Australian Institute of Management -- Management Today
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Margaret Thorsborne, BSc, Dip Ed, Grad Dip Counselling
Margaret Thorsborne is the Managing Director of Transformative Justice Australia (Queensland). She assists public and private sector organisations to manage and overcome problems with workplace relationships, particularly workplace bullying, sexual harassment, misconduct, inappropriate behaviour, diminished work performance, aggressive management and supervision, dysfunctional teams and high level conflict.
She began her professional career as a high school teacher before becoming a school counsellor and then an internal consultant and project manager for the Queensland Education Department, specialising in the fields of behaviour, trauma and conflict management. Today she is internationally recognised as an expert on school and workplace bullying and restorative behaviour management practices. She bases her work in a range of disciplines including biology, psychology, criminal justice, political philosophy, and social, organisational and management theory.
Margaret has presented papers, seminars and workshops and conducted training throughout Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the USA. She has had papers published on restorative justice as it applies to schools and workplaces, and on recruitment and selection based on workplace literacy and numeracy skills. She is currently the chair of the board of an international non-profit community sector organisation based in Queensland, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Management Sunshine Coast Regional Committee.
Margaret Thorsborne can be reached at email@example.com or www.thorsborne.com.au
I sit in the second pew from the front at the funeral of Bill Brown, my father-in-law, holding hands with my sons and listening to my husband struggling to stay composed as he speaks about the sort of father Bill had been. My husband's siblings and their wives, husbands and children are here too, mourning the loss of a much-loved 86-year-old who had died after a long spell in a nursing home.
I glance back and, through my tears, see a large number of men, all looking a bit more grizzled and stooped than the last time I saw them. I finally realise that these are the men who worked with and for Bill in his time as a senior public servant. One of them comes forward to speak of Bill's work life.
Bill's passing and funeral did not make the papers. He was not a public figure---he was what is known as a quiet achiever. But the story told that morning about his vision for his work, his values, intelligence, commitment, grace, humour, compassion, humility, the way he lead, his influence in his field and the legacy it left, was testament to the worthiness of his life. His children were right to be so proud. He was, indeed, a man of integrity.
Writing this chapter has been an interesting journey. Frankly, I was seduced by Robyn, the editor, into taking up the challenge---a moment of weakness! It coincided with a trip to the UK for work, and while I was there and then on my exhausted return the job loomed over me like a black cloud. I would gladly have found someone to pass the baton to. But in the end, how could I let someone down having made such a commitment? What would that say about my own integrity? So here I am, in the dawn hours of each morning between here and the deadline, with my cat for company and my family asleep upstairs. Actually quite enjoying myself in the moment.
So, where to start? I began by nailing every intelligent person I know with this question: 'Think of a boss, manager, leader or someone in your life who you think has integrity. What does that mean to you?'
Phone calls, emails, talk lists, discussions over coffee, long and well-lubricated-with-a-fine-red chats at dinner and family gatherings. These folk loved talking about integrity. It was obviously an important issue. Naturally, I also read whatever I could, but that was a less enlightening experience than listening to people's real-world stories.
One thing stood out. Each person could only name a handful of people who they believed had the goods. But they could remember plenty of instances where integrity was absent and spoke of the resultant damage to themselves, others and the organisation.
It seems that integrity has become an old-fashioned virtue.
What is integrity? | back to contents
The people I asked about integrity included CEOs, the middle and senior managers and staff of organisations of all sizes from the private and public sectors, consultants working in the field of organisational development, neighbours, close friends and family. When I asked whom they knew who had integrity I was saddened, but not surprised, at how few leaders, managers or bosses could be named. I can only name two in my own working life---more about them later.
These are the words that my respondents used when asked to describe the people they identified as possessing 'integrity':
And there was congruence between these responses and the various dictionary definitions that I gathered:
Integrity: Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. Moral soundness. Honesty. Freedom from corrupting influence or motive---used especially with reference to the fulfilment of contracts, the discharge of agencies, trusts and the like. Uprightness, rectitude. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided. Completeness.
For good measure I also included 'integral' and 'integration' in my search for meaning:
Integral: Essential or necessary for completeness; a whole; complete; perfect; uninjured; entire.
Integration: The organisation of the psychology or social traits and tendencies of a personality into a harmonious whole.
