Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)

Economic (81-100)

1-20 | 21-40 | 41-60 | 61-80 | 81-100 | 101-120 | 121-140 | 141-160
161-180 | 181-200 | 201-220 | 221-240 | 241-260 | 261-280 | 281-300
301-320 | 321-340 | 341-350 | 351-360 | 361-370

Question: (E-081)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 17, 2003

"Security's not something we can trifle with"

Dear Jim:

On Tuesday, December 9, I flew to Dallas from San Francisco, on United Airlines (Flight # 478) having been upgraded to the front of the plane. Flying along at 30,000 or so feet in the sky, I became anxious and alarmed to be watching first three and then as many as four fellow travelers collect in the area directly behind the cockpit door, waiting to use the restroom. After 9-11, it seemed to me that everyone was aware that having more than one person in that area was risky. Flight attendants and pilots requested, strongly, that one person approach the bathroom area at a time. When I confronted the flight attendant, he assured me that he was watching and he knew things were o.k. Another flight attendant assured me that this procedure was at the discretion of the head flight attendant.

How soon we forget. In a little over two years, are we returning to our casual ways, and on airlines, no less? What kind of integrity for travel safety is this? Is this an isolated incident or is this the new laidback practice by airlines and flight attendants? The terrible disasters associated with 9-11 - have we forgotten? What does this mean?

For those who have traveled recently, the security process, inside the airline terminals, is certainly cumbersome. Whether or not it is effective will be determined over the longer term. Beginning shortly after 9-11, it appeared that metal knives and sharp objects were banned anywhere around airports. Today, plastic knives are used in airport restaurants. Travelers are subject to many "checks" of their carry-on goods, including metal content in their shoes, belt-buckles, etc.

Painstaking and time-consuming as they might be, few grumbles are heard. Security and safety are the purpose of the processes. Maintaining the integrity of safety is crucial for regaining the trust and confidence of travelers.

However, when flying at hundreds of miles per hour toward one's destination, with only the flight crew to protect the traveler, it is even more important to know the policies, understand how they apply to each fellow traveler and then see the procedures consistently implemented. Incidents, such as the one you describe, must be reported to the airlines. Even if it is a one-time error in judgment, it is potentially dangerous to the travelers and to the reputation for safety and security.

Maintaining our vigilance is critical, not simply for the short term, but for the longer term as well. When airline organizations accept travel dollars, adding surcharges for security, it is not out of the question to expect them to care about security and safety, 100% of the time. When casual behavior replaces professionalism and competence, then lives could be endangered unnecessarily. Is our society being lulled into a false sense of security that could backfire? What did we learn from 9-11? Can we afford to be casual about important and consistent flying and safety practices? Naïve confidence that evolves into complacency can lead to disaster.

Might this incident be an important early warning that when things seem calm and settled our society could be even more vulnerable to another surprise terrorist attack? Outside of the United States, airline vigilance is alive and well. Traveling on some airlines is clearly an encounter with safety and security. Their rules are clear and passengers comply, no exceptions. Do we deserve any less in the United States?

What is today's traveler asking of the airlines? Perhaps little more than integrity in all aspects of their encounters with the providers of transportation, especially air travel:

  1. Courtesy and appreciation, along with competitive pricing
  2. Competency and professionalism between and among all participants in the delivery system:
    1. Travel companies, ticket suppliers and airline counter employees
    2. Curbside assistants and baggage handlers
    3. Security officers
    4. Flight attendants
    5. The flight team working in the cockpit
    6. Ground crews
    7. Food and drink suppliers
  3. Safety and security in all areas related to travel (clear and intelligent procedures, carried out consistently)

When these expectations are not met by the airlines on behalf of the flying public, then fear, uncertainty and doubt are likely to generate anxiety and loss of confidence - first in the airlines themselves, maybe even in transportation systems generally. When the integrity of safety and security are perceived as at risk and are not guaranteed consistently by each and every airline, nervous and insecure customers may become even more reluctant to fly. These frustrations and fears could fuel more governmental restrictions and rules. More costly demands might be placed upon the airlines, making a complicated system, already way too close to financial ruin, an even bigger potential financial burden for those who are currently feeling already heavily taxed for previous airline bailouts.

Integrity requires that airlines fulfill the promises of courtesy, competency and especially security.

Question: (E-082)

"Creating Workplace Integrity"

What is the responsibility of Management to create a workplace that fosters Integrity? And how do they do that?

Management must assume all of the responsibilities for creating the values and culture that become the foundations for the ways their people will tend to operate. Leadership by example is the key, whether at home or one's place of employment. Owners and leaders, as well as parents and public figures (whether elected or acknowledged as famous, well-known or simply of a celebrity status), know that what they do, how they behave, is a standard that will be recognized and emulated by those who look up to them.

Integrity in the workplace evolves from the basic rights and privileges leaders owe to those who assist them in the achievement of their goals and objectives. Integrity in the workplace is an obligation of management and ownership directly to those who contribute their time, energy and commitment to provide their knowledge, skills and abilities toward the accomplishment of a common cause. Management is accountable for this environment of integrity to each employee, whether the mission of their respective enterprise addresses the delivery of health care, food service, transportation, education, spiritual guidance, entertainment, government service, financial counsel, waste disposal, communications, food, clothing or shelter. Integrity is everyone's business and responsibility.

When selecting to do business with an organization, consider the quality of the integrity of their working environment. How well an organization stacks up against these eight attributes will clarify its level of commitment to sustaining integrity in the workplace. Any organization can build toward an environment of integrity by taking actions in these eight areas:

Build an Integrity-Centered Company

CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
Do the leaders of your organization exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did? Do leaders exhibit the right behavior?

HONESTY: truthful communication.
Do you have confidence that your leaders would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?

OPENNESS: operational transparency.
Is appropriate information about your organization readily available?

AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
Are you able to correct a customer problem? Do you have confidence that your actions will be supported?

PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
Does your organization pride itself on timely fulfillment of all commitments?

PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization.
When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform repeatedly, are they given due process and then, if necessary, replaced?

CHARITY: generous community stewardship.
Does your organization reach out to those in need?

GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.
Does your organization demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders?

When leaders behave along the lines outlined in the eight attributes listed above, they will have demonstrated that an environment of integrity exists in their organization. When they exhibit the disciplines necessary to "live integrity" then those who work with them and do business with them will know that their workplace will be healthy, supportive, constructive, purposeful and productive. Integrity is possible with personal commitment and the consistent repetition of appropriate behaviors. Integrity matters are best addressed by leadership examples.

Question: (E-083)

"An integrity measurement?"

