I guess I am supposed to be discussing integrity. I say this because it has been highlighted for me twice in the past three days.
The first instance came in the form of a client who is looking at contracting a new commissioned sales person. The candidate has passed all the hiring criteria and looks like a perfect match. He is even working on a couple significant sales before being contracted. The complication came when the candidate informed my client that he was in the midst of a nasty divorce and asked if his commissions could be paid in his girlfriends name for a few months so they could be “sheltered” from the divorce. At first this may appear to be a fairly innocuous request. After all who cares who the checks are made out too…..right? Wrong!! At the end of the day this becomes a simple matter of integrity. Either you as a leader stay within the bounds of the law and treat everyone fairly or you don’t. If you are prepared to grey the lines in this instance how can your team trust that you will act appropriately in other situations? And don’t kid yourself; you can’t hide these kinds of decisions. Your people will know what your decisions are and will be considering whether or not your actions are consistent with what you profess to believe. With consideration there was only one answer to this request; It can’t be done!
The second issue of ethics arose when it appears that a group of partners I am involved with on a particular project my have chosen to over look the laws and bend some rules in a manner that could result in significant financial gain to them. It could be argued that at the end of the day there is little harm to the other partners and if no one knew about the situation it just wouldn’t matter. The problem is that if they are doing what appears to be the case their actions are unethical and show a complete lack of integrity. And if this is the case the issue becomes the same as the issue in the first example. If they can’t be trusted in this instance then what other of their actions lack integrity?
As a business person or for that matter as any person, about all we have is our integrity and as a wise old friend of mine would have said “it’s kind of like pregnancy; you either have it or you don’t”. Integrity can not be a sometimes thing.