“Integrity: The conscious decision and discipline to own your values and principles and hold yourself accountable to them” – Road Signs and Blind Spots.
When a situation similar to the previously discussed Three-Card Monte game arises in a business transaction, it is not just a consequence of an overemphasis placed on profit and/or a consequence of a huge economy that is built on continual growth via free market concepts. Rather, excessive pursuit of these two goals (profit and growth) is just an outward expression on the business playing field of a broader internal issue that affects our behaviors in parenting, marriage, career, other relationships, and life in general. The consequences also get greatly magnified cross-culturally in a world that is increasingly globalized and far less focused on the root issue:
We profess our Integrity when we affirm our fundamental values and principles, implying that they will determine our behavior. But in fact we never probe these values and principles deeply enough to understand them fully, or fully embrace them or the consequences of following them.
We accept at face value our descriptions of our values and principles, as well as the descriptions others profess of their values and principles, and draw the conclusion that they are shared based on vague commonality.
Then we are dumbstruck when, based on these “shared values,” someone’s behavior doesn’t match what we expected nor does their behavior match what they said they would do (professed behavior).
The reason is probably not that their values and principles have changed or been abandoned or that they intentionally misled (although possible), but that in reality the values and principles exist first in a larger group that includes unrecognized or “sleeper” values, and second, they exist in a different priority order than was thought or assumed by both parties.
These “sleeper” values often surface when we are confronted with adversity, giving form and truth to the adage:
Adversity doesn’t develop character, it reveals it – Unknown (but smart) author
By how we react to it, adversity reveals not only the values we regard as truly important, but it also reveals their relative importance one to one another.
Have you ever been confronted with a situation where you knew “theoretically” what the right response was, but hesitated before responding differently? For a simple example, consider that we say we value honesty and not stealing, but in school how many of us would plagiarize someone else’s thoughts and then submit them as ours, and then if confronted deny that we’d done it. Or found something valuable in a parking lot and chose to simply keep it rather than make the effort to make it known (in shops, to the police, or by posted notices) that it had been found should the owner should return looking for it? Would your response be different if your children were with you rather than being alone?
Convenience, a “sleeper” value, often trumps honesty, a professed one.
And no doubt more examples could be found.
Whatever our professed values and principles, it seems world wide that the highest priority “sleeper” value is: No harm, no foul (from ice hockey), or more generally, No witness, no sin.
We certainly draw conclusions about other people’s “sleeper” values, their Say-Do-Are alignment, by watching their behavior, but somehow conclude our professed integrity is safe because they won’t see us.
Do you know, understand, and own all of your values and principles, “sleepers” included? Is your professed integrity on solid ground?