Improving Integrity with Clear Expectations

This week’s post comes from Doug Post.

Last time We noted that integrity means, “I do what I say I’m going to do . . . every time.” We noted Michael Myatt’s definition: honesty is making your words match reality; integrity is making reality match your words.

We learned 3 key skills for leading with integrity:

  1. You must understand what you have been requested to give your word to.
  2. Say “yes” only when you mean it and are willing to act, even at personal cost.
  3. Get very good at saying “no,” because that is going to be your most common response.

But, if you’ve tried to live with integrity in the past few months, you have probably failed many times. I know I have. I have double-booked meetings and not set clear expectations with meeting leaders. I’ve been late to meetings. I’ve told my co-workers I would get them something by Wednesday, but considered early Thursday morning close enough. I have overcommitted to clients and chosen to sacrifice family commitments to meet the client’s expectations. The concept of integrity is simple, but it is difficult to do what we say.

So, then what? Well, we can learn to live with more integrity. Consider these three practices:

1. Recovery. When your “yes” turns out to be a “no,” acknowledge the breach. When necessary, apologize. And finally, recommit to integrity. That’s it. No excuses. 

2. Clear Expectations and Commitments. Let’s consider building skills #1 and #2 (above) by differentiating between statements, requests, and commands. A statement is a description of something or the condition of someone. No response is required, and there is no opening to give your word. A request is an invitation to give your word–either “yes” or “no.” Commands are an essential part of high-performance organizations, and the only response to them is “yes.” Though not used often, they are the fastest way to get stuff done.  Let’s look at some examples:

  • Statement: “The garbage needs to go out.” OR “Our profits are declining.”
  • Request: “Will you please take the garbage out before you go to bed?” OR “Will you get me an analysis of why our profits are declining by tomorrow afternoon?”
  • Command: “Take the garbage out before you go to bed.” OR “Get me the analysis of why our profits are declining by tomorrow afternoon.”

         Too many people cloak requests as statements and commands as requests, which
         confuses and frustrates everyone. Commands as requests are an act of cowardice.

         For high performance and integrity we must:

  • Discern between statements, requests, and commands.
  • Make sure everyone understands that statements don’t require responses or actions.
  • Make sure people have a right to say “no” to requests without repercussions. High performance companies get this. For example, “Can you complete the report by noon tomorrow?” High performance answer: “No, I need to take my son to the dentist, is 4 p.m. ok?”
  • In the rare event that a command is required, the only possible response is “yes.” However, stating the tradeoff is appropriate. This sounds like, “Yes, Bill, I will have that report to you tomorrow but know that I will not be making the call to Joe as a result.”

Note: Commands are rare and do not only come from the leaders in your organization. For example, an Administrative Assistant might tell the President what he must do before leaving on a trip. Or, an engineer may tell the P.E. when she must have the drawings signed.

3. Say “No.”  . . .  We’ll consider saying no next time.

            To build your integrity with others, (1) learn to recover from integrity breaches, (2) share
            clear expectations and commitments, and (3) develop the ability to “say no.”

How do you struggle with integrity? What helps you improve your integrity?
Continue Leading the Interstates Way!
Doug Post
External sources: The Primes by Chris McGoff, p. 129-132, 136-139.
Other sources to develop your integrity: The Speed of Trustby Stephen M. R. Covey, p. 66-72, 111-112.  Executive EQ by Robert Cooper, chp. 11


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