“The good old days.” “A man’s word is as good as his bond.” “Do the right thing.” “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.” These are just a few statements made over the years referring to one basic principle, integrity.
The Oxford definition of integrity is, “The quality of having strong moral principles, moral uprightness, the practice of being honest and showing a consistent adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.” I have heard it summed up best as doing the right thing whether someone is watching or not.
If I could teach you only one value to live by in business as well as in life, it would be this: Success, money, and accolades will come and go, but integrity is forever. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.
We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Salespeople overpromise and under-deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them. Entrepreneurs overstate their pro formas because they want the highest valuation possible from an investor. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their Christmas shopping done. The list could go on and on, and in each case, the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.
Companies must have integrity as well. Integrity is not just a tagline in a Mission Statement. It has to be built into every fiber of the company, from the top down. It has to permeate every department. From Sales to billing. From the CEO to the person cleaning the building. I am lucky enough to work at a company that exemplifies integrity at every level, Buchanan Hauling has made a point from their inception to do what they say and say what they do. Unfortunately, this is a rare commodity.
It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. It may look like companies rise through back-door deals and shifty business practices. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification at the moment, but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people or businesses without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. After all, each person or company in the examples above could have gained the result they wanted at the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far-reaching consequences. That person or business has lost their ability to be trusted as a person or entity of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person or business of integrity is forever.
Make sure you are a person of integrity. Make sure you work for a company of integrity like Buchanan. In the end, being able to look at yourself in the mirror. Being known as the person who can be trusted always. Working for a company that exudes trust and integrity. In the end, these are the things that really matter.