Once owners understand that integrity really does matter, they want to know what to do next. How, they wonder, can they raise their IQ – their integrity quotient?
Unlike our intelligence quotient (a score based on tests designed to assess human intelligence), there’s no numerical rating for integrity. To improve our integrity quotient, we need more than smarts. We need 100% focus and follow through. We all have lapses when trying to make big changes, but the priority is to start from a place of integrity and let it guide our actions and choices.
To raise integrity IQ, I have 12 steps that I recommend to clients, and I call it the Integrity Action Plan. The steps are intertwined, and I have laid them out in a specific order, as you’ll see. If you approach the process methodically and with discipline, you should see results. You will build the kind of strong business foundation that can handle the weight and responsibility of full integrity.
Integrity Action Plan
#1 COMMIT. Commitment is a process, not a one-time event. Write down your commitment. Even better, post it in your business. When customers and employees see your commitment to integrity framed and hanging on the wall, it is a visible promise that you are determined to succeed. Realize that there will be times when it is difficult to stay committed to the process. For that reason, set a recommitment date on your calendar to remind and refresh you. You can even create a ritual around recommitment, such as making a public statement, including a customer, writing about it in your company newsletter from the desk of the owner, or holding a party to bring focus back to the mission of integrity.
#2 READ. We skim, we glance, we listen, and we briefly get interested. Then we move on to the next thing. Reading a book – especially a printed book – requires a different kind of attention. It allows you to absorb a body of thought. With a book, the information is specifically created and staged by the author – especially by great authors – to give you an “aha” moment or inspire you to action. Reading a variety of articles online about a topic will not accomplish the same result. I recommend you read about integrity, of course, but it’s important to read deeply on leadership, creativity, teamwork and the change process. I also read fiction and non-fiction – especially autobiographies – because the lessons we absorb from other people’s stories can inform our own path. A helpful book is Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (2009). Coach Goldsmith has written many other helpful books, but What Got You Here... is especially strong in how to keep your word and interact with intention, which leads me to the next item on my list.
#3 KEEP YOUR WORD. I have written extensively about this in my Integrity Matters series. Your word is your promise. Even the smallest commitments should be kept. If you don’t think you can follow through, don’t give your word. Poor planning is not an excuse. Keep a calendar, learn to set boundaries, and be deliberate and specific in how you phrase your promises so that you reduce misunderstandings. Learn when people say to you, “But you said…” Take your promises seriously, even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. Coworkers will notice, as will family members and friends.
#4 AIM HIGH. Those closest to you reflect their integrity back on you, and they influence your thinking. Make friends with those who have the highest integrity. Choose suppliers and customers who are ethical. If you have not yet found a life partner, seek someone with a clear, bright line of honesty. Ask yourself, does this person or company seem to follow the Golden Rule? Are they someone I am proud to know? Do they elevate those around them? Don’t take this lightly. The people in your life are paramount.
#5 ADAPT. We live in a world of constant change. It’s not enough to actually change. Being adaptable is how we view change and how we go through the process. Having a good attitude about change, instead of cursing and blocking, will open doors and attract positive people.
#6 GET LEAN. Simply, simplify. Remove distractions and obstacles. Identify bottlenecks. Develop repeatable systems to achieve accuracy. Define what the word quality means and how it should be achieved. Strip away ego. Learn from mistakes. When you build a lean organization, you will benefit personally, as well. Lean thinking will influence your decision making, your finances, your relationships, and your problem solving skills. In many ways, this should be number one on my list, but to succeed, you need the right people around you and the ability to keep your word. I hope you see how this all works together.
#7 HIRE THE BEST. In many ways, hiring the best people falls under #4, to aim high. Yet many managers feel powerless in the hiring process, as though we have to settle for whatever we can find. To hire the best, we must define what we seek, actively recruit, create a culture that is attractive to others, pay fairly, and invest in training. Poor quality people will wreck morale and drag your company down. If you are in desperate straits because you must fill a position immediately, then you also must work on retention. If you still lack qualified candidates, examine why you cannot hire high quality people from the outside. You may find your problem is on the inside. Give your improvement team the task of developing a company RHR program to Recruit, Hire and Retain. If you are hiring due to growth, then you must retain a recruiter who is professional, discreet and trustworthy. You must hire for the growth that you are planning for five years out.
#8 PLAN. Planning is more than tossing ideas around. You need a deliberate, well-conceived, written road map. Be sure you are planning around your best investments and assets, including people, strategy, execution and cash (PSEC). Phrase your outcomes in the positive, such as “We shall…” instead of “We will stop doing…” Document your starting point and build in milestones along the way. Assess your progress and stay on track. Assign tasks to specific people and include deadlines. Communicate respectfully. Report back to the group every week, even if there is no progress. Be accountable. Your planning should reflect the future company you plan to be, one centered around integrity.
#9 EXAMINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY. In my experience, the business and its employees will adopt the owner’s view of money. This can limit your company. As the owner, reflect on how attitudes about scarcity and abundance have influenced you. Examine your early years, your family, your relationships and adult life, and your business. Look for places where money myths have developed. For example, your parent may have said, “We can never get ahead,” or, “I’m only working for the tax man.” Start to create your own philosophy around money that supports your true personal beliefs and reality. Consider meeting with a counselor to expand your view. Limiting beliefs around money can derail us and constrain our future.
#10 APOLOGIZE. Do you avoid certain customers or suppliers due to bad feelings around a job or delivery? Do you get mad when you think about the people who owe you money – or those whom you owe money – whether in the past or currently? Do you burn bridges with employees who quit or go to work for the competition? All of these behaviors limit the ability to act with the highest integrity. The solution is to apologize, even if you think the situation is not your fault. You may find that the other person apologizes as well. If this step is too big, try a smaller apology and see how it feels: “I apologize for letting our past issue get in the way of our relationship. If you’re willing, I’d like to try again and move forward.” Allow the other person to meet you in the middle. A sincere and humble apology is a healthy reset and paves the way for full integrity.
#11 GIVE BACK. We can become so embroiled in our daily lives that we forget we are not the center of the universe. One way to turn focus outward is to donate time, money, attention, energy and resources. You can do pro bono work. You can have work days where your employees go off-site to support a cause. Put these service activities on your calendar, and make it a regular habit to make the world a better place.
#12 ASK FOR HELP. Owners who raised themselves by their own bootstraps usually dread it when they have to ask for help. Yet when we ask the most successful people in the world how they got where they are, they usually credit their spouse, a mentor, a business partner, a teacher or their families. They rarely say, “I got here by myself. Period.” In my own life, I rely on my father, my wife, many mentors, my LaManna Alliance team, and my personal relationship with God. An easy way to ask for help is to choose a qualified coach or advisor. Whether that person works with you personally or with the entire business team, you will get in the habit of asking for and accepting help graciously. Don’t squander your time and emotion trying to do it all. No one can do it alone.
To increase your integrity quotient, you must first create a company culture where integrity will thrive. Follow my 12-step list to launch your Integrity Action Plan.
A final reminder. My father, Carlo LaManna, always told me, “Rock, people come first.” When in doubt about the right thing to do, start with people. These words guide me every day. Thank you for reading this series and expressing your commitment to improve yourself and your business. Let me know how it goes. I’m in your corner and just a phone call away.
For 35 years, Rock LaManna has coached and advised owners on how to make business changes from a place of empowerment and knowledge. It’s never easy to change course or face unpleasant truths, but the team at LaManna Alliance has the hands-on experience to keep you moving forward. Visit RockLaManna.com to start the process.