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The Three W’s of Integrity: Honoring Your Word

Two weeks ago, I introduced the topic of integrity as a differentiating core value within organizations. I encouraged a broader, more impactful definition of integrity. We refer to it as the Three W’s of Integrity.

The first of the Three W’s, “Honor Your Worth,” pertains to honesty and ethics. If you lack this form of integrity, you devalue your worth.

Today, I unpack the second of the Three W’s:

Honor Your Word

When you say you will do something, do you follow through? Do you show up on time? Do you honor your commitments? We all fall short at times relative to this form of integrity. The good news is that we can restore it. Simply acknowledge it. Pursue a corrective course of action. Specify a new commitment and stick to it.

This is nice in theory. However, a consistent failure to honor one’s commitments can destroy a reputation. A pervasive lack of accountability is the biggest problem organizations face. It destroys the culture. And the perpetual pressure to meet commitments can affect your ability to honor your worth. We become more vulnerable to ethical lapses.

Why Does This Happen?

We fail to honor our word because of unclear expectations and a tendency to overcommit. How often does your boss ask for something without specifying the conditions of satisfaction? Is the context and timeframe for the request ever stated? Worse yet, have you ever left a meeting with unassigned actions? Who is responsible? Of course, it is easy to now blame someone else for a pervasive lack of accountability in your organization. Take caution. What actions are you taking to bring clarity to such requests?

Unfortunately, we often leverage unclear expectations to rationalize our tendency to overcommit. “Had I only known what was required, I would have never made the commitment.” In some cases, we overcommit simply because we don’t want to disappoint others. Or, we overcommit for the fear of missing out. Too often organizations overcommit simply because of an inability to prioritize and focus. Regardless of the reason, the impact is detrimental. When you are overcommitted and under consistent and significant pressure, you are unable to honor your word and more susceptible to unethical behaviors.

  • We take short cuts to “finish our work.”
  • You lie to “explain” your failure to follow through.
  • We blame others to protect our image.
  • Or you simply lose vital sleep in an effort to “catch up.”

What Can You Do?

If you want to live a life of integrity, learn to manage the commitments that you make. If you profess integrity as core value in your organization promote a culture of accountability. Gallup offers helpful advice to do just that. I simply suggest that you establish the discipline to give and receive effective requests.

  • Provide context when making requests. Ask for context when receiving requests. The “why” of a request often shapes the “what” and “how” it is fulfilled.
  • Always propose a timeframe when making a request. Offer a timeframe if it is not provided. Recognize that “as soon as possible” or “at your convenience” is not a valid timeframe.
  • Define the conditions of satisfaction when making requests. Propose conditions of satisfaction if not provided. Defining successful fulfillment eliminates rework and associated frustrations.

Whether giving or receiving requests, these simple steps will help you promote a culture of accountability. They will empower you and your organization to better manage commitments. And they will protect you from situations that lead to ethical lapses of integrity. Honor your Word and 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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