Dear Jim:

After following your Integrity Matters column for the past year or so, it would seem that there should be a way to assess a company's integrity, or at least how the people in the organization practice it. It occurs to me that if a company were to score higher than its competitors, it might be a great advantage. Frankly, I am sick and tired of shrewd operators taking advantage of the public with dishonest practices.

Yes, because of concerned readers like you, we have created an objective process that can evaluate the integrity of an organization, utilizing a survey that quantifies performance and incorporates stakeholder input. In fact, the inspiration for this process came from one of the readers of the Integrity Matters column in January, 2003, and was addressed in the February 5, 2003 column. However, before addressing the process of measuring behaviors related to integrity, it might be prudent to respond to your comment about questionable practices of those who are taking advantage of the public.

As you may be aware, the FBI recently raided the offices of Financial Advisory Consultants, 22972 El Toro Road, El Toro, California, alleging that more than 1,800 clients were victims of a long-running confidence hustle, sometimes referred to as a "Ponzi scheme" where early investors are paid with money from later investors. According to the news story, James Lewis, aged 57, has been investing millions of dollars for clients and claiming extraordinary financial returns for 20 years, without being licensed or regulated, as required. At one point he told an investor that this growth fund had $62 million in assets. One of the clients who witnessed the FBI raid fears that he will lose his total investment of $350,000. Since July, 2003, Lewis has been delaying withdrawal requests with the excuse that millions of dollars in investments have been frozen by the Department of Homeland Security - a freeze the Associated Press reported does not exist.

Many of us know that "if it seems too good to be true, then chances are that it is - too good to be true." Get rich quick schemes are "schemes" and are unlikely to attract the most honorable of individuals. There is an expression that reminds us of the risks of uncontrolled greed: "You can't cheat an honest man or woman." The comment suggests that when two parties are each using the other, one or both are likely to get stung, taken to the cleaners, bilked, conned. Usually the more street-wise of the two will walk away with the money and/or the victory. The 1,800 individuals who may have suffered in the "Ponzi scheme" described above ought to have known better. Even if they got out of the deal with some profits, chances are that they led some of their own friends into a bad situation. So, who is to blame? If it seems too good to be true, then don't risk your own money or your own reputation by inviting your friends to risk their hard-earned dollars.

Regarding your comments about the need to assess organizational integrity, yes, the confidence of the American people in corporate leadership is low. The stain of scandal has undermined consumer trust and lowered stock prices. However, our own "Corporate Confidence Survey" has been designed that can benchmark an organization's behaviors. Objectively looking at integrity performance sets a company apart from its competition. Leveraging information from this survey can strengthen stakeholder trust, increase revenues profitably, and enhance stock value. Forthright communication that can be quantified by our "Corporate Confidence Survey," can rebuild trust with partners: Wall Street, Main Street, Customers, Employees, Suppliers and Communities.

As we know, Integrity is the keystone of leadership and measuring an organization's level of integrity is critical to effective leadership. Tracking and sustaining continuous improvement enhances productivity and increases profitability. Thoughtful, consumer-responsive and culturally-sensitive leaders are aware that they need know the effectiveness of their employees operating styles and the level of their organization's integrity, especially as it is perceived by each of their stakeholders.

RESULTS leaders expect to be included are the survey's ability to:

  • Quantify the level of integrity-centered behavior in an organization.
  • Deliver a representative, predictable and statistically-reliable sampling of stakeholder perception of how a client organization compares with its key competitors on our Eight Attributes of Integrity.
  • Benchmarks organizational behavior in relation to the Bracher Center's Eight Attributes of Integrity
  • Provides boards of directors and senior leaders with tools to document and monitor progress of their respective organizations over time
  • Enables leaders to:
    • Assess and mitigate problems;
    • Seize opportunities;
    • Set a strategic course.
  • Strengthens stakeholder trust with partners: Wall Street, 'Main Street', customers, employees, suppliers, and communities
  • Increases revenues profitably
  • Enhances stock value

What we know for sure is that "Integrity-centered leadership is the only reliable foundation for long-term success!" Integrity matters and it always will.

Question: (E-084)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 14, 2004

"Let both sides beware (Practice your professionalism)"

If a small business owner comes to find out that a (former, current, or potential) customer has a history of taking advantage of several local small business owners on a regular basis by dishonoring work contracts and failing to pay for services rendered, does that business owner have an ethical responsibility to alert other merchants who may be vulnerable? If so, how does the business owner do so in a professional, dignified, and ethical way that doesn't reflect poorly on him/her?

Here is the first question to ask: what is the right thing to do for all parties involved? Toughen up and accept that some customers and clients simply cannot be satisfied. Their negative energy drags down others, in all kinds of situations. Chances are that slow payers and complainers will be buddies with similarly-motivated gougers and cheats. Get rid of them. Understand their operating habits and avoid future associations with them. In contrast, good clients often attract other high-quality clients. These are the relationships to nurture and the customers to cultivate.

Integrity, dignity and graciousness (and the law) are sometimes able to discourage dishonest and hateful behaviors. Dishonest actions – whether from the customer or the supplier – create climates of mistrust and can slide into animosity that can be costly, in many ways. Hateful behaviors are corrosive and can lead to the destruction of relationships and sometimes even to litigation.

My immediate advice is to be prudent. In a phrase, "Do not get into a spraying contest with a skunk." There are unpleasant and unsavory characters who operate just enough within the law that they can inflict harm without risking any obvious damage to themselves. When these people develop a pattern of inappropriate behavior, thoughtful and responsible citizens know them for what they are. The sooner and the further you are able to distance yourself from them, the better.

Should you determine that scurrilous and slanderous language is being used by unhappy or dissatisfied customers about you and your work, consider protecting yourself with the advice and counsel of your attorney. A long time ago our society accepted a principle in commerce that the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying. The Latin phrase caveat emptor translates, "let the buyer beware". Given the situation you are describing, about a terrible customer, there may be a need for another protection. Perhaps we need a new phrase that suggests modern society ''let the seller beware". However, until a new law is passed, make sure you remain aware! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

In the meantime, practice your own profession with dignity and let the chips fall where they may. Monitor your own behavior. And when asked about you perceptions of such cruel people, consider the advice my father gave me a long time ago. "If you cannot say something good about someone, then say nothing." In the case of these naughty clients you describe, should anyone ask you about them, practice my father's wisdom with the introduction that you were once told that you shouldn't say anything if you had nothing good to say. Then tell the questioner that you have nothing at all to offer with reference to the person named. Thoughtful listeners will get the message. Further, you will seldom need to apologize for what you did not say.

