Integrity is a characteristic essential for success. Some describe integrity as “the oil in an engine” making it “run smoothly” and without it “everything is in danger of a breakdown” (Anderson, n.d.). But what exactly is integrity, what are the benefits of it, and how can executive coaches inspire the growth of integrity in their clients?
“Integrity is like the oil in an engine. It makes the whole thing run smoothly. Without it, everything is in danger of a breakdown.” - Danny Anderson
What is integrity?
The heart of integrity can be found in its Latin derivative: integritas. Integritas means “whole or complete” and is related to other English words such as “integrate” (Taibbi, 2017). Individuals with integrity have integrated their values and morals into their whole being. Their “outer life”: what they do, who they associate with, and what they say, aligns with their “inner life”: what they believe, the values they ascribe to, and the morals they hold (Taibbi, 2013). They have a strong moral compass and have a “bold honesty about themselves” (Taibbi, 2017). Individuals with integrity are purely themselves no matter their audience.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” - Thomas Jefferson
Honesty and morality
Integrity is closely related to honesty, fairness, and steadfastness to a moral or ethical code. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and fair... firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Without integrity, an individual can manipulate their moral code to fit the environment that they are in or for temporary benefit. For example, an individual with integrity that values kindness, wouldn’t share embarrassing news about their friend behind their back. If they didn’t have integrity they could share the embarrassing news despite claiming that they value honesty. Those with integrity have a single identity and personality that is steadfast despite circumstance. Without integrity, individuals can have a tendency to be two-faced, changing their personality and values to match those around them regardless of their own moral beliefs.
Benefits of integrity
Integrity can greatly impact a business’s corporate culture and business leaders’ lives. When executive coaches encourage their clients to invest in their own integrity, they can expect to see the following results in their clients’ lives.
“The glue that holds all relationships together is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” - Brian Tracy
Better relationships with others
Research shows that individuals with integrity have better relationships with others and are generally “well-liked” (Dean, n.d.). This ultimately increases the positive benefits of having good relationships with others such as lower blood pressure, better immune system (decreased need to take sick days), less stress, increased motivation, increased confidence, and increased engagement (Angshuman, 2021; Northwestern Medicine, 2021; University of Utah, 2017). By having integrity, business leaders can create better relationships with others, which causes a cascading effect of positivity.
Less energy waste
Individuals that have integrity, waste less time and energy keeping up multiple appearances. Dishonest individuals without integrity can get caught in their own lies and it takes “mental effort to keep” their multiple lies straight (Kimmel, n.d.). Business leaders with integrity don’t have to waste time ensuring they say the right things at the right time. Instead, they have the same standards and moral code for all of their interactions. This frees their mental energy to focus on their goals and career.
Because individuals with integrity don’t waste energy organizing their lies, they have a greater focus on their current work and goals (IDS, 2019). This increased focus can improve the productivity and quality levels in an organization and for a business leader as well. By encouraging business leaders to invest in their integrity, executive coaches can further support the ROI that their clients receive.
“Integrity gives you real freedom because you have nothing to fear since you have nothing to hide.” - Zig Ziglar
More trust and less stress
Integrity is often associated with honesty. Those with integrity are more likely to be trustworthy because their morals and values are true to who they are and do not vary based on the potential reward for dishonest behavior. Integrity “fosters respect and trust” in the relationships that business leaders have with their employees (IDS, 2019). Employees know that they can trust business leaders with integrity. Because of this, it is less likely for there to be animosity between business leaders and their employees, ultimately reducing the overall stress in the workplace. Leaders with integrity can build trusting relationships with their employees, decreasing stress, increasing the overall peace, and supporting the wellbeing of the workplace.
Integrity is also closely associated with conscientiousness, a strong predictor of workplace success (OPM, n.d.). Business leaders with high levels of integrity and conscientiousness are more likely to be successful as they are more aware of their schedules, goals, and commitments than those without integrity or conscientiousness (Human Capital, 2017). By developing integrity, business leaders can achieve more of their workplace goals, increase their profit, and improve their leadership.
Executive coaches can use integrity assessments to assess their clients’ “tendency to be honest, trustworthy, and dependable”. These tests can also indicate how emotionally stable and agreeable their clients are as well (OPM, n.d.). The USA Office of Personnel Management supports the use of high-quality integrity assessments as they can add additional validity to other psychometric assessments and show little score differences between men and women on average.
