Live your principles at work instead of focusing on the end result. Your focus becomes the process of building integrity vs gaining power, prestige or position.
When I focus on behaving in a way that I respect, I have more control over the outcome – because it’s my own behavior that I am working to manage. When my goal is to live my values, I get many opportunities to practice. It’s difficult, and so worth it.
My experience is that when I have and live out my principles, I will experience great satisfaction and happiness. Often people are attracted to me because I have integrity – they can count on me being a certain way consistently. Consistency makes people feel safe.
Will I also reap work “rewards” or other results by developing integrity? My experience is yes, sometimes. Integrity is often mentioned as desirable in job postings. Many books by leaders talk about integrity as a critical factor in their success.
I found that I was a stronger leader, more comfortable with the power I did have, when I was true to my values. By doing what I believed was right, by taking a stand, by being firm even as others disagreed and tried to sway me, I gave people something to follow and rally around. They could count on me. Likewise, when I contradicted my stated values, people felt betrayed and then got tacit permission to betray me. In my February 3, 2009 post, I explain more about that.
I say “sometimes” you get rewarded because there are workplaces that do not value the same things you do. In those cases, when you live out your values, you will stick out like a sore thumb and life can become highly unpleasant. I had that experience, too.
After a life-changing experience, I realized that for me the most important thing at work was the quality of my relationships with other workers, not getting things done. The predominant culture was getting things done, no matter the cost to the human beings involved. As I focused on creating a small group culture of mutual respect and fun, certain people wanted to work in my group. That they happened to be top performers in other managers’ groups was a source of enormous anger from those managers toward me. While I was protecting my team from the dog-eat-dog culture, I was the target of political infighting and undermining. It was extremely painful.
Yet, I persevered because I had changed irrevocably. I could not abandon this one core value any more than I could cut out my heart. And eventually, I found a leadership position where I could create an entire culture based on respect, transparency and fun.
Most important, I take my values and self-respect with me wherever I go, no matter what I do for work. I can always count on myself, regardless of what happens around me.
For me, integrity is the essence of “personal branding” and the source of happiness at work. Try it!