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A Question of Character

Ahhh Brexit. It’s hard to remember what politics, or life for that matter, was like before the referendum of 2016. These past few weeks have been a staggering display of disarray and disharmony, with the new Prime Minister appearing quite unnerved by the reality of the role. It’s not just in Britain either: on the other side of the Atlantic, there is a President with a fondness for Sharpies taking liberties with the truth whilst screaming FAKE NEWS!! on an almost daily basis.

How would we describe the character of these men? Bold certainly. Determined to win, and charismatic. But would we say they are men of integrity? They are in enormously powerful roles so you might say they are successful leaders regardless, but the reality in business is that integrity matters: in fact, MIT Sloan Management Review and Glassdoor’s recent work on their Culture 500 Tool has identified integrity as one of ‘The Big Nine’ cultural components that impact on an employee’s relationship with their employer. It affects whether someone chooses to join a company, and whether they choose to stay.

So what does it mean to have integrity? Stephen Covey describes it as ‘conforming reality to our words - in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations’. That’s hard to do when the situation is challenging, and as leaders, you’re faced with challenging situations on a daily if not hourly basis.

We’ve identified a few steps you can take to demonstrate integrity at work:

1. Do what you say you’re going to do

This is fundamental. If you’re not sure you can do something, don’t say you will. If it turns out you can’t actually do it, tell people why you’re not doing it.

2. Hold yourself (and others) to account

Act fairly with yourself and others: don’t show favour as double-standards are a sure-fire way of undermining your integrity.

3. Own up to your mistakes

You don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to put your hand up when you get something wrong.

4. Be open and clear in your communication

Nothing breeds suspicion and uncertainty than an absence of communication or corporate speak. Your people will smell BS a mile off so treat them with respect in your communications.

5. Find out how others see you

Developing a deeper understanding of yourself will enable you to spot behaviours that are counterproductive. Seek feedback from those around you, and not just your fans.

Like most aspects of leadership, consistency is key when it comes to demonstrating your integrity. Doing these things regularly will help to build trust in your team and organisation, and trust leads to better engagement, motivation and innovation. Trust is such a huge topic that we’ll be focusing on this in our next musing, out in a couple of weeks…

With the headlines today focusing on whether Boris has lied to the Queen about proroguing parliament, think about the headlines you’d want about you as a leader. Do you want suggestions of duplicity and disconnect, or praise for your integrity and your ability to enable people to do amazing things?

Boris, if you have a few minutes, give us a call…

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