All Articles Leadership Management Do you and your company make the "integrity" grade?

Do you and your company make the “integrity” grade?

4 min read


How would you rate your personal integrity? On a grading scale of A (high demonstrated integrity) to F (low demonstrated integrity), what grade would you give yourself? Even more important, how would the people you live with and work with grade you?

What should one consider when rating their own or someone else’s integrity? Here’s a client’s approach to integrity, which is one of their company’s core values.

First they define integrity: “We are accountable for our actions. We do what we say we will do. We do the right thing for all concerned.”

Then they specify exactly what behaviors all leaders and team members must demonstrate to ensure they are living the company’s integrity value.

  • I hold myself accountable for my commitments and actions. I keep my promises.
  • I attack problems and processes, not people.
  • I accept responsibility and apologize if I jeopardize respect or trust.
  • I align all of my plans, decisions, and actions with my organization’s purpose, values, and behaviors.

Defining integrity and its required behaviors doesn’t mean all company leaders and team members will actually live them. Ensuring that all employees embrace those behaviors is the hard part! Holding each other accountable for valued behaviors is what creates a productive work environment based on trust, respect and dignity.

A high-performing, values-aligned team or company (or community or society, for that matter) requires common agreements about shared purpose and values. These “rules of engagement” must be formalized in the form of an organizational constitution so that every leader and team member knows exactly what values expectations are. With that knowledge, everyone can embrace these values and behaviors. They can model them, coach to them, praise aligned behavior and redirect misaligned behaviors promptly and without judgement.

Living the integrity value by modeling defined behaviors is how you increase personal and organizational integrity.

Many organizations — government entities, non-profits, small businesses, even societies and communities — have defined their desired purpose and values. What they don’t do is live them, and hold others accountable for living them, daily.

The 2015 State Integrity Investigation was just released by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. This comprehensive, data-driven assessment ranks all 50 of the United States on 245 questions regarding transparency and accountability for categories like electoral oversight, public access to information, lobbying disclosure, and ethics enforcement.

The results are not pretty. The highest-scoring three states received a passing grade of C/C-. Eleven states flunked with an F rating. You can see how your state’s integrity was ranked here.

The bottom line is that our integrity is transparent to others. They know if we, personally, do the right thing and do what we say we will do.

Our organization’s integrity is transparent to others. They know if the organization treats its employees fairly or if compensation for senior leaders is 100 times that of the average employee’s paycheck. They know — eventually — if the organization installed software in their cars to trick the EPA emissions testing.

They know if the organization stands behind their products or when the customer is celebrated, not just tolerated.

We can do better. It starts with us.

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter. Subscribers enjoy free resources and webinars including a preview of my latest book, The Culture Engine, which helps leaders grow their business as well as boost engagement and service with an organizational constitution.

Podcast – Listen to this post now by clicking the podcast link at left. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes. The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader.