Integrity. I believe it’s an under-rated virtue. And it seems to be in shorter and shorter supply these days. People at all levels in business seem to be self-involved, busy watching their own backs, playing politics to a fault. On one side, people who bend with the tide; on the other, dogmatics who monomaniacally resist change. Those selfishly chasing their own gain, vs. those indifferent and just “phoning it in”. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “the person of integrity lives in a fragile balance between every one of these all-too-human traits.”
The advertising and marketing business is all about people – we’re dealing with each other every moment. The “golden rule” should apply to leadership and business just as it does in society. And yet, we seem not to be doing right by each other. It’s a shame that, in a business with so many external pressures, where so much can go wrong (and often does), where you’re on the firing line day in and day out, we so often are undone by “friendly fire”.
Look in the mirror. How do you rate on integrity? Michael Feuer, co-founder of OfficeMax, says, “treat your team as grown-ups and partners in whatever you’re doing.” How do you measure up? Take the “Integrity Self-Exam”.
- Do you spend more time in self-promotion vs. promotion of your team?
More and more it seems that those who get ahead do it by self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. Nevertheless, it’s always more important to drive growth and acclaim for those around you. After all, this is a team sport – and there aren’t any real superstars that can prove they do a disproportionate amount of the work or drive a disproportionate amount of the success. By focusing on self, you lose the trust and respect of others. By focusing on others, you gain from their success. And they will work harder for you. And you will sleep better at night.
- Are you taking credit for things more often than giving credit to others?
Similarly, you must avoid being seen seeking out credit – let credit accrue to you due to your team’s successes, instead. As you rise in ranks, it should be less and less important to put your name on things and get the kudos and credit your team’s work drives. It’s more important that your team gets credit – everyone will know you helped steer the ship.But there are organizations that are built around power, fear and insecurity. These types of organizations can drive leaders to seek credit and ownership, to the detriment to the team. But make no mistake – this doesn’t end well. In-fighting, power hoarding and unhappiness through the ranks will be a result.
- Do you ask your team to do more than you would do yourself?
There are plenty of leaders who think that, once they’ve achieved a title, they no longer have to do the things they used to do. They’re “above” all that. Well, that’s rubbish. If you ever believe you are above anythingin this business, you are sadly mistaken. I have written conference reports, collated documents, driven to FedEx, carried presentation materials at every level I’ve ever achieved. And that’s just the way it should be.Showing you’re always ready and happy to get your hands dirty does several good things. First of all, it shows your team you are one of them, you’re with them and you will do whatever it takes. It drives solidarity and respect. Second of all, it helps get work done – as there will be times that you need all hands on deck. And third of all, it keeps you from getting a swelled head or a big ego. A very, very important thing.
- Do you (and your team) talk behind others’ backs, instead of going to them and discussing things directly?
Talking behind people’s backs, be they other team members, partners in other departments, Clients or whatever, solidifies problems and issues, vs. actually helping to address them. While confrontation should be avoided, it’s important to try to address issues directly with people – both to keep things from festering, and to allow people to tell their sides of things. Lots of “big issues” are really just misunderstandings that can be easily dealt with through communication.
- When problems occur, do you seek blame vs. taking responsibility?
I’m not going to say that it’s easy to resist the impulse to find all those “other” people responsible when things go wrong. And there’s no question that, when there are mistakes, you will be able to find lots of people who touched them. But you need to stop the blame game immediately. For a real team leader takes responsibility for things on his or her own shoulders. And, first, puts the emphasis and energy on working things out moving forward, instead of looking back and pointing fingers. Once everything is sorted and back on track, then you should review what went wrong and why. And develop plans and processes on how to avoid these mistakes in the future.
- Will you pursue a course or profit from a decision that provides you gain, but others are harmed?
It’s easy to be lured into bad decisions by easy gains. But whether it’s a promotion or raise, or simply some credit for a personal idea, it’s never worth the repercussions. Because hurting your team, or a member on it, will live with you a long while. And if it’s obvious to you, it’s probably obvious to a lot of other people, too.Focusing on decisions that help your team will help you in the long term, much more than personal short term gains that damage you in the eyes of teams and colleagues.
- Do you regularly succumb to the easy route, or will you push on to achieve harder, but more significant goals?
Sure, everyone needs some quick wins every now and then. But put your focus and emphasis on the big goals – and fight like hell to achieve them. Folks on your team may sometimes be lured by taking the easy path, and may misconstrue your push for more, better, farther as wasteful or foolhardy. But in the end, the satisfaction of having done something very well will win the day.
- Do you give your word eagerly, but deliver on it sparingly?
It’s easy to promise something. But more important is coming through on that promise. It’s much worse to make a promise and not deliver, than to have not promised it at all. Your team will respect your honesty much more than a glad-handed commitment that isn’t really committed to.
- Do you always cave to decisions made by your Client or management, vs. questioning them (respectfully, of course)?
Integrity is, by essence, about standing up for your beliefs. So your team wants to see that you have a point of view and are willing to state it. You won’t shy from questioning decisions. And you’re not just an order-taker. They’ll respect you – even if you don’t get your way, or the decision is made anyway.
So what’s your score? I wish I could say that 4 or 5 “No” answers are enough to pass. But on this test, you’ve got to score 100%. What do you think? I’d love to hear your “Integrity” stories – please share them with a comment!