Appropriate silence is golden as is your good reputation. Acknowledge the rights of others to say what they choose. Regulate your own behavior and enjoy the moments when you are able to rise above the pettiness and viciousness of those who attack you. In the long run, integrity pays great dividends by providing a foundation for strong relationships and creating a track record of honesty and graciousness. Remember: Integrity Matters.

Question: (E-085)

"It's the people first and foremost "

Newspapers tell us the economy is growing again, but with little in the way of job creation--a jobless recovery, per the pundits--do you have any comments as to how we should be dealing with this malaise?

Yes, I do. Before getting into the complete response to your concern, it is well to remember that job recovery almost always lags the actual beginning of an economic recovery. Prudent bosses wait until they are sure they need more help before they hire additional talent, preferring to rely on overtime and system improvements to carry the additional work load.

Now, let's move on to your specific concerns. We have been bombarded by bad news, concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, disturbed by threats of terrorism and flight cancellations, confounded by an economy that has lingered in this slowdown. Many honest folks communicate disappointment and even anger about some elected officials who have postured and dwelled on personalities rather than step up to the hard questions of job and productivity transfers overseas, excessive deficits, ethical misbehavior and the need for increased levels of accountability. Our people are our nation's workforce - whether unemployed, underemployed or struggling with boardroom issues related to the implementation of accountability standards reflected in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 0f 2002. And when our nation's employees are upset, so is business. And, why not?

Part of the issue is the nature of what is reported as news. The gradual unfolding of positive change too often escapes attention because it is assumed or unspectacular. Perhaps we Americans are too sensational, believing that anything less than the extreme is unworthy of media attention, the public's agenda, or the government's concern. Unless the item is the recent devastating earthquake in Iran, the most serious snowstorm/avalanche of the century, the death of a large group of soldiers in Baghdad, the biggest financial disaster, the most massive suicide bombing, or the longest-winning streak in sporting history – our media tends to yawn and ignore the item. If readers aren't interested, then the news staff won't publish or broadcast it.

Listen daily to the "free-market heartbeat" of some of America's most dynamic, growth-oriented businesses. This is what is being communicated, namely, that leaders need to focus on the integrity of their behavior and grow the competence of their people. This investment in people ensures a better, more productive nation tomorrow: one that is more trustworthy both at home and abroad. There is no cure-all, but business leaders say that our eight integrity-centered attributes for building productivity are working: character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness.

If you are in a leadership position, clear the decks for economic growth, now. The recovery is breaking through, and new jobs will come, likely requiring skill performance enhancements. Use this time to stop and reflect on what was good and could be good again. If your business remains slow, view it as an opportunity to re-evaluate your operational approaches with stakeholders--employees, customers and suppliers. Are you organized in the best way to serve them well? Conduct an audit of your culture and survey the effectiveness of your leaders. Do you and your leaders do what they say they are going to do and tell the truth about what they have done? The results will allow you and your organization, large or small, when the economy rebounds, to increase effectiveness by learning ways to accommodate and complement diverse styles. Pay attention to opportunities for self-regulation, both within your organization and within your industry. Remember, unless free markets regulate themselves, governments will!

Resolve to communicate better with your co-workers—and, if in management, with your employees. Start holding more regular meetings. Find out what is on your stakeholders' minds. You can't reduce the uncertainty, but you can reduce the tension. Place greater emphasis on an optimistic future. Devise and implement new people strategies that will improve understanding and interaction among diverse team members. Employees who have been laid off are already among the ranks of the unemployed; the people you need to worry about are the employees who remain but are growing more anxious. Move now to reassure them and help improve production. Is there anything wrong when levels of anxiety plummet and productivity soars? No.

Resolve to communicate better with your customers. Reach out. Encourage your employees to reach out, too. Take the time to renew common bonds with the customers and clients who have made your business an economic reality. Such opportunities take many forms: professional organizations, service groups, sporting events, a follow-up letter or simply a telephone call. Make that extra effort to keep the channels of communication open by returning all phone calls sooner rather than later. Rely on personal contact, instead of voicemail, faxes and email. Talk with your customers directly, even if it is only to commiserate with them: "I'm all right. How are you doing in these challenging times?" Acknowledge openly that now may not be the best time to travel and that travel savings realized because of today's difficulties could evolve into permanent cost-saving measures. The threat of terrorism can be as debilitating as terrorism's actual attacks. For those in business who must fly, anxiety levels can be high. Acknowledge those concerns. The internet does have an added benefit: it enables us to communicate more frequently, crisply and concisely.

Seek "balance." In general, everyone is more productive and creative when caught doing things right; while we all want and need to know what is going wrong, we also benefit from reports about what is going well. Rumors and bad news feed on themselves, and darken the attitudes of your employees and co-workers if allowed to go unchecked. Do your part to offset the overload of the ever-present bombardment of bad news.

Unemployment and underemployment breed frustration, and frustration is an obstacle to progress. We can teach a person a new way over the wall, new skills or a way that may entail finding an "Invisible" door rather than embarking on a conventional climb. Smart leaders know the whereabouts of such doors, and "people enhancement" is one of them. If we respect individuals and help them grow with openness, honesty and graciousness, and by embracing the integrity-centered way, then we can revitalize business and society. Integrity Matters!

Question: (E-086)

"Jeff Garcia and suspicion of drunken driving"

Dear Jim:

Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers, Jeff Garcia, was arrested in downtown San Jose on January 22, 2004, while driving with nearly three times over the legal alcohol limit. What is a 33-year old superstar thinking? The reports state that he spent the night in jail and was released on $2500 bail. If convicted, Garcia could face anywhere from 48 hours to six months in jail and fines up to $1500.

Why are these young, wealthy superstars behaving like this? Why don't they think about the responsibilities to be role models for young and adoring fans? Don't they owe mature behavior given their notoriety?

Yes, public figures (such as a talented and successful athlete, Jeff Garcia) owe their fans a great deal. It should be a part of an unwritten contract between those who achieve positions of high visibility and their fans that they will conduct themselves appropriately so as to avoid bringing embarrassment and shame on those who reward them with fame and financial freedom. Specifically addressing this "celebrity" integrity issue in our soon-to-be published book, Integrity Matters, available in bookstores May 3, 2004, we offer the following: "Integrity-centered leadership . . . to be exhibited by celebrities and public figures...on behalf of their fans...requires that they model admirable behaviors, including appreciation, humility and self-discipline." (p. 2)

Jeff Garcia's decision to drink and drive was wrong. It was immature. It was irresponsible. It was not appropriate for him to appear "drunk" and risk lives of those riding with him in his automobile. It was thoughtless of him to place the lives of innocent by-standers at risk of being injured or killed by his impaired driving skills should his vehicle have veered into out of control.

Jeff is 33. He is young. He made a poor decision. However, he can learn from this experience. His professional career indicates that he can learn from his mistakes. He will likely behave differently in the future. At least, those who appreciate his skills and success would hope that would be the case.

In describing Integrity-Centered Leadership, the first of Bracher Center's eight attributes is Character: consistency between word and deed. This attribute asks two questions: Do the leaders of an organization (including Jeff Garcia of the 49ers) exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did? Do leaders (in this case, Jeff Garcia) exhibit the right behavior?
Celebrity athlete, Jeff Garcia, has an opportunity, even a responsibility, to live up to the high-integrity image he has exhibited. There can be little doubt that he is aware that his behavior was inappropriate. When he acknowledges his mistaken actions, apologizes to his fan base and the communities that admire him, he will have answered the integrity questions, with honesty and forthrightness. In Jeff Garcia's life, this disappointing circumstance can become a watershed event: as he learns for himself and communicates to his fans – others will learn (we hope) how to handle the responsibilities of being role models. The proper integrity-centered response applies to:

  1. Parents and families for the next generation, to provide unconditional love and acceptance, while nurturing socially responsive values;
  2. Educators for students, to enable learning for all who seek to grow their minds;
  3. Spiritual counselors for believers, to exhibit and live their messages;
  4. Elected and appointed employees of the government for their constituents, to transcend self-serving goals and truly serve all of the people;
  5. Celebrities and public figures for their fans, to model admirable behaviors, including appreciation, humility and self-discipline
  6. Bosses for their teams, to build a healthy environment for productivity. (from Integrity Matters, pp. 1-2)

To make a mistake is human. To forgive is divine. Leaders who acknowledge obligations and seek the compassion of their support base, even when they have made errors, can become even more powerful role models. Jeff Garcia's public error is a reminder for us all. How he deals with it (how each of us deals with our mistakes) is the true test of character. Integrity Matters – for everyone.

Question: (E-087)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 28, 2004

"Integrity has been shown by the police
Paying money back shows character "

A big headline on the front page of Tuesday's The Salinas Californian read "City Overpays Its Cops by $327,000" with a subtitle mentioning that a payroll error three year ago means officers will see checks decrease. The police officers did not make the accounting error that caused them to be paid slightly more than was budgeted. A $25 overpayment could go unnoticed.

Someone in the payroll office made a mistake, a 1.5 percent addition to the Salinas Police Officers Association's base salary scale, in January, 2001. There is not even a hint of inappropriate intention or behavior. Asking for those still on the force to pay the dollars back could appear as a pay cut. Since some officers have retired or left the department, making overpayments collections from them difficult or impossible. This seems unfair.

These officers risk their lives for us all the time. With current concerns about violent crime and safety in our neighborhoods, is there anything that can be done to avoid placing an economic hardship on our police force and not violate the integrity of those in authority? What is the right thing to do? We certainly cannot afford to demoralize our police officers?

Integrity on this economic issue seems clear. The officers and their association have agreed to repay the money. They have demonstrated character showing consistency between word and deed. They have gone public with their willingness to correct a mistake. According to the article about the overpayment, the average amount was $2,400 over 36 months. Three years, 36 months of four weeks each and five days of work. The error is about $3 per day. Taken to this simplified level of the costs and losses, we are not talking about major economic sacrifices. Yet, averages are not where people live.

Some officers may face painful cutbacks that affect family. No one who appreciates the services of the police force wants these officers and their loved ones to suffer.

Salinas is facing an interesting dilemma.

The police officers association has offered to pay. An error was made. Integrity has been shown.

As one looks at some alternatives that would demonstrate integrity by those who made the error in calculation, perhaps the old-fashioned word graciousness should be applied.

Our research at the Bracher Center identifies eight attributes that are manifest by integrity-centered organizations. In addition to character, there are honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness.

Graciousness means respect and discipline and asks this question: Does your organization demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders? Might it be appropriate for those who manage the budgets to take a long and hard look at the probable and positive impact on those who take an oath to protect others, sometimes risking and losing their lives to make our lives safer? Despite the harsh economic times in which cities, like Salinas and others throughout the United States, are living through – is this a time to reach out and celebrate the heroes among us and not ask them to pay for the error of others?

Would there be a way for our generous community to "give" again, as it has done in so many areas, to address this shortfall? Would a community fund-raiser for the police force be a stand- up way for Salinas's leadership (government, business and community-at-large) to be gracious and demonstrate integrity through respect?

Contact us and offer your suggestions. We will forward what you say to those in authority. Encouraging our police force is an integrity matter.

Question: (E-088)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 4, 2004

"Officers continue to show integrity
Police officers wish to restore the funds"

Dear Readers:

Last week, in this Integrity Matters column, we asked you to offer suggestions on ways to approach the $327,000 error in payment for the Salinas Police. The clerical mistake of one and one-half percent increase in police salaries had gone unnoticed from January 1, 2001 until late last year. When the mistake was addressed, the Salinas Police force demonstrated integrity with their commitment to pay back what was owed. My column last week asked if there were gracious (and legal) alternatives for the community to consider to ease any immediate financial sacrifices that might have to be made by the affected officers. Those who enforce the law (our police force) communicated that they were and are completely committed to following the law, and would be paying back the overpayments, but did appreciate the outpouring of concern.

On behalf of the officers many of you have contacted, "thank you" for your calls, emails and interest. Two leaders from the Police Officers Association have communicated to me about the positive impact on morale generated by your personal contacts and words of appreciation, often directly to members of the police force. Community support has been constructive and positive. Thank you for responding and for caring. Encouraging those who provide security to our community is wise.

Law enforcement is the bedrock upon which to build and maintain a safe and healthy environment. The more confident citizens are in the safety of their community, the better will be the quality of life. In addition, neighborhoods are secure, the more likely it is that property values will rise along the way. Also, when communities support their public servants with fair salaries and actions that demonstrate respect, turnover in the department is likely to remain low. Everyone understands that turnover is expensive. Replacing well-trained officers is costly because it requires hiring, training and launching a new person into the "business of law enforcement." It simply makes sense, where possible, to retain those who already know and understand the local community and its citizens. It is important to keep those officers who have been, and are, doing a good job.

Yes, the feedback from last week’s Integrity Matters column was encouraging. Individuals responded positively, making suggestions regarding ways to help the officers avoid the need to return the overpayment. For a variety of reasons, creating a fund to direct dollars directly to the officers was determined not to be legal, and therefore it is not appropriate to move along this pathway. Once this was explained by those in authority, it seemed prudent to look elsewhere for ways to be of support. The police officers have already committed to the proper restoring of funds and the Police Officers Association supports the decision, as has been reported by this newspaper.

