Many of us think we know what INTEGRITY means.
Many would say we value it.
Many would also likely say it’s a core value and we possess it and practice it.
Integrity is defined as:
1.the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
“he is known to be a man of integrity”
2. the state of being whole and undivided.
“upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
It’s easy to do… when it’s easy.
But let’s take a deeper look at when it’s hard.
In my experience the hardest times when integrity is called for are usually in a case where there feels as if there is no clear positive outcome for all involved (otherwise known as a ‘win win’ or a win/lose). They can be occasions when you have to make choices that may negatively impact someone. Often you have to choose between someone and yourself…or your family…or in business choose between someone and your business, and all that it serves.
Everyone has their own truths, and in tough times those truths can feel unpopular, inconvenient and even unforgiving if they don’t align with what others want.
Sometimes you are called upon to have to look beyond a single person and consider a collective or whole…a long vs short term impact. Also known as collateral damage. These are the toughest decisions as often you can see all sides, but still have to choose the best for long term big picture impact. Not everyone can win in these multifaceted moments.
On the outside, practicing integrity can feel like it looks different each time we do it in any given situation.
So how can you know if you are practicing integrity if it doesn’t look exactly the same each time?
It can have many facets to consider:
Can you feel what the best outcome is amongst your choices? (Notice I didn’t say THINK)
Even if there is no clear win?
Can you look at outcomes for all involved?
Can you stand in your values?
Can you walk your talk? (aka practice what you preach/teach)
I have a cousin who once asked me, “How do you sleep at night?” If you aren’t losing sleep you are probably on the right side of things.”
I have found this to be simple and true in most cases. Now let’s be honest…I don’t sleep much as it is because I have a busy mind, but the key is…WHAT is keeping me awake. If it’s not the issue in question…then I’m on the right side of things in my own mind and heart.
Operating from integrity and standing in your truth are most important when it’s hard…when no outcome is ideal, and you can’t find a win win no matter where you turn.
Integrity requires us to take a deep look at ourselves. At our darkest parts and call them forward in the most honest and clear ways. To not look away, when you don’t like what you see…and then make a hard choice between what sometimes feel like impossible options while still honoring your own truth and values.
It feels like a lot of opposing things all in one basket. Sometimes it feels like a paradox.
When called to stand in integrity under less than ideal circumstances you have to ask yourself a lot of questions:
Where do you draw the line between business and personal?
What do you do when you feel personally for everyone you come into contact with?
How do you make decisions when there is no clear winning for all?
What honors me?
What honors others?
How can we honor all?
If we can’t honor all…can we be at peace with the choice we make?
These answers are different for everyone and often every situation. The stakes are also always different.
I can say this is something I wish there was a cut and dried formula for. I pride myself on being able to set myself aside in business decisions and look at the biggest big picture and consider all involved and do my best to create a resolution that does the least damage…and sometimes you can’t create a win win. Sometimes you won’t meet people’s expectations. In those cases, you have to choose the option that you can find the most peace with and lets you sleep at night.
One way to avoid difficult integrity questions is to prevent them entirely.
How do we do that? (I am so glad you asked).
In my experience questions of integrity arise when people’s expectations do not align. When people get disappointed it is easy for Ego to jump in. Ego can be a crafty deceiver and has the tendency to turn you into whatever is required so that someone else’s internal narrative can make sense. We cannot control the stories others tell or the lenses through which they view the world.
We CAN, however, work at the outset to ensure we replace expectations with agreements.
Let’s explore the difference between expectations and agreements:
–Expectations are often vague, poorly communicated, are based on our own assumptions, and are often unmet.
–Agreements are explicitly defined, clearly communicated, agreed upon, and often fulfilled.
When we are clear at the outset and create agreements, we can minimize conflict and we can create experiences that prevent us from having our integrity called into question by ourselves or others. This clarity also helps us to navigate difficult circumstances around knowing how to honor it. It sets everyone up for success….and THAT is a WIN WIN.
When we operate from agreements vs expectations we get to practice integrity and experience integrity in both definitions above: 1. we get to be honest and in our truth AND 2. we get to be whole and undivided.
Where in life and business do you have expectations vs agreements?
How have they played a role in conflict or honoring your truth and staying in integrity during challenging times?
We would love to hear your thoughts in comments!