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The 3 W’s of Integrity: Honoring Your Worth

Last week, I introduced the topic of integrity as a differentiating core value within organizations. Given the unfortunate prevalence of organizations that lack integrity, it can and should be a value that sets you apart. Within my organization, we challenge ourselves and others to embrace a broader definition of integrity. We refer to it as the Three W’s of Integrity. A more comprehensive emphasis on integrity will differentiate and protect you and your organization. Today, I tackle the first of the Three W’s:

Honor Your Worth

This form of integrity relates to honesty and ethics. We don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Many equate this to “doing the right thing when no one is watching.” When you lack this form of integrity, you devalue your worth. Succumbing to lapses of such integrity may destroy your reputation. It is difficult to restore this form of integrity.

Most of us view this form of Integrity as being pretty black and white. We know that lying, cheating, and stealing is wrong. Yet such lapses persist and seem to be even more common. According to the Washington Post, 39% of forced CEO departures in 2018 were due to ethical misconduct. This is a steady increase from 10% reported a decade earlier. Our government is not immune. What day passes without a new IG investigation?

Why Does This Happen?

Significant ethical lapses do not start with a simple black and white decision. No one goes from being an exceptional student and athlete one day to a convicted drug dealer the next. No one goes from being a loving husband or wife one day to a cheating adulterer the next. Similarly, no one goes from being a passionate and conscientious public servant one day to imprisonment for bribery and extortion the next.

These things happen where opportunity meets preparation. It is a progressive series of events.  It is a widening of boundaries that leads individuals and organizations down a slippery slope.

What Can You Do?

If you desire to “Honor Your Worth,” I encourage you to define “guard rails.” Just like guard rails on the road prevent you from entering the most dangerous territory, so too can guard rails within the department, agency, or office you serve. Ask yourself, what behaviors are you tolerating today that could lead you or your organization down a slippery slope?

As a personal example, my family employs the following guard rail: “cure the ill, return the pill.”  In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. My daughter, wife, and I have had five surgeries in the last seven years. Doctors liberally prescribed pain medication. We ALWAYS return unused medication to the pharmacy. Why leave the temptation? This simple guard rail eliminates the potential for the slippery slope that can lead to abuse.

So what can you do as an employee in your organization? Regardless of your level, you can define and employ individual guard rails to prevent yourself from heading down a slippery slope. As a leader, I encourage you to openly solicit and define guardrails for the organization that you lead.

In response to this blog post, I ask readers to share individual and/or organizational guard rails that you employ to Honor Your Worth.

Let me start by sharing one that we embrace in my organization – Let your gut speak. Simply put, if anything we do makes someone uneasy, we provide a safe space for that individual to speak up without fear of retribution. Fear and blame destroy cultures. Together, they open the gates to corrosive behaviors. Consider organizational guard rails that confront fear and blame.

Let’s hear what you have to say. Share your guard rails here to inspire individuals and organizations to Honor their Worth. And I hope you will check back next week as I unpack the second of the Three W’s of Integrity – Honor your Word. Until then, seek a better way!

Steve Wiley is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is a certified Executive and Leadership Coach with business and engineering management degrees from William and Mary and George Washington University. He founded CEEK with the mission to help organizations redefine and pursue wellness via solutions that enhance teamwork, mitigate anxiety, promote healthy balance, and advance a values-based, leadership culture. Prior to starting CEEK, Mr. Wiley was responsible for delivering government IT services leading an account of approximately 400 employees. He is PMP certified and a graduate of the Industry Advisory Council Partners Program. Mr. Wiley’s recently released book, Navigate Chaos, was a number one best-seller on Amazon.

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Steve Wiley

Thanks for the feedback Mark. It’s such an important topic. I appreciate you embracing and sharing the message.