Members of my informal focus group discussed and debated whether infamous leaders of recent times, such as Hitler, David Koresh and Osama bin Laden, could be said to have had integrity. They and others like them certainly adhere to a set of values that are clear and well communicated. They also have a clear sense of purpose and the capacity to inspire and lead. I suspect, however, that their influence over others was largely based on fear---and that doesn't count for integrity in my books.
So, for the purposes of this chapter, I will focus on a discussion of integrity and what most of us commonly understand as leadership for good rather than for evil; that is, where there is no intent to harm.
Newspapers are full of stories of people who demonstrate little integrity in their dealings with others, and how they damage others' wellbeing and livelihoods. I'll not bore you with more stories about Quintex, HIH, Enron, WorldCom or One.Tel, except to say that board members in those companies were obviously asleep at the wheel, and those who benefited, at least in the short term, subscribed to the 'greed is good' principle.
In general, politicians, intent on remaining in power or staying endorsed, vote along party or factional lines in matters of policy, unless they are permitted a conscience vote. Politics is a game of quid pro quo. It is a rare politician who is seen to have integrity. Decisions are made on what voters will likely support. Staying in power is the highest priority. Integrity appears not to count. In my own state of Queensland, one exception stands out. Peter Wellington is the Independent MP for Nicklin. He was injured terribly in a tractor accident on his property, but turned up in a wheelchair for parliamentary sittings---long before his doctors recommended he return to work. His commitment to his electorate, and his steadfast principles about what he will and will not negotiate on, have earned him the respect of his colleagues, although it is fair to say that he has probably driven the ruling Labor government nuts in the process!
Apart from individuals, there are also industries that are perceived to lack integrity. Again I referred this issue to my informal focus group and they were quick to answer! The list of industries that people felt could not be trusted included real estate, retail car sales (in fact, sales in general), horse racing, banking, law and mortgage broking. Their responses were based on times when they felt they had been ripped off, or their interests as customers or consumers had been given low priority compared to the high priority of making a profit. (I'm very aware, however, that there are people who work in these industries who do have integrity, who are honest, put customer needs high on their lists and walk their talk. I also know that these people and their particular businesses reap the benefit with return custom and solid reputations for reliability. It would seem that integrity and profit do not need to be mutually exclusive.)
Law enforcement agencies form another group that suffers from a public perception of lack of integrity---often with good reason. Recently I listened to the Queensland Commissioner of Police discussing progress since the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption. Highly educated and widely travelled, he said that law enforcement typically moves through predictable phases of corruption and reform, followed by a period of slippage. He was intent on reassuring the Queensland public that our police were not yet sliding back into the 'bad old ways'. Clearly it takes a great deal of hard work to maintain integrity integrity.
The greatest fallout from a lack of integrity is the loss of trust in institutions, industries, management and individuals. In the vacuum created when trust is lost, suspicion and paranoia thrive. Is it any wonder that we have lost faith in our institutions, management, the business world and those who lead us, and have become distrusting and cynical about the ability of those in authority to give priority to our welfare and wellbeing? As I mentioned earlier, integrity is an old-fashioned virtue that has become a low priority somewhere in the quest for increasing profit, market share, votes and tenure.
Trust is an incredibly precious commodity, and is always the first casualty when relationships in the workplace are damaged. Through my work as an organisational development consultant, particularly in workplaces beset with high levels of conflict, I am immersed on a daily basis in situations that are 'emotionally toxic'. Whether the precipitating crisis is a formal complaint made by one employee about another (or about their manager), workplace harassment, diminished performance or some other destructive set of circumstances (that is, people behaving badly), what is common is the deterioration of relationships and the decrease of trust in management.
Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (you may be familiar with Goleman's work on emotional intelligence) conclude that transparency---an authentic openness to others about one's feelings, beliefs and actions---engenders integrity, or the sense that a leader can be trusted; that he (or she) lives by his values and is genuine. They also stress that integrity is a leadership virtue and an organisational strength.
Yet the Australian Business Leadership Survey---a recent study of Australian managers conducted by the Australian Institute of Management and Monash University, and involving self-assessment of leadership skills, organisational culture and job outcomes---stated that:
Managers by and large don't feel their staff trust them. One conclusion that can be drawn from this finding is that managers have failed to recognise the strategic advantage of instilling a culture of trust within their organisation.
In recent years, my approach to solving workplace problems has been grounded in the field of restorative justice. Restorative justice is a process of transacting justice that is transforming the world of criminal justice in Western democracies. It embodies a philosophy and practice of problem solving that views misconduct and crime as a violation of people and relationships. These violations create obligations and liabilities. The solution lies in repairing the harm; making amends. The priority is healing, not retribution. I believe that this philosophy can be applied just as effectively in the realm of organisational management and leadership, and for facilitating justice within workplaces.
Through my practice, I have come to understand that we cannot afford to ignore the emotional fallout from inappropriate behaviour and/or poor management practices and policies. People get hurt. When it becomes chronic, it is an enormous distraction and makes people sick. They become demotivated. Job satisfaction and productivity suffer. There are significant economic costs to the organisation. I see chronic shame and chronic distress everywhere (more about shame later). Without exception, there is a loss of trust and, nearly always, integrity is missing.
On the rare occasions that integrity is present in these toxic situations, it is usually shown by an isolated individual who struggles to stay resolute in the face of very difficult circumstances. Sadly, this person is often not the manager or CEO. Maintaining integrity in a workplace where there is incredible pressure to cave in, roll over or give up, takes courage. Integrity is not easy to do.
In my interventions in troubled workplaces, the healing process depends on individuals of integrity who can model appropriate behaviours and help lead the group out of trouble. Through their actions, they demonstrate to others that integrity is a worthy virtue. They help others to understand that honesty in dealing with each other, knowing the difference between right and wrong, having courage to do what is right, and caring about relationships can improve outcomes for individuals and for the organisation.
Your first challenge:
Think about someone you know who has integrity.
From a colleague, Bruce, who works in health care in Philadelphia.
As a director of Mental Health practices (1999-2002) I supervised five different staffing groups for Outpatient Services. Always, the most glaring inequity in the businesses was that classism was an accepted value. By that I mean that the lower-wage people worked harder and had less independence, and clinical staff always violated the administrative staff boundaries. They not only expected to be able to give assignments to staff already responsible for every ringing phone and every live person in the office, but also had tantrums about any lapses in their needs being met.
For me as a leader, integrity means ensuring that classism is not practised in the office. I protect the people who have the most difficult jobs, and expect people with private offices and their own phones to operate independently and self-sufficiently (as I do, and did when in their positions).
Surprisingly, this is viewed as a very radical leadership value. Both clinical and administrative staff have clearly stated that this has never been suggested or employed in their previous workplaces.
Of course, some of the clinical staff feel cheated and confused, while the administrative staff feel protected, appreciated and understood for the value they bring to a functional environment. I just think of this as managing the team so that everyone is treated fairly, and that job duties are the only pressures that need to be tolerated at work.
From a clinical psychologist, Jackie, also in health care in Washington, DC.
I'm in my fifties, and I can only think of one manager in my entire professional career who had integrity as an outstanding characteristic. Sad, isn't it? He's the medical director of the department I work for at present. He is low-key, caring and firm. He has always encouraged us to work as hard as we possibly could, and consistently praised employees who went above and beyond.
The reason I say he has integrity is that he works harder than any of us, often putting in 80-hour weeks. The really sad part about this is that he has been diagnosed with leukaemia and now, for the first time in his life, he is actively seeking a more balanced lifestyle.
The other manager of my department is a very warm woman---she always smiles and says encouraging things, and tells you to take care of yourself . and then never supports you when it comes down to the task (and who, by the way, does not take care of herself). She constantly stimulates interest--excitement, and then, just as constantly, induces shame.
I like her, but do not respect her, and certainly feel she shows a complete lack of integrity.
This is a story of my own, about a woman that I know and respect for her integrity.
Sarah (not her real name) is a middle manager in a large public sector organisation. She is one of the two people I can name who possesses the virtue of integrity in spades. Before her latest promotion, Sarah was the organisational Workplace Health and Safety trouble-shooter, with a particular interest in emotional health. She insisted that 'toxic' work units were cleaned up, and damaged relationships healed.
Sarah takes great care of people who are suffering. Utterly reliable, she is called on to fix things, and I am often contracted to provide the skills to help her in this work. It is wonderful to work with Sarah. Her commitment to the organisation and its goals is very high. Her commitment to management and staff wellbeing is enormous---often to her own personal cost, physically and emotionally.
Her increasingly high profile and popularity amongst senior executive managers as reliable and trustworthy (she has saved their bacon on many an occasion) mean that she has been the subject of the 'tall poppy' syndrome. I suspect that by walking her talk, she has shamed other, less principled, colleagues in some way and so they have taken every opportunity to punish her. Snide comments, open hostility, formal complaints that she had interfered with their chances of promotion (by showing them up), a whisper in the ear of someone powerful---these all hurt her feelings badly.
Despite this, she would not deviate from her work of transforming soured workplace relationships. When things go wrong between her and someone in her team, she gives and invites honest feedback. She has done the painful work of self-reflection. She is a quietly committed Christian, and this obviously plays a significant role in her values.
Her leadership in the work she does has been exemplary. Working with her has been an absolute treat. Together, we have achieved some remarkable outcomes in work units that have been virtually totally dysfunctional. Personal integrity and integrity of process have paid off.
Sadly, recently, she has become the victim of a stalker; one of the many disturbed individuals she has assisted in the organisation. And, finally, the cost of her selfless devotion to the care of others has taken its toll and temporarily undone her. She has taken stress leave in an attempt to find relief from the daily fear she now experiences.
This woman has integrity. It is hard work and it has cost her. I wish I could bottle it to anoint others who are missing it. I feel better about myself when I am with her.
Your second challenge:
So how do we get integrity? Is there a gene for it or is it, as I believe, something that must be nurtured and that grows over time, like wisdom. To explore this, I would like to refer back to my work and study in the field of restorative justice.
One of the many interesting things I do is to train school management and teachers to better manage incidents of harmful behaviour by students (such as bullying, violence, classroom disruption, theft and destruction of property). Part of the training program mandates that the school examines current practice and the thinking, beliefs and values that underpin behaviour management (there are links between how they do this, school climate and crime prevention for young people).
Clearly, much of what we do in schools is shaped by our beliefs that punishment is the best way to change behaviour. But John Braithwaite, an eminent Australian criminologist, suggests that when examining compliance (and the lack of it), it is fruitful to explore the following question: Why it is that most kids (and adults) do the right thing most of the time? So, of course, I ask this question of participants in my training programs. These are the usual answers I receive about why we comply; that is, what influences us to do the right thing:
In our early years, we come to fear the disapproval of those of significance (family), as our wrongdoing places stress on these relationships and therefore our very survival. Of course, as we age and our relationships expand outside family, public disapproval exerts an increasingly greater influence. Braithwaite calls this social and external regulator of our behaviour Disgrace Shame.
As our sense of right and wrong is shaped and strengthened, we are able to better control our own behaviour (as our locus of control moves from external to internal). We learn to exercise discretion---an internal regulator, which Braithwaite calls Discretion Shame. This is our conscience at work.
So it would seem that conscience depends on the influences and experiences we have had, which in turn determine what we believe and value; and on the strength of the relationships we have had with those who are significant in our lives, and the strength of our fear of disappointing them.
Pangs of conscience and feelings of guilt are effective deterrents. Relationships matter. Strong connections are vital to our emotional and physical wellbeing. If you have been lucky enough to fall under the influence of family or significant others to whom integrity is a life value, then you might just grow some yourself.
Braithwaite's view of shame is sociological. Shame, via the development of conscience, is a social regulator. An alternative view was presented by Silvan S Tomkins in his work on Affect and Script Theory (the word affect, in this context, decribes a biological pattern of events that are triggered by a stimulus). Tomkins proposed a biological mechanism for affects (such as shame, fear, anger, excitement, enjoyment) that governs our behaviour and motivation. The theory is very complex, and any simplification I give here is fraught with the danger of inaccuracy. However, I think it is important to try (and see 'For further exploration' at the end of this chapter if you would like to learn more about this topic).
Charles Darwin believed that the mechanisms that govern our feelings and emotions are innate. He suggested that affective expressions evolved primarily to prepare the organism for action, and so play a role in motivation.
Tomkins built on the work of Darwin, and suggested that we have evolved an affect system in the brain for the purpose of simplifying the large amount of stimulus we receive (information from our eyes, ears and skin; smell, touch, pain, thoughts and so on). We are 'wired' to discern between, and respond to, the many inputs that call for our attention at any moment.
An affect (shame, fear, excitement and so on) produces an urgent, distinctive, qualitative experience that causes us to care about what is happening to us---this is a biologically triggered mechanism. Our body responds to an affect with an appropriate physiological response (such as changes in breathing and heart rate, blood flow to the skin or adrenalin surges). The face is the best place to observe which affect is triggered at any given moment. This is because the face's musculature, blood flow and nerve development are complicated and finely tuned. (In fact, in the years since Tomkins's work, there has been a great deal of research on the face, its display of affect and what this tells us about the emotional life of a person, their character and trustworthiness.)
