Monday, March 16, 2015

Values and Behaviors in Sixth Grade Language: Integrity

I'm continuing my series of posts where I start translating the observable behaviors associated with my organization's core values into simpler "sixth grade" language. Doing so will hopefully make them more memorable--for my team, yes, but more importantly for me, who has an obligation to reinforce their important role in our organization by calling out instances in which people are and are not acting in accordance with them.

I've already tackled Leadership and Enthusiasm. Next up is Integrity, which we define with the statement, "We act with honesty and professionalism in all our relationships." It has eight observable behaviors associated with it, and here is a chart where I'm attempting to show a before-and-after comparison after applying the "sixth-grade" test to each one.

We act with honesty and professionalism in all our relationships.

We have a calming influence in stressful situations.
We keep things calm.
We are tolerant and understanding of people’s differences.
We accept others for who they are.
We treat people with respect independent of their role or disagreement with us.
We respect others.
We listen to other perspectives, and focus on resolving rather than blaming.
We solve problems together.
We address conflicts openly and with tact, directly with the people concerned.
We seek to resolve conflict.

We speak with candor, saying what we think even if it is controversial.
We share what we think.

We concede when we don’t know something, are receptive to constructive criticism, admit our mistakes, and are the first to apologize.
We need others to help us improve.

We question actions that are inconsistent with our values.
We help others live up to our values.

Now, as I did with Leadership and Enthusiasm, I'm going to try and boil things down even more. Eight behaviors are going to be hard to remember and keep track of, no matter how simply they are described. As I look through the new list of Integrity behaviors for common themes, I can see the following actions that would be preferable in almost any situation we find ourselves in.

1. Actions that address rather than avoid conflict. When it comes to professionalism, this may be the granddaddy of all possible behaviors. Acknowledging that it is one of the most difficult things to do in any relationship--business or personal--it is still the undeniable hallmark of professionalism. When conflict is creating a barrier to progress or success, the person with integrity will calmly, tactfully, and respectfully address the actual issue with the people involved. And if those people have the same commitment to integrity, they will recognize what the instigator is doing and embrace a productive process of resolution.

2. Actions that humbly seek mutual growth. People with integrity know that they are not perfect. They also know that the people around them are not perfect, either. And they know that these imperfect people are functioning in an imperfect system. With all of these barriers and limitations, their response isn't selfish. It isn't focused on their own growth and rewards at the expense of others. Their response is fundamentally humble. They need to grow and so does everyone else around them. If there is a way for everyone to do that openly and together, then that is going to add the most value to themselves, their relationships, and the organization.

That's as far as I'm going this week, and I'm going to tackle the remaining value in a similar fashion before coming back to compare each value's short list of actions for even more consolidation.

Stay tuned.

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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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