So, what else might be done to sustain and even enhance the levels of effectiveness of the Salinas Police?

  1. Thank members of the police force, in writing, emails, face-to-face, for doing their jobs even on those infrequent occasions when they might need to "regulate your actions" ( when you might have forgotten to stop at a sign or when you might have been driving above posted speed limits).
  2. Offer assistance to those officers who donate their own time, weekly, to work with youth in sports and physical fitness programs – strengthening the confidence of young people while attempting to prevent negative stereotype images about law enforcement from continuing with younger people
  3. Share positive stories about the "above and beyond the call of duty" efforts of officers and help blunt the cynicism of those who might have had a negative experience
  4. Contact the Police Officers Association directly through Officer Steve Long, President, 758-7131. In addition to saying "thank you," consider offering a tax-deductible contribution and ask if you might earmark your dollars for one of the many special needs that might assist those on the police force.
  5. Invite members of the police force, through the Police Officers Association, to attend and even speak at your community and service organization meetings, providing them with opportunities to identify concerns and issues that they see in and around the community and offer a forum for give and take that enables communication to strengthen the overall quality for all stakeholders

Integrity throughout the community can be strengthened with and through those who are stewards of safety, security and peace; namely, our police force. When a community combines Character with Graciousness (two of the Eight Attributes of an Integrity Centered Organization) it is obvious that Integrity Matters - and perhaps that is the way that Salinas remains on the pathway as a City of Champions.

Question: (E-089)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 11, 2004

"Super show wasn't super"

I was more than just disappointed in the Super Bowl half time show last weekend, I was repulsed. More than just the Janet Jackson “accident” but the entire show was a crude display of classless and badly misdirected talent. Do you have any idea why CBS would give such a display even a second thought?

The half-time show during the recent football championship game, played on Sunday, February 1, 2004, received mixed reviews. Some folks like certain types of talent and others do not. The Janet Jackson decision to cross lines of propriety speaks volumes about integrity, or the lack of it. Certainly, poor judgment was evident, in lots of circles related to the airing of an “event” that has been bankrolled by advertising directed to the mass markets for all age groups. According to several reports, CBS denied that its executives in charge knew anything about what was to happen during the “crude display” that you referenced in your question. However, according to the news reports, CBS will, at the upcoming Grammy Awards show, broadcast the event on a delay, in order to be in position to monitor words and actions and censor what they determine to be inappropriate. What makes this so interesting is that we know that when institutions and individuals do not regulate themselves, governments and other agencies and powers can and will.

The lack of respect shown by Ms. Jackson along with those who may have assisted her with this escapade may create a “trust question” for those impacted by what was broadcast around the world and into people’s homes. Was this a one-time event or does it signal an erosion of what is acceptable in prime time? Did those in positions of standards and control slip up or were they hood-winked? Did Ms. Jackson make a mistake or was it a malicious flaunting of freedom of expression, regardless of who might be hurt or embarrassed? Or, was it simply about the money that can be leveraged by those who have mastered the use and abuse of the media?

Ms. Jackson has said, since the February 1, 2004, half-time extravaganza, that these changes in her act were her responsibility. She has stepped forward to assume accountability. Was this changing of routines after final rehearsal really about the potential for increased dollars that might be made as a result of this behavior? Was it pre-meditated? Is the entire “hullabaloo” really related to the sensationalism and the press coverage? Was this a vile attempt by what some fans might describe as a certain falling star and her attempt to hijack the world’s largest “mass media moment” to gain attention (positive or negative) that might spark a comeback and attract larger and new audiences? Was this a cruel “trick” played on those in positions of power in the mainstream media as well as upon innocent younger children?

If and when the dust settles around Ms. Jackson’s behavior, one fact will become clear: irresponsible actions by a small group, even an individual or a small team, can make things tough on the overwhelming majority of folks who say what they are going to do and then go ahead and do what they promised.

Here is what can be said related to what was seen on national and international television during the half-time show that involved Ms. Jackson:

1. For her personal satisfaction and gratification, at least so it appears, from her own words, she violated her promises to behave and entertain a world audience in a certain way;
2. She did not exhibit Integrity-Centered Behavior with reference to her own Character, Honesty, Openness, Partnership, Performance or Graciousness.
3. Her irresponsible actions will likely cause financial pain for others (entertainers, agents, television organizations, etc.) when they are required to construct even more stringent contractual relationships with one another, to prevent future “shocks and embarrassments” for sponsors, venue owners, program directors and collaborators
4. Her carelessness, as it creates more work for attorneys and managers, and increases the costs of doing business – will then be passed along to the fans, to those who purchase the tickets and pay for the advertising. Janet JACKSON, SURELY you know better. Shame on you.
5. Breaking the rules and behaving irresponsibly will encourage some powerful elements of society to re-instate certain rigid constraints that may inhibit legitimate creativity. Janet Jackson, you have brought about embarrassment to your profession.
6. However, and this might be the silver lining in this entertainment and media mess. Maybe your inappropriate actions will cause many to think more constructively about what is proper for public figures and celebrities to conduct themselves.

Sadly, Janet Jackson and those like her who violate socially-acceptable styles of behavior and flaunt their freedom ARE allowed to tear at the “fabric” that guarantees rights and privileges for everyone. Her actions ignore the importance of mutual respect which is a foundation principle of any healthy society. Celebrities and public figures are supposed to model admirable behaviors, including appreciation, humility and self-discipline. When celebrities ignore their moral contract with their fans, they have lost sight of the real truth, namely, that Integrity Matters.

Question: (E-090)

"Superbowl Halftime Show Feedback to Integrity Matters"

Last week’s column, regarding the Superbowl’s “crass” half-time show generated energetic responses, from across the country and around the world. Some local residents contacted us to offer praise and appreciation for the Integrity Matters column addressing the half-time antics on CBS. Others felt differently. Here is a sampling of a few dramatic comments:

1. “Where do you get this drivel? Do you make it up yourself or do you have a team of monkeys chained to word processors to assist you?” (My answer is that this really is what I think and what I hope will become a standard for future generations. Though we may disagree, isn’t it great that we can converse openly and without rancor?”)

2. “I think that in your zeal for a good one-liner to promote your Integrity Matters column, you waste a lot of ink going over this same moralistic routine.” (My answer is that restraint is important, and will remain a valuable message, regardless of the protests.)

3. “Janet Jackson was not alone in her tasteless stunt. Justin Timberlake deserved mention for his new low as well.” (My response: true enough. We do not know all of the names of those who were and are responsible for the Superbowl half-time carnival, but we do know who was willing to go along, to get along and capitalize upon the marketing opportunity.)