When we become aware of an affect, it is called a feeling. Our emotions are shaped by our experiences of an affect and the ways others have reacted to that affect throughout our lifetime. For example, the sum total of all of our experience with the emotion anger, from birth onwards, determines our individual way of expressing anger. This is why one person will rage and throw things when angry, while another will simply clamp down on feelings, clench fists and make no verbal display whatsoever. In other words, emotion has an element of biography.
Tomkins identified nine affects in total.
Positive affects, which are inherently rewarding:
Neutral affect, which 'clears the decks' and demands we pay attention to anything that might follow:
Negative affects, which are inherently punishing or 'toxic':
For the purposes of this discussion, it is interesting to examine the role of the negative affect of disgust. According to Tomkins, disgust is the mechanism that protects us from the possible excesses of our hunger drive. When we take in food or drink that is, or could be, toxic, disgust causes us to expel the substance by spitting or even vomiting it out. Think of the look on the face of someone who has tasted something awful---that is disgust! Disgust signifies rejection after sampling. In a relationship sense, disgust is what happens when we have taken someone into our lives and trusted them, and they have ultimately disappointed us; let us down. We even have language for this: someone, something or a situation 'makes us sick', is 'really disgusting' or, if it's bad enough, is 'revolting'.
How does this relate to integrity? It demonstrates that disgust is a biological mechanism that is linked to lack of trust. If people no longer trust you, they will perform the emotional equivalent of spitting you out in disgust. If you have let them down badly, they will avoid further contact with you. They will avoid you in disgust---rejection after sampling!
The second affect of interest is shame--humiliation. Like Braithwaite, though from a very different perspective, Tomkins described shame as a social regulator. The shame mechanism is triggered when anything interferes with the two positive affects (interest and enjoyment). He suggests that shame's evolutionary advantage is that it lets us know when positive affect is blocked.
Shame (and its more intense version, humiliation) tells us that something is not right in a particular situation. The shame mechanism is triggered when our connections with others are under threat (though in adults, it can sometimes be difficult to identify; we may experience shame as a feeling of distance or isolation from, or rejection by, another). This is part of the biological advantage that shame gives us if we wish to live our lives in a positive way.
Our connections with each other are critical to our sense of belonging, to our survival. Shame let's us know that connections are damaged. Knowing that shame has been triggered allows us, if we have the courage and skills, to explore what has gone wrong and then make it right.
There are times, however, when we are unable repair a damaged connection. This may be because of the particular circumstances of the situation. More often, though, it is because of negative patterns of response we have learned in order to diminish the emotional impact of shame. Don Nathanson has identified a 'library' of scripts for these patterns of response. He calls this the compass of shame (see figure 3.1). We all carry some baggage (scripts) from the early influences of family, school and community, and sometimes these scripts include unhealthy ways to avoid shame, fear and distress, as illustrated. And we all know how powerful that baggage can be in our workplaces.
Your third challenge:
Think about how you react when your connections with others are damaged (that is, shame is triggered).
In my work, I have observed that certain actions that trigger (often deliberately) the shame response are always present in chronically toxic workplaces. These actions include:
Think about all the difficult scenarios and behaviours in your workplace. Think about how uncomfortable people feel and how they respond as they seek to limit the emotional impact of shame. This will give you an inkling of the impact of shame on levels of job satisfaction and productivity. High levels of conflict that have existed for weeks, months and sometimes years mean that there is probably a climate of chronic shame; and because things have gone wrong and stayed wrong, a climate of chronic distress.
From a colleague, Jane, in Washington, DC.
I recently worked for a corporation that had a contract with a government agency here in DC. I will keep its identity anonymous (although I would love to complain and diss it). Suffice it to say it is now going to be in the Homeland Security Department.
The tactics of shaming that were used on both the corporate side and the government side were shocking. It actually did more to push me to honour my interest in working with shame than anything I've experienced (outside of my own personal history). The tactics used in this type of scenario were all about power and control of others---it is what these lousy managers seemed to 'get off on'.
Tactics used were:
Worker bees are invisible. For example, the corporate manager getting together with the team leader from government and me (the worker bee) to discuss something---and talking about me as if I was not sitting there. If I did say something it was not 'taken in' or acknowledged.
