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The core requirement for a sustainable business environment is that in each moment, and each vision of a better future that each group of people or organisational entity is working with ‘integrity’. Integrity is often thought of as ‘a value’ or ‘a set of values’ which is true. Yet in the fullest view or richest experience of any situation we would hope that everything that is actually happening – is working from ‘integrity’ where nothing has been left out. Integrity in this sense is a real and not just a set of values or a concept. Directors and leaders need to find personal integrity before they can lead organisational integrity.
Integrity in a business context means that everything is present and everything needed is working. Integrity here also means that everything that needs to be included or involved has been engaged. Integrity means that the timing of the event is perfect in the context of where the business is and what its future aim is. Integrity means that honesty and openness exist. Integrity means that what is happening ‘is enough’ – in relationship to the needs and the best outcomes. This list is far from exhaustive and you may wish to make a list of your own about what integrity means in your business context.
Changing our mindsets
If we work with the idea that businesses can easily be sustainable beyond individual’s lifetimes but ask the question what stops a business from maintaining long-term sustainability? We see that a Japanese hotel has been working as a hotel since about 800 AD for 1200 years, or some of the early Christian monasteries were started in about the year 300 AD and are still working with the integrity of the original purpose. But Woolwoorths went out of business in the UK in 2009 after nearly two hundred years of trading. Why? Now we start to approach our businesses with a different mindset from the one that I was brought up with over the last 30 years in the UK.....that of making it to the end of the day or achieving year end budget which was set 18 months ago.
Now these more challenging aspects of integrity may not appear to be relevant or practical to a business, but the assertion here is that if you set a quest for integrity as the foundation stone and core of your business, then you are heading in the right way for your business to become sustainable. Integrity challenges you to leave nothing of importance out, even if you haven’t found what that is yet. Integrity compels us to keep asking the question. Integrity is real in the sense that it pertains to everything in the here and now and today. It also pertains to everything that is about the future. It leaves nothing out.
Starting to make it relevant
The challenge of integrity exists for all people and all levels of leadership. Integrity is universal. A junior management team can ask the question ‘What would be happening in our operational activities if we were working with integrity’ A Board of Directors can ask the question “What would be happening in all dimensions of the business if we (the board) were working with integrity”?
If a business asks the question from integrity within a context of wanting to become a long term sustainable business, then an even more powerful dialogue and set of ideas can come tumbling out. A good starting point for many businesses might be 'What would it be like if we all told the truth or felt we were able to tell the truth?'!
Moving into making it practical
As directors, integrity will lead us to ask things like “How can we deliver right first time 100% customer satisfaction?”. “How can we maintain 100% employee engagement and fulfilment at work?” “How can we maintain long term sustainable profit margin?” "What products are likely to have a product lifespan beyond the next ten years?"
If each leader and each person in a business were approaching their role from the level of question which asks what the specific 'situational integrity’ would contain, then we might start to live and work in businesses that work for all stakeholders to the best of what is available on planet earth.
In the context of managing ourselves, situational integrity, requires us to think about the old adage ‘doing the right thing, right’. Situational integrity is not just to be used in a review context when things haven’t worked and we are looking for reasons why not. Situational integrity should form us to be proactive in the quest for an environment where everyone is aiming for the very best that integrity can create for us.
The reality of integrity is a choice for businesses to pursue and learn to grow with. The benefits of integrity are the long term sustainability of people and organisations as is demonstrated by an early Japanese hotel and monasteries. Each business entity should be aiming to contribute for the greater good of all. Integrity leads the people to ask the question about what the very best of business life and personal life looks like and feels like. Within integrity, commercial sustainability is assumed as a consequence of approaching the present and future in such a way that profit is sufficient and consistently enough in the long term.
Please contact us for more information about our role formation programmes that will start in January 2014, after orientation sessions in November and December this year. Integrity is the hallmark of the character of Directors and Leaders formed on Enrichyou flagship programmes.
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