4. “I appreciate your thoughtful comments on this matter.” (Thank you.)

5. “Even the Grammy’s wasn’t very good. Middle America must have thought it looked like a freak show. CBS also chose to run what I thought were inappropriate PG-13 commercials (about R-rated movies) when they could have attempted to make the show family friendly.“ (There is an off-on button on televisions.)

6. Though I am not familiar with you, or your world view I argue that the morals and ideals of the American golden age are quite done with, and not because of the media but rather because of the throngs of willing and valueless fans ready to absorb and embrace this revolution of the Shock era. Don't blame Janet or CBS for this social shock incident but rather look to the millions of screaming fans, or to the sensationalist journalism that makes incidents like this seem so important. (My response is that we are not yet a fully evolved society and we are going through some incredible social stresses and we will be better because of them and why? Because we know that integrity matters.)

Question: (E-091)

"CHARITY: generous community stewardship -- ATTRIBUTE # 7"

You listed Charity as one of the Eight Attributes to building an Integrity-Centered Company. Did you mean as in to volunteer time and money to local charities? If either of these is lacking, how do you think it affects the company?

CHARITY means giving generously where and how one is able. When organizations or individuals choose to live and work, in a community, and where they are able to prosper (by whatever measuring stick they use) – then they have a moral responsibility to give back. Some well-respected business leaders believe that public corporations ought not to give money away because the dollars donated rightfully belong to the investors and should be “earmarked” for charity only by the rightful owners of those profits.

In contrast, there are other wise and successful leaders who approach the situation with the opposite perspective. They believe that we are all partners in the communities in which we live and ought to take ownership of problems and challenges facing others less fortunate and contribute from pre-tax dollars, just like any individual might.

Regardless of how you justify, explain and demonstrate the importance of “generous community stewardship” – be very wary of an organization or an individual that ignores or abandons those less fortunate, either organizationally or individually. Folks who lack compassion and empathy will not be prone to listening. Since listening is the key to success, this critical flaw in behavior will likely lead to lower productivity and reduced profits – and that does not sound like a good place to invest hard work in hopes of a secure, positive and purposeful future – for you. So, in answer to your question, does such short-sightedness affect a company or an organization: YES!

CHARITY is not defined exclusively by donated dollars to worthy causes, even though cash helps a great deal. CHARITY also includes individual and organizational efforts that involve investments of time, energy and concern (including supportive listening and simple prayer). When seeking to join a firm or an individual (whether for a career or as a partner, maybe even including marriage) consider these six questions before making a final decision:

1. Is the mission of the enterprise worthy of my time and energy?
2. Is the organization going someplace I want to go?
3. Do those already involved in the enterprise seem to be people I want to be around?
4. Do the leaders talk about and treat those less fortunate in ways I would?
5. Does the leadership, by its own example, encourage employee participation in community service?
6. Can I trust that this individual or organization would reach out to me, should I ever have a need, when the observable behavior says that this is not the way people in need are currently treated?

If you have more than one NO answer to the six questions above, then make every effort to look elsewhere or be prepared to face some difficult times, organizationally and personally. CHARITY is essential for an integrity-centered relationship, (business or personal), because INTEGRITY MATTERS.

Question: (E-092)

"Reputation and Relationship"

Why should we trust you (or any provider of services) to do the things you claim you can do for our company? How can we be sure of what we are getting?

Customers and clients make decisions to purchase and hire, for many reasons. However, two reasons are almost always present, and of that we can be certain. Reputation and relationship are key factors for significant decisions. Sometimes customers are aware of these two powerful influences and at other times decision-making may happen so spontaneously that the process itself may seem to evaporate, seemingly happening outside of any conscious effort on the part of the decision maker. Before important purchases are made, the buyer will often analyze both the reputation and relationship that he or she has with products or services. Consistency and predictability represent a certain level of integrity.

A hamburger purchase, when an individual is hungry, can be pretty important. So, the choice between the 99-cent drive-through brand and the fancy $9.00 variety may still involve the same two questions: what is the quality and consistency between what I want and expect measured against my budget, time-allocation and taste-buds needs, right now? Once the individual is clear about answers to the above, the problem for the provider is to live up to the expectations of the customer/client. When the provider builds a reputation, over time, of consistency and predictability – then the customer/client has confidence that he or she will receive that for which they are paying. This is integrity.

Same story applies to teachers, consultants, airline pilots, physicians and baby-sitters. Track record and references – personal or third-party testimonials – determine reputation. Consistency over time is another form of integrity.

The second question may also be addressed at a similar speed. Relationship is an emotional connection that relies upon reputation, but is not dependent upon it. For example: family ties and childhood friendships can go a long way in cementing trust and confidence. Many long-term friends choose to do business one with the other. Do they know going into the transaction that they might be giving up something in order to sustain the relationship (like price or quality or variety) – probably so, however, the service and follow-up more than make up for the shortfall on the front end. Even so, many business deals can still “go south” among the closest of relationships – family, cultural, religious, ethnic, etc. – when the quality, the quantify and follow-through do not match the commitment that was “assumed” from the depth of the connectedness of the parties involved.

The old line that “You get what you pay for” may not always be true, but when combined with reputation and relationship – the odds go up in the buyer’s favor. Combining these two elements increases the likelihood that Integrity Matters to all parties and thereby emphasizes that what you are sold is what you will receive. Reputation and relationship, combined, build upon quality and integrity.

Question: (E-093)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 18, 2004

"Mickey Mouse battles Comcast - Could deal hurt the reputation of Walt Disney?"

What happens to the integrity of the Mickey Mouse brand if Disney Corporation sells to Comcast? I have grown up believing in the quality and the integrity of the Disney promise: child-friendly and family-centered entertainment. What might be at risk to the Disney image with Comcast’s likely unrelenting drive for immediate profits if it succeeds in closing the deal?

Regarding your questions – we cannot know for certain what will happen to the integrity of the Mickey Mouse brand – down the road – no matter who owns it. As far as the Comcast’s impact on the Disney image – that too will depend upon the leadership of Comcast, the demands of their investors and the buying habits of those who choose Disney products and services.

However, Integrity appears to be at the very heart of Comcast’s battle for control of the Disney organization. An African proverb states: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” In this instance, with Comcast and Disney as the heavyweights doing battle, the world of high finance, brinksmanship and sophisticated bargaining may be more the issue than protecting the innocence of Mickey Mouse and the long history of making PG movies and instructive videos – safe for viewing by any member of the family. This battle may be more about shaping media influence than caring for the needs of future generations of young people who may have never fallen in love with a Mouseketeer or sobbed when Old Yeller was hurt.