Lack of deference. For example, I was talked about and my work was talked about at a high level meeting as if I was not there. Later I was told that it was a bad management decision to even have me there!
Secrecy. In DC (and elsewhere?) the rule is that 'information is power'. I have information means I have power . and, what is more, I have power over you (after all you are in the dark); you don't have this information so you will not be able to move in the direction that I know we are going in. (Think about how shaming this is: it sets people up to be embarrassed, to look stupid, to look awkward, to be ridiculous).
Control (and control over). This manifests in all the rules and regulations. What this says is: 'You are not trusted. How you spend your time is not trusted.' You are logged in, logged out. Lots of musts.
Follow the party line. Here the manager is super loyal to all policies even though it strangles creativity and creates strife among employees.
Focus on money, rather than best product, best work environment. Attitude that the bottom line is paramount. People are secondary.
Hypocrisy (opposite of congruency). They say people are first, but they are not. Includes the manager being falsely or overly solicitous and condescending.
Management through intimidation and fear. If you don't do this, x will happen (x is bad).
Misuse of employees' time. Huge lack of deference, especially for employees who gain satisfaction out of being productive (as studies show that most of us do). For example, several times I took the shuttle to our downtown office for a meeting, only to find the meeting cancelled because the team leader had received incorrect information from her management. This tactic includes cancelling projects half way through or changing mid-stream (flexible is good but continually sending people down the wrong alley is damaging).
False pride used to shame. The attitude of: I am the boss and don't you ever forget it.
So, it is important to identify when the shame mechanism is operating, in yourself and others, so you can set about repairing relationships and creating a healthy workplace environment.
It is not for nothing that the development of emotional intelligence involves the capacity to self-reflect---to understand self---before being able to understand others! Which is why integrity has such a strong role to play if you wish to develop and maintain emotionally healthy relationships in your workplace.
The people you manage and lead need to know what you stand for (your values) and where you are taking them (the goals of the organisation and for their own work). You must demonstrate that you are reliable, honest and trustworthy and that you walk your talk. They need to see your values in action, that you value healthy relationships and that you have their best interests at heart. They need to see that you value openness and honesty in interpersonal transactions. They need to know that they will not be deliberately diminished by your actions.
In other words, to maintain healthy relations with those you lead, you must act with integrity. If these things don't happen, people will experience disgust and shame, often felt as confusion and anxiety, betrayal, rejection and isolation. They will get sick. They will resign or make trouble. How can anyone possibly imagine that people can do their best work under these conditions? In the end, a lack of the old fashioned virtue of integrity will cost the organisation dearly.
Tomkins and others after him have clearly defined the necessary conditions for developing emotionally healthy relationships. The outcomes sought are very straightforward---to maximise positive affect and minimise negative affect. To achieve this, the rules are very simple---this is not rocket science. (I hope Tomkins, from his grave, will forgive my spin on this blueprint.)
Deliberate development of a climate of integrity, openness and honesty provides the necessary conditions for the development of emotionally respectful relationships.
Joe works as a therapist and counsellor with AIDS/HIV patients.
A manager with integrity is authentic---that is, they are who and what they are and don't hide behind a role that sets them above others or covertly manipulates their subordinates. They are honest and direct. In our field we might say they are congruent. What's on the inside is displayed on the outside.
Good managers know how to collaborate with those they manage. That means they listen to all input and have the judgement and leadership to decide on a course of action after all the data are in and then mobilise and motivate their team to work together, utilising the strengths of each member.
They are both 'task oriented' and 'emotionally intelligent', because they know that the work will get done when people 'feel' their best as valued and important members of the project. They affirm the strengths of their workers and are sincerely interested in helping people to grow in areas of weakness. Thus, they see to it that there are opportunities for growth and advancement in each person's skill sets.
Most serious writers on leadership have something to say about integrity, although some mention it only in passing and without exploration of its meaning. Others give it the seriousness it deserves.
In his book Secrets of Effective Leadership: A Practical Guide to Success, Fred Manske clearly honours the virtue of integrity. His advice includes:
In his article, 'Values-based leadership has huge pay-off', Jim Clemmer reminds us that:
. most organisations, management teams, and managers have a major gulf between what they say and what they do. Since they confuse their aspired behaviour with their actual behaviour, they don't recognise their own rhetoric--reality gulf. Sometimes they point to declining work ethic as a reason for the inconsistent behaviour on their team or in their organisation.
