Monday, February 16, 2015

Values Advice for New Employees: Integrity

Two weeks ago, I starting sharing the advice I gave to my association's newest employee, who had recently passed her three-month anniversary with our organization. The advice was focused specifically on our core values, and I offered it to her three-months in (rather than on her first day) on the presumption that it might have more meaning and impact for someone who had spent some real time in our organization.

I've already talked about our core values of Leadership and Enthusiasm. This week, let me share what I told this person, new both to our organization and to the world of associations, about Integrity--where each individual must act with honesty and professionalism in all their relationships.

One thing that many people new to the world of associations struggle with is the inherent ambiguity in our environment. Unlike some corporate cultures, there is often not one person clearly in charge of every decision or program. Board members, the staff executive, volunteers, program managers--they all exert some level of influence and leadership in our world. Indeed, this fact is one of the main reasons why Leadership is identified as one of the core values of our organization. In order to achieve our objectives, every member of the staff has to take responsibility for leading the organization forward. Taking the most positive of perspectives, this means every person in our value chain has a tremendous amount of authority and accountability for our success.

But that reality can sometimes create conflict and negativity. Even when people act with the best of intentions, ambiguity about whose job it is to do certain tasks, or about who is making decisions on how to move forward, or about who needs to be informed or consulted about certain courses of action, will often lead to uncertainty and disagreements.

When that occurs, keeping our value of Integrity--acting with honesty and professionalism--is critical.

Accept the inherent ambiguity in our environment. Don't ignore it, don't resist it, don't try to fix it. Simply accept the idea that things are uncertain, and that we must act with honesty and professionalism despite that uncertainty. When things get heated and tempers flare, be the person who keeps their cool and reminds everyone that acting with collective confidence and support is almost always more important than taking any specific action. In our complicated environment, where priorities often conflict with each other and where leadership is often diffused across the organization, remember that the only people who help us find the solutions we need are those who can honestly accept our limitations and build professional consensus around particular courses of action.

That might be difficult for a newcomer to understand, but it is absolutely essential to our success.

Stay tuned. Next week I'll share my advice for new employees to live our fourth core value--Teamwork.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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