Integrity is one of the fundamental values that employers seek in any employee.
Last week, I was moderating a session at the annual congress for CPA Australia, which is one of the world's largest accounting bodies.
The session I led was about organisational culture in the digital age. Together with the panelists, I discussed how workplaces have changed and evolved with rapid technological advancements. The panel offered suggestions on how to deal with the needs of the millennial and centennial generations.
However, what was absolutely clear from the panelists, all of whom were leading human capital experts, that no matter how much change technology brings, fundamentally, the most coveted employees are those who demonstrate sound ethical principles at work.
Integrity is the foundation on which you build relationships, and connect with others.
As a business owner and employer, I look for people who have integrity and who conduct themselves in a manner that reflects this, in their daily interactions with co-workers, customers, and stakeholders.
Honesty and trust are central to integrity. And, acting with honour and truthfulness are the basic tenets in a person with integrity.
I have had my fair share of employees, business partners, as well as clients who do not appreciate how significant integrity is, as a core value that underpins everything one does.
To be frank, I am drawn to people who demonstrate integrity because they are trustworthy and dependable. If you are principled, then you can be counted on to behave honourably even when no one is watching you.
How do you show integrity as an employee?
The first thing I always look for is if an employee shows up on time, every time. Without fail, anyone I have ever employed who turns up late for work, meetings, or events, cannot be trusted to be relied upon. Being late per se is not the biggest problem. The real problem is when you don’t care that you are late.
Next, write things down. If you jot things down that you have been asked to do, you can work through a list. I can guarantee that no matter how excellent your memory is, you will miss things out. If you write stuff down, you can pace yourself, you can monitor, and communicate your progress.
Third is that you must always keep your promises. As an employee, ensure that you only promise what you can deliver. Do not “wing it” and say yes, only to default later. And, learn to explain the difficulty of delivering something as soon as you realise you might not be able to keep the promise.
Go back and tell the other party what you can do, and what you need more time for. Remember this only works if you do it way before the due date.
Next on my list is that you have to make sure that you fix problems, and focus on providing solutions. Many people I know try and cover up bad news and their inadequacies. And even more, spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to pass the blame to others.
I have no time for people who concentrate their efforts on creating justifications for their inability to fix a problem. Most bosses would rather you just state the problem, and quickly move on to giving us options on solutions.
The fifth and final way to show integrity is by being disciplined.
I am sure you have heard the phrase – “get your act together”. This requires discipline. The discipline to actually live a principled life; to make sure you speak the truth; to always endeavour to act in a way that people can believe and trust you; and to be fair and just, in whatever you do.
Employers and bosses have a significant role to play in your organisations to ensure that integrity is a core value that everyone takes seriously.
Before you put out any communiqué or policy statement, you must review it thoroughly to make sure they are consistent with actions. Employees get confused and frustrated when you do not “walk the talk”.
Keep your doors open to engender an environment where your team members feel comfortable to be truthful with you. And for this, you must maintain the channels you have set up for any reporting process. Do not walk around the channels and just go to the people you are comfortable with.
Most importantly, admit your mistakes and use them as an opportunity for improvement. When you can do this, your employees will start being truthful, too.
Author and poet Maya Angelou once said “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Pay attention to how you make people feel.
If you want to enjoy a robust reputation and deliver impressive results for yourself and your organisation, you must become leaders who have integrity, character and good humour.
You are responsible for creating a positive work environment, building trust and establishing open dialogue and effective communication.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”