But that is often a cop-out. The desire for doing meaningful work, being part of a winning team, and making a difference in our job has been on a steady increase throughout the Western world. If I feel that 'people don't want to work any more' I need to take a deep look in my management mirror. Maybe they just don't want to work with me.
In Do You Know If You Are Trusted, Michael Maccoby says:
Highly educated employees don't trust information unless they know its meaning for them. It is not enough to communicate the information with talks and memos . employees need to be able to question directives, and managers need to be open about their reasoning, why they made their decisions . Creating trust requires interactive communication, dialogue based on values of respect and continual learning. Employees also need to trust that management will not punish mistakes or criticism but will use them as basis for learning.
Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge devote an entire chapter entitled, 'Set the Example: Doing What You Say You Will Do', to the development of integrity (although they don't call it that). It's a powerful read. In their own research on leader credibility (a component of integrity), they asked: do you know if someone is credible; how can credibility be defined in behavioural terms; and how do you recognise credible leaders? Not surprisingly, the most frequent response was: 'They do what they say they will do'. People listen to the talk, watch the walk and then decide whether there is congruence. In setting an example there must be clarity around their values (the 'say') and then they must act on their beliefs (the 'do').
Kouzes and Postner also advise that these beliefs and values must be shared. What they mean by this is:
They discuss values in the following way:
Values help us to determine what to do and what not to do. They're the deep seated, pervasive standards that influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgements, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organisational goals. Values set the parameters for the hundreds of decisions we make every day. Options that run counter to our value systems are seldom acted upon; and if they are, it's done with a sense of compliance rather than commitment. Values contribute to our personal 'bottom line'. (Kouzes and Postner)
Sound familiar? Echoes of Braithwaite's development of conscience and the discretion--shame mechanisms, and Tomkins's scripts for the management of our affects/emotions.
A word of warning, though, about values. Various researchers have found that not everyone agrees about the meaning of a value. One researcher found 185 different behavioural expectations around the value of integrity alone! It is the process of dialogue about meaning that is important (number one in Tomkins's blueprint for an emotionally healthy climate); that is, open and honest talk about how we feel, our values, what has happened, what's working, what's not, actions aligning with the organisation's values and our own.
In it's Tools for Developing Successful Executives (360-degree feedback), the Centre for Creative Leadership lists a number of factors and attributes that can derail an executive's career. I'll include the full list here, but want you to note the references to the items that I think contribute to a lack of integrity (my emphasis added in italics):
Of course, not all developing leaders have black holes in all 14 areas. But it is interesting to see that the research does list those 'soft' skills related to emotional intelligence that seem to impact on integrity or the lack of it.
Lombado and Eichinger, in their book, What To Do Before It's Too Late, found that organisations often derail managers by giving little feedback about 'how you did it', concentrating rather on 'what you did'. Many managers got their first 'how you did it' feedback only after they were derailed.
We struggle to give feedback to those who lead and manage us, to our peers and to those we lead. This is very human, and very unfortunate. We know that the experience will be one of shame---for them and for us. Culturally, we are not good at it. It is rare to find it modelled effectively. Yet the failure of management to give employees honest feedback is one of the greatest shortcomings in the workplace. Managers especially avoid giving feedback that concerns matters that impact on relationships---usually people behaving inappropriately, being too slack, aggressive or abusive, or not taking responsibility. These managers have failed in their duty of care. And their managers have failed them for not demanding that they do this hard work. My experience is that, more often than not, performance management is done very poorly, and the cost in down time, low morale and poor productivity is massive.
With a restorative approach to problem solving (as opposed to a blaming approach)---with the emphasis on exploring the harm that has been done---management and employees alike are invited to tell their stories, take responsibility for their part in the doing of damage, and eventually cooperate to develop a way forward that involves repairing the harm and minimising the likelihood of it occurring in the future. This is integrity at work in a group setting, no less. But getting people used to the idea that it's alright to talk honestly in their daily transactions with each other is hard work. We are simply not used to it.
I don't wish to labour the point or state the obvious, but I think it's necessary to be very clear that integrity and positive relationships are closely linked. You simply cannot get the best from your employees or colleagues unless you are trusted; you walk your talk and are open and honest in your dealings with them. This means that one of your values must be 'relationships are important'; that is, the recognition that positive relationships lie at the heart of your organisation's success.