Tips on using integrity tests
“It is essential to have good tools, but it is also essential that the tools should be used in the right way.” - Wallace D. Wattles
Although integrity assessments offer executive coaches additional insight to their clients’ character, there are concerns with the validity of assessments. If integrity tests include questions that are not directly related to leadership and a client’s career, clients may view the test as “unnecessarily invasive” and have strong negative reactions to being tested; ultimately affecting the validity of the test. These negative reactions are generally rare, but it is important for executive coaches to explain why the test is being administered and what it will be used for, potentially curbing some negative reactions (OPM, n.d.).
It is important to incorporate integrity assessments into your coaching toolkit. Integrity assessments are best used in conjunction with conversation, insight, other psychometric tests, and the remaining tools in your coaching toolkit. Reviewing assessment results and questions with clients can open the door to additional conversations about what integrity means to a client and potential mistakes or misunderstandings that could have altered the test’s validity (Bika, n.d.).
“When you are able to maintain your own highest standard of integrity… you are destined for greatness.” - Napoleon Hill
How to inspire integrity
Because of the immense benefits that integrity can give business leaders, executive coaches should consider ways they can inspire integrity in their clients. Doing so can increase their clients’ business success, improve their relationships with others, and help them achieve their goals with greater success.
Help clients clarify their identity
In order for a client to develop integrity, clients must first understand their own internal sense of self. Executive coaches can do this by asking powerful questions that inspire their clients to intentionally ponder their purpose and goals in life (Taibbi, 2017). One question asked in each episode of the Arete Coach podcast is “What is your why?” This question can be used to inspire clients to dream big, clarify their own identity, and intentionally seek to fulfill their self-identified purpose.
“Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values…” - Stephen Covey
Help clients identify their values
When business leaders have integrity, their internal values match their external behavior (Taibbi, 2013). Without an understanding of their internal values, it is impossible for a business leader to behave in ways that align with them. Because of this, executive coaches who wish to inspire integrity in their clients must help them identify their own values and morals. By asking questions about these morals and values, they can be identified and further refined down into “clear behavioral principles” (Taibbi, 2017). For example, if a business leader says they value family, executive coaches should discover what that means with their clients. Does it mean not working on the weekends or does it mean working extended hours for his/her family’s financial wellbeing? Questions like these are essential for identifying values and condensing them to specific behaviors and actions.
Identify behaviors that don’t match values
After clearly identifying a client’s identity, values, and the behaviors that support these values, executive coaches and their clients can begin examining behaviors that do not align with their previously stated values. This step is key to building integrity as it challenges the business leader to examine areas of their life and business lacking in integrity and intentionally work to build integrity. When these areas of value-behavior inconsistencies are found, executive coaches can then work with clients on establishing new goals that better suit their values and identity.
The main takeaway
Integrity is a characteristic ripe with positive outcomes that can be tested and inspired by skilled executive coaches. To have integrity means to live in a way that matches your claimed values and beliefs. When executive coaches inspire their clients towards integrity, they support their clients’ business relationships, focus, stress levels, and overall business success.
“Success without integrity is failure.” - Anonymous
Anderson, D. (n.d.). 4 Benefits of Integrity. Retrieved from http://www.dannyanderson.net/4-benefits-of-integrity/
Angshuman. (2021, May 18). 7 Benefits of Having Strong Employee Relations in your Organization. Retrieved from https://blog.vantagecircle.com/strong-employee-relations/
Bika Contributor, N. (2020, August 11). The problems with employee integrity tests. Retrieved from https://resources.workable.com/stories-and-insights/employee-integrity-tests
Cherry, K. (2020, July 02). Cognitive Dissonance and Ways to Resolve It. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-dissonance-2795012
Dean, B. (n.d.). Authentic Happiness. Retrieved from https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletters/authentichappinesscoaching/integrity
Human Capital. (2017, January 21). Conscientiousness: A Successful Leadership Trait. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@humancapitalmagazine10/conscientiousness-a-successful-leadership-trait-99f1f0238362
IDS. (2019, October 07). The Importance of Integrity in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://idscreate.com/2019/10/07/the-importance-of-integrity-in-the-workplace/
Kimmel. (n.d.). The Values of Honesty and Integrity! Retrieved from https://kimmelpsychology.com/values-honesty-integrity/
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Integrity. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity
Northwestern Medicine. (2021). 5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships
OPM. (n.d.). Policy, Data, Oversight Assessment & Selection. Retrieved from https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/other-assessment-methods/integrityhonesty-tests/
Taibbi, R. (2013). Creating Integrity: Having Your Life Fully Represent You. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201303/creating-integrity-having-your-life-fully-represent-you
Taibbi, R. (2017). 6 Steps to Leading a Life of Integrity. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201707/6-steps-leading-life-integrity
University of Utah. (2017, February 14). Seven Reasons Why Loving Relationships Are Good For You. Retrieved from https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2017/02/relationships.php
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