Posturing by these power-brokers is certainly a part of this “dance” that has captured the attention of the viewing public. Depending upon who “blinks” first, stock prices can determine how a controlling bid can become a minority position. Depending upon which stock given investors own, they might more easily be influenced on which side they back with reference to what is the right thing to do regarding the Disney “deal.” Comcast is bidding for one of the entertainment industry’s top names, whose assets include not only Mickey Mouse and Disneyland; but also the ABC network, ESPN and classic films such as “The Lion King” – and if Comcast is successful, it will be able to leverage Disney’s wealth of history, materials and intellectual property to build digital entertainment and video-on-demand systems.

For those who have visited Disneyland parks and enjoyed the family-oriented nature of the brand, it is not surprising, at least for those on the outside, who do not assess the raw economics of the situation, that Disney’s board of directors “unanimously” rejected Comcast’s $48 billion, all stock offer. Not surprising because the brand of Disney seems warm and personal. Comcast’s image, so far, appears built upon hardware, technology and financial transactions.

Just as we can learn from the African proverb, the destruction of the grass is certain when elephants do battle, and the situation is similar to the suffering of values that is likely for the next generation when “corporate titans” decide to enter into a zero-sum game of control, without having provided the intellectual framework (including high-quality materials) to sustain the reputation that was originated by Walt Disney and those who were loyal to his priorities and values. The issue on the table in this financial transaction centers around Character (consistency between word, deed and brand) and Honesty (truthful communication between and among the stakeholders who will be impacted by this change of ownership). Integrity in this situation also involves Partnership (the honoring of obligations, including the timely fulfillment of all commitments, especially those whose lives are being and will be shaped by the content that the new institution will provide).

Even with any flaws in Disney’s leadership (past and present), the question remains: is this offer by Comcast about the dollars or about the risk of violating the cultural integrity of our society?

Question: (E-094)

"Cultural Integrity"

When looking for a job with a company/firm, what are key aspects one should look for to make sure that they're going to be working for a company/firm that contains cultural integrity and is an integrity-centered company/firm?

In your question, you ask about the key aspects. We describe certain behaviors that confirm the health and strength of an organization. We refer to these ways of behaving as Eight Attributes. The single most important factor, in observing how an organization operates, is congruence. It is seen in the character of those who lead an organization or institution and the match between word and deed will tell you what you need to know.

INTEGRITY starts with senior leadership. The boss sets the tone. If he or she exhibits the agreed-upon cultural values of an organization, then one can assume a greater likelihood that others will model similar behaviors. When the boss exhibits congruence between what is said and what is done, as well as what is said about what was done, the character exists.

Wise leaders understand that every behavior admired and tolerated, and demonstrated, by them is observed, recorded, remembered and repeated – rightly or wrongly. For example, when everyone is supposed to park away from the entrance to the office building, in order to provide convenient spaces for customers, suppliers and visitors, and then the “big shot” ignores the rule by settling into a prime spot, close to the door, one is already aware of the true values of the company’s leadership.

There are economic risks, often very counter-productive financial consequences, for hypocrisy. After observing the behavior of the boss, in ignoring the rules, what would discourage employees in such an environment from “bending a few rules of their own” when the mood hits or the opportunity arises? Steal a few pencils, take home some food, forget to reimburse the company for gasoline, used for personal reasons that had been purchased on the business credit card! When the “corporate culture” demonstrates, by examples that begin at the top, that the rules apply to everyone but “me” as demonstrated by the breaking of parking rules by the boss, then there is no doubt that integrity and accountability are at risk, as well as productivity, mutual-respect and profitability.

Healthy and effective leaders set the boundaries and live within them. Variations on this theme can spell trouble and ought to be signals that the organization will, sooner or later, hurt a lot of people. So, when you see the inconsistencies, go the other direction and work someplace else.

Question: (E-095)

"Asking Integrity-Centered questions and answering truthfully"

What are some small, quick and effective team-building exercises an organization can do to obtain these 8 components of an Integrity-Centered Company?

Many times before meetings people try to do exercises to promote team collaboration and it doesn't really work because they are quick but ineffective.

Building positive and productive habits is seldom an accident. Top quality performance requires preparation, practice, refinement and closely monitored implementation. After all, isn’t this how infants and young people learn language and behavior? Caring and nurturing parents speak to their children and then observe their efforts to emulate what is being modeled for them. This feedback process continues – in areas that extend far beyond pronunciation and expression --to social behavior, and this refining effort often extends for many years. Some younger people might suggest that this “feedback” lasts way too long. Certain parents wish their influence should have been even stronger.

Parallels in business ought to be obvious. Yet, many leaders wish for the transfer to values and culture to be instantaneous and painless, requiring little effort and almost no obligation to lead by example. The question asks if there are quick (presumably effective) ways to pass along constructive organizational values, which we suggest emerge from the employment of the Bracher Center’s Eight Attributes for an Integrity-Centered Company. These Eight Attributes offer guidelines for behaviors that strengthen levels of trust and enhance interpersonal and organizational effectiveness. When colleagues, bosses and associates, exhibit consistency, openness, respect and accountability – then their likelihood for success is improved. So, with this set of ground-rules, the answer is yes, with limitations.

One round of feedback and critique for a child learning a new language is seldom adequate. Similarly, infrequent and often superficial attempts to build trust harmony and accountability – in the form of a “quick, down and dirty motivational team session” seldom have lasting positive effects. The greater likelihood for longer-term success emerges when all of the stakeholders are given permission and encouragement to remind one another when organizational values are either honored or violated. Straightforward, not confrontational, communication is possible when it has no limits regarding who can provide the input. Bosses listen and so do peers – to reminders of what “fits” within the acceptable rules and what does not.

When this tone is set and is implemented, then short sessions, built upon clearly stated expectations, work and work well. The expression: walk the talk and talk the walk is shorthand for saying: Integrity Matters. Listen and learn from all colleagues and hold yourself accountable to the values espoused for the organization - beginning at the top.

Question: (E-096)

"Navigating Integrity Compromises"

Have you ever been in a situation in which your integrity was compromised? If so, how did you handle it?

The answer to your first question: yes, more times than are pleasant to remember. My earliest memory of not living up to my highest standards occurred when attending a birthday party at age 5. The game was drop the cloths pin into the milk bottle while keeping one’s eyes tightly shut, with the winner determined by the total number pins inside the bottle in less than one minute. Because I had played the game before, and was a full year older than the other participants, my moment had come, being the final player. Facing the bottle, while standing next to the wall, I carefully closed my right eye and kept the left open so that I could more accurately aim at the top of the milk bottle, unnoticed by other players, including my young friend’s mother, whom we all called Mrs. Margie. I won, by four pins over the nearest challenger. The four-year olds were in awe of my skills. Actually, my cheating had guaranteed my victory.

