“Let’s cut to the chase: what exactly do we mean by integrity? Of course, it refers to being honest, transparent, ethical, fair, accountable and so on but what does it really mean when associated with business? For me, it is the consistency between your values, your beliefs and your actions.
We’ve all heard our inner voice saying “something isn’t right here” or “I wonder if they realise that they’ve made a mistake” but it’s what we do next that determines our level of integrity. Let’s look at an example:
At the end of a long negotiation, the supplier sends through the final contract, and you spot an error which heavily favours your position. Do you:
- Disregard the error and quickly sign the contract with a mindset of “oh well, it was their fault”;
- Return it and suggest that “they should take another look as there are a few errors” on the basis that if it comes back with the error still present then you can feel satisfied that you gave them every chance to correct it, so your conscience is clear; or
- Point out the error, wait for their correction and duly sign the corrected version.
If option 1 or 2 is taken, and assuming the error remains, it’s likely that the supplier’s error will come to light eventually. At this point the supplier may cast doubt over your unawareness of the mistake and at that point, your relationship is probably broken, perhaps irreparably. Depending on the scale of the mistake you may feel “it was worth it”, but at what price? Once a person’s or organisation’s integrity is brought into question, it’s a long hard road to fully rebuild lost trust. Reputation without trust is meaningless.
Of course, my strong belief is that there is only one correct option and if indeed you take option c and “do the right thing”, the outcome will very likely be lasting positive impact. Never underestimate the power of a strong relationship built on trust, underpinned by strong ethical values and integrity.
Remember, integrity is always a choice but without it, any IT sourcing engagement is likely to be doomed from the outset. My personal ethos is absolutely aligned to my colleagues at This Partners and the firm’s values of Trust, Honesty, Integrity & Simplicity. We build trust from the outset of any relationship and ensure that ethical decision making is at the core of all our actions."