I remember working trade show booths for a few software companies, including my own, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Remember COMDEX and NetWorld (now Interop)? This is hard work! Hours and hours on your feet! Talking with hundreds of people in the course of a day!
I have to say the hardest part for me was not the tired feet and back from standing on a hard floor all day, or even the tired voice and sore throat after speaking all day. The hardest part for me was knowing that almost every time I spoke to someone, a promise would be made – a promise to have a phone call, mail something, etc. – but I knew at the end of the day with a pocket full on business cards that had illegible notes on them, it would be hard to keep all the promises. I was suffering from being out of integrity, and anyone or anything that is out of integrity will not perform optimally.
Keep reading to understand how to be in integrity more consistently…
Integrity Required for Performance
In his paper entitled “Integrity: Without It Nothing Works”, Michael Jensen discusses the ways integrity translates into performance.
“An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word. We can honor our word in one of two ways: first, by keeping our word, and on time; or second, as soon as we know that we won’t keep our word, we inform all parties counting on us to keep our word and clean up any mess that we’ve caused in their lives. When we do this, we are honoring our word despite having not kept it, and we have maintained our integrity.
The paper really gets interesting when Jensen defines “One’s Word” as each of the following
- What you said
- What you know
- What is expected
- What you say is so
- What you say you stand for
- The social moral standards, the group ethical standards and the governmental legal standards of right and wrong, good and bad behavior in the society, groups and state in which one enjoys the benefits of membership
Just look at the first two definitions. Does it surprise you to learn that being in integrity also means keeping your word to yourself? If I have a thought, and know I should do or say something, but I don’t do it, I am out of integrity. If I’m not careful, I can form an out-of-integrity habit … Accepting my out of integrity behavior by not keeping or honoring my word to myself will bleed over into thinking it’s OK to be out of integrity in other ways in my life.
Two Key Take-Aways
So, although there are many more lessons to consider when it comes to integrity, here are two key take-aways for entrepreneurs:
- Pay attention to your thoughts and keep your word to yourself. When you KNOW you should Do or Say something … either Do It Right Now … or remember take-away #2…
- Know where your word is when it comes time to keep your word. This means in essence, if you can’t do it right now, you should “create a now” when you will do it – such as in a calendar or on a list.
Since life does not happen in the future or the past, NOW is the only time to keep a promise. If you want to find your word when it comes time to keep your word, get your promises into your calendar, or at least on a list to be calendared.
As I think back to the anxiety of feeling out of integrity at trade shows so many years ago, I’m grateful for better calendar technology that makes it pretty easy to get my WORD – to others, or to myself – out of the verbal or mental ether and into a system where I can find it… and Keep it or at least honor it!
Finding our Word
Remember what David Allen says: “Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” If we try to simply remember the ways we gave our word in our head, there is a pretty good chance we won’t be able find our word when it comes time to keep it.
What do you think? Has keeping your word to yourself been an important factor in your entrepreneurial success?