(File pix) Integrity is the foundation on which employees build relationships, and trust with their colleagues. Archive image for illustration purposes only. Pix by Jannah Khoo

The public euphoria in Malaysia, surrounding the realisation that the leaders, who represent us, can be held accountable for their actions, is palpable.

However, as the nation celebrates its newfound awareness, numerous reports are also surfacing on the various dodgy deals, and shady practices that became prevalent.

The information, as it becomes available, is shocking people. Everyone is lamenting about the lack of ethical scruples in the way some people and businesses, have been operating.

As I reflected on these revelations over the past week, I have come to realise that integrity is the cornerstone of any lasting personal or organisational success.

Through my work as a management consultant, I know that integrity is a fundamental value that most employers look for, in new hires. They want people who demonstrate decent principles at work.

And, in my executive leadership coaching sessions, I know that integrity is the foundation on which employees build relationships, and trust with their colleagues.

In a recent coaching session with the chief executive of a four thousand strong company, we talked about the ideal candidate for a new position. Without hesitation, my coachee said he wanted someone who would be guided by integrity in their relationships with colleagues, customers, and stakeholders.

When I probed further about what his definition of someone with integrity was, he identified honesty and trustworthiness, as the core beliefs that the person must always hold on to.

It appears that in many companies, honesty and trust are scarce commodities.

When you lose your job; or get overlooked for a promotion; or don’t close a deal; or even get voted out of office; more often than not, the reason is because there is a trust deficiency.

Those who decide your fate, have reason to doubt your ability.

If you want others to be drawn to you, you must prove that you are trustworthy and dependable. You must act in a principled manner so that people can count on you to behave honourably. And, if you can act with honour even when no one is watching, you will find that your potential for personal growth becomes exponentially brighter.

Organisations that value integrity are able to foster a successful workplace culture, and these companies tend to perform, better.

You do want to work in an environment where there is open communication, good decision making, and a strong moral compass guiding decisions and actions, don’t you?

And, I am sure you also know that workplaces that feel uncomfortable and tense are often filled with people with irresponsible behaviour. There is an air of distrust that permeates every interaction in these companies.

For businesses, integrity is vital. I refuse to give my patronage to businesses that don’t keep their word. If you say one thing but do something else, altogether, your business will fail.

I am actively involved in the food and beverage industry. And, I spend a lot of time and energy to communicate our value proposition to potentials customers, robustly. But once we get them into our shops, I insist that my team delivers on our promises. If we cut corners, or behave with no integrity, I know my businesses won’t last the test of time.

At your work, you must concentrate on three areas to demonstrate that you have integrity.

The first is that you should build trusting and respectful relationships. Trust and respect are the foundation of a healthy workplace. Communicate openly and courteously; learn to respect the views and ideas of others; and show your desire to want to be a team player. This is the only way to build solid relationships at work.

Next, is that you must behave responsibly. Make sure no one can ever question your conduct.

But this can only happen, if you choose to act ethically, at all times. Show enthusiasm, and commitment to your work. Be engaged, and engaging. Most of all you must be conscious of your work responsibilities, timelines, and obligations.

And finally, admit your mistakes, and learn from them. You will make mistakes at work. But, how you choose to deal with these gaffes is most important to your integrity-quotient. Show that you are able to own up to your mistakes, without looking to apportion blame to others. Be willing to correct them, and learn from them. If you are a manager, this means you have to stop letting your team members become patsies for your mistakes.

For integrity to prevail in your life, understand a crucial test you will face. At times, you may be asked to do something that goes against your personal beliefs.

We see this happening, right now in Malaysia, with so many business owners, civil servants, and politicians, declaring that they were forced to do things they didn’t believe in. These occasions will be disturbing for you. But, if you have integrity, you will decline, at all costs.

Having the courage to say no is an important skill to learn, for everyone!

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?”