Integrity is the basis of successful business and inspires people to do great things. The medical device company my wife works for was audited today by the FDA. Audits are nothing more than checking whether a company does what it says it does. Audits are a verification of integrity. A finding during an audit is where integrity is questioned. Being in a regulatory environment, the company my wife works for plans for and expects regular audits. They even have a “war room” where employees get information ready to present to the auditors who are in with those trained to work with auditors. My wife spent most of the day in the war room working the observations with the intent of avoiding findings while one of her leaders was in with the auditors. At days end, this particular leader came out of the audit and said, “I’m glad we didn’t need you.” You can probably imagine some of the emotions and sentiment my wife shared this evening with me about that one sentence after all the work she did supporting that “leader.”
It is truly sad when the leaders we work with don’t recognize the strengths and efforts of those they lead. This is one of the many examples in our working lives where people in leadership roles undermine themselves by their own actions. Leaders act as if they are the only ones capable of doing the truly hard work or able to understand the complexities of customers, negotiations, databases, reporting, systems, tools and processes. They take over meetings asking leading questions to make sure everyone is working on the problem they think is important all the while derailing meetings and undermining the work they had their employees do. Instead of listening and learning from those who work for them, they tell them what’s important when their employees were about to present the same damn thing. The actions of these types of leaders communicate they do not trust or respect those they lead. Yet, when confronted with these types of observations they swear up and down they trust and appreciate their subordinates.
My wife performed her own audit of that leader after that one sentence. We are audited everyday but do not realize it. If our actions are inconsistent with what we say when interacting with others, then those people have a “finding” with respect to our behavior. They start questioning if we truly do what we say we do. Trust, friendships or marriages are lost when we repeat findings with the people we interact with. One aspect of successfully managing the biz of you is giving attention to what you say and do verifying your actions are congruent with your communication to others as well as yourself. Just as a company finds the root cause and take corrective action when there are findings, we have to find the roots of our behavior and take corrective action when we or others find our integrity questionable.
I learn from my wife’s experience and situations like it how important integrity is. Leadership integrity is ensuring our actions are congruent with our verbal and nonverbal communications. Integrity is doing what we say we do. If we say we trust, then goddamn it we should act in ways that show that trust. If we are given feedback by subordinates, peers, other leaders or ourselves it is imperative we listen, learn and seek the root causes of our behavior and do something to correct it. Integrity is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Without integrity, we wind up looking like fools and inspire antagonism and dissent instead of collaboration and action. This is true whether we are leaders of others or leading our future self towards our own purposes. Acting with integrity in our lives builds trust between our past, present and future selves. Our personal integrity directly translates into accomplishing things when interacting with others and our environment. This to me is successfully managing our biz.
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