said this, I also want to point to something more personal – your own need to live a life of integrity.

This, though, is the stuff of another blog posting.