So, exercising integrity will make a difference to your relationships with others, job satisfaction, productivity and your organisation's bottom line. Your leadership behaviour must demonstrate this virtue in a genuine way. People pay attention to what you say and do.
And imagine what could be achieved if you actively and deliberately recruited leaders, managers and staff with integrity?
In naming those leaders in our professional or personal lives who have stood the integrity test, it is clear that it is a quality that, while respected, is rare. From a sociological and biological perspective, it seems that the getting of integrity is determined by the kinds of influences we have been exposed to over time. But I think it's also fair to say that each of us is a 'work in progress'. The shaping of a person's qualities and character is surely a lifetime job, rather than the result of some static genetic trait like blue eyes or height. Of course, there are those who claim 'well, that's just the way I am', implying that change is not possible. I believe this is a cop-out, and an excuse for not doing the hard work needed to do things differently.
So, for me, integrity is rather more of a journey than a destination. I don't think I'm there yet. I'm not old enough for a start. I'm still learning.
I didn't ask my focus group whether they thought I had integrity, because I didn't want to put them on the spot (and, perhaps, was not ready to hear their answers). I do know, however, that when I have worked for, and with, good people who are clear about their values and beliefs, will not deviate under pressure, cannot be corrupted, and examine their hearts and conscience for answers in difficult times, I have become a better person and, therefore, do better work.
Can we learn integrity from coursework? Unlikely. The Centre for Creative Leadership has conducted extensive research on learning, growth and development and how they impact on careers. They advise that 'other people' are the best source of learning for this virtue and this substantiates the sociological and biological theory mentioned earlier in this chapter. But there are some things we can do to make the journey easier. Here are some of my suggestions (and you will find a summary of these points at the end of the chapter).
So if integrity is so important, why isn't there more of it around?
I suspect that the 'me' generation has made a priority of self-interest. I think the pursuit of profit at all costs has seduced us away from our responsibilities to our relationships with others. We are on the move. The ease of mobility means our connections with others are weaker---and so, therefore, are our obligations. Families and communities have become disconnected. How many of us know our neighbours well? Or care about them? Career progress no longer means staying in the same company for a lifetime. Company loyalty is a short-term phenomenon. The loyalty and respect of workmates for us seems to matter less. I shudder to think of what effect all of this will have on our young people who are new to employment, and who look to us for guidance and example.
Integrity takes courage, but I don't need to remind you about what's at stake if we don't have a go at it.
Sometimes it's too hard. I can think of key moments in my own professional and personal life when I failed the test and damaged relationships that I valued at the time. To this day, I remain ashamed of those moments, but the shame serves to keep me straight for the next time around. The internal conflict is too uncomfortable for me to make those mistakes again.
This story is about John Goggin, a boss of mine from my time at Queensland Education.
John was a high school principal and then a senior public servant. He retired recently from the public service, but is busier than ever in his new life as a consultant. I worked with John during a time of massive restructuring that was confusing and hurtful for most involved.
John ran a tight ship in our district office. He was and is an incredibly hard worker. He demanded the highest standards of client service from us. He was honest and open in his dealings with us. He tuned us up when we needed it. He never kept us in the dark. He did what he said he would do. He was committed to our wellbeing. He stood up for our interests and for us. He encouraged our career development.
He was not always popular with his own line managers as he fought the good fight. He was probably too honest and had not mastered the art of ducking and weaving in a highly political climate in order to fulfil his own career aspirations. I know those career disappointments hurt him. But he would never sacrifice our interests for the sake of his own.
The man had integrity . we trusted him . and I would have walked over hot coals for him.
This definitive text on criminology distinguishes between shaming of the wrongdoer that is reintegrative and shaming that is stigmatising.
CCL is one of the leading trainers and research institutes for the development of leadership in executives and managers.
This is a very useful volume that contains extracts from Tomkins's work on Affect and Script Theory, his model of human behaviour and motivation, and how we make sense of the world. Please note, the works of Silvan S Tomkins are extremely complex and not for the faint hearted!
While this text is written primarily as a guide for the counselling of couples, its material contains important insights and advice about relationships in general that can be easily extrapolated into workplace relationships.
A brilliantly readable text that introduces Silvan Tomkins's work on Affect and Script Theory to a broader readership, and adds many ideas of his own developed from his professional life as a medical practitioner and psychiatrist.
This is a very helpful chapter on Affect Theory for those who are not prepared to go to the trouble of reading an entire textbook on the subject!