Mackay: Integrity needs no rules

When Janet looked at her pay stub, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that her company had deposited more than her normal wages into her bank account. However, on the next payday, her paycheck was significantly less than what it should have been, and she went to her boss to complain.

“I’m curious,” her boss said, “Why didn’t you say anything when we overpaid you the other week?”

Janet responded: “I was willing to overlook one mistake, but two is pushing it.”

Integrity: Either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something that you can have one day but not the next. It should be a constant in your life, like brushing your teeth.

I was invited to speak at the third annual Integrity Summit in Phoenix. Its mission is to significantly increase the integrity quotient in organizations and across the marketplace. The annual event was co-founded by Jerry Colangelo and Gregg Ostro, who also created the Integrity Business Institute, for which I’m a special adviser.

Integrity Summit 2013’s theme of Inspiring Individual Integrity to Win could not have come at a more critical time.

It seems the antiheroes — those doing wrong — vs. the heroes — who do right — are being promoted and celebrated in America all too often. Too many messages in the media and across society seem to say that getting what you want — regardless of the means — is just fine. Well, it isn’t. You know that and I know that and so must our employees and job applicants.

Integrity begins at the top. As leaders we must set the example — that alone inspires our employees to do right. We must live by it in all we do, starting in the corner offices and promoted and expected throughout the organization, ensuring integrity is first and foremost in our decisionmaking. Enduring leaders know that the numbers will be better if integrity is not optional.

I think it’s smart business to recognize acts of integrity and celebrate and reward them in organizations just as much or more than financial achievements or increased efficiencies or even a brilliant idea are rewarded. Make no mistake, when employees understand that management requires integrity, it will become the norm.

Russ Johnson, CEO of Merchants Information Solutions, also a founding sponsor of this event, has a remarkable job applicant integrity test of which I’m a huge fan and consultant. We use it at Mackay­Mitchell Envelope Company. It screens out the bad apples who are work-comp abusers, commit fraud, steal, are hostile and so on. It also reduces work comp rates, as well as worker turnover and unemployment payouts. The test takes 15 minutes, is in 21 languages and costs $20 or less. The test is available at integritybusinessinstitute.com/test.

Here’s an example of what integrity looks like:

Tom, a hotel worker, could not afford a computer for his son, who desperately needed one for school. At the end of a hotel event when everyone was gone, Tom discovered a laptop had been left behind. He waited awhile, and no one came back. Was this the computer he so needed for his son?

No one would know he took it. No cameras were in the area, and no other workers were around. Tom knew it was wrong to steal, but isn’t helping your son a good and righteous thing? He decided to take the computer. As he went to grab it, his values and his boss’ words about always doing what’s right kicked in.

Tom turned in the computer to his boss. Later that day, Tom received a $1,000 check from the executive who owned the laptop, plus he was promoted to supervisor. Tom’s son had a new computer that night.

Mackay’s Moral: Only those on the level can climb the highest peaks.

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