Using my advantage, more pins zipped into the bottle and I received the prize and the cheers. For 53 years, the memory has remained. When I came home that fateful Saturday afternoon in 1950, and my parents learned of my victory, I was told that my behavior (having earlier confessed my larceny to my sister and she made sure those in higher authority knew of my lapse in judgment) was not appropriate and that the prize had to be returned. Since this happened a long time ago, some of you will understand that the award was a double-size of chocolate cake and two-scoops of vanilla ice-cream. Explaining that one has eaten the prize, at least in our family, was not the end of the story. I was escorted to the party-giving home and was told to apologize. My tears were a by-product. Did I learn about character and honesty that day? Yes. And, the memory of the chocolate cake and ice-cream, extra delicious in large portions, still lingers. To this day, cheaters, at any game, really irritate me. So I learned.

Since 1950, there have been academic examinations, driving tests, speed limits, alcohol consumption before and after the legal age, stop signs, performance schedules and timetables, promises to friends and even loans from financial institutions – on multiple occasions there were and are opportunities to fulfill commitments or shirk responsibilities. There have been business relationships that were pleasant and some not quite so enjoyable. Yet, in every instance that I can recall, when I fell short of my moral obligations to be the best that I could be, it never occurred to me not to employ the advice of the famous Captain Kangaroo. This television institution, Dr. Bob Keeshan, taught young people (and those adults wise enough to watch his show with their children) how to behave constructively. The “Captain” offered three important phrases that were supposed to get one through most tight spots, perhaps even some compromising situations. Don’t forget to say: “Please”---“Thank You”--- and “I am sorry, I made a mistake” – “these are powerful messages and they will help you.”

Guess what? He was right. I have done things right and I have done them wrong. At no time have reasonable people been unwilling to accept my apology.

Perfection is not what being human is about. Addressing our shortcomings and rebuilding relationships – such are the challenges that confirm that Integrity Matters.

Question: (E-097)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 25, 2004

"Ethnic humor not funny"

I've received many emails from people containing ethnic humor. Polish jokes (my wife’s family came to America from Poland), Black and African American jokes, moron jokes, dumb blonde jokes (my wife is also a blonde), Irish jokes (and my own family comes from Ireland) --you name it! No ethnic block is spared, but these are all likely to offend someone. I am offended. I don't want to hurt the feelings of friends and relatives who send me this garbage and demand that they stop. However, even though I immediately delete them all upon receipt, still it keeps coming. What is wrong with our society that people feel free to send this garbage around?

The answer to what is wrong with our society regarding cruel humor may come as a surprise. The answer is you, along with a large segment of our society. Good people just like you, who are not quite sure how much risk to take to stand up for what is important to them, are responsible for why this cruel and sarcastic material continues to be shipped around. When caring and thoughtful people confront these insensitivities and say they are not going to put up with it anymore, then, quite a bit of it will stop. Being gracious, an essential attribute of integrity-centered behavior, involves respect and discipline and the demonstration of care and concern for all stakeholders, all who are a part of the community we call humanity.

World-famous singing group, Peter, Paul and Mary present a wonderfully thoughtful song entitled: “Don’t Laugh At Me.” Their words address this issue of cruelty and insensitivity, both maturely and compassionately:

Steve Seskin/Allen Shamblin-
Sony/ATV Tunes LLC dba Cross keysPublishing Co,/David Aaron Music/Built On Rock Music- ASCAP
I'm a little boy with glasses
The one they call a geek
A little girl who never smiles
'Cause I have braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep
I'm that kid on every playground
Who's always chosen last
A single teenage mother
Tryin' to overcome my past
You don't have to be my friend
But is it too much to ask
Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me
I'm the beggar on the corner
You've passed me on the street
And I wouldn't be out here beggin'
If I had enough to eat
And don't think I don't notice
That our eyes never meet
Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me
I'm fat, I'm thin, I'm short, I'm tall
I'm deaf, I'm blind, hey, aren't we all
Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

As these singers, troubadours and teachers remind us, the answer is truly “blowin’ in the wind.” Obviously, there is risk in confronting one’s friends and colleagues. Even though they understand that they are cared about, there is a certain discomfort, even anxiety, in announcing personal standards and requesting that those values be respected. There is a potential high price for maintaining principles. With true friends, the risk is small. With others, the rejections can make a significant part of life, very lonely.

Remember, often the best humor is self-directed. Laughing at one’s self can be engaging and sometimes even charming, and poses few pitfalls to relationships. Practically any other kind of perceived, intended or otherwise, “personal-attack joking” carries risks of hurt and suffering. So, if you are hurt by cruel and insensitive “humor” then evaluate the consequences of being direct with colleagues and communicate how important your own integrity is and why integrity matters to you. Ask others to lay off the sarcasm and the zingers and see what wonderful things might happen. Interpersonal integrity matters, all the time.

Question: (E-098)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 10, 2004

"Include charity, graciousness with integrity"

Of your Eight Attributes, which do most companies or organizations lack the most when you and your consulting company provide initial evaluations? Which attribute can a Company not function without?

Very much like individuals, a significant number of companies appear to possess constructive and productive values and priorities. In all likelihood, they operate with integrity. If they did not, most would not survive, let alone prosper. During our 25-years consulting, we have not focused exclusively on systematically searching for ways that the Eight Attributes are exhibited, either by individuals or by organizations. Rather, on our way to building leadership effectiveness, our process found us listening to the words and observing the behaviors of successful managers.

Certain ways of operating (with integrity) simply stood out. We have been privilege to work with many who have built lasting organizations, not only by sustaining high quality reputations in meeting shareholder expectations and employee objectives, but also as admired corporate citizens in their respective communities, giving back in multiple ways.

More specific to your inquiry about which of the Eight Attributes might be missing, especially in younger companies, let me reflect on two. Number one is Charity. Number two is Graciousness. Emerging companies, with frequently cash-strapped owners are hard pressed to take their eyes off the target: staying in business and not running out of cash. One bright business executive offered two pieces of wisdom: “99% of the time surprises are not good news.” and then he offered this: “If you run out of cash, they will throw you out of the game.” The early stage leader, who intends to be successful, is keenly aware of these truths. As a consequence, entrepreneurs can be so self-absorbed, legitimately, that they forget to be grateful or gracious about community-stewardship. Even though they know what to do, time and circumstance can get in the way of their “giving back” whether in terms of time or dollars.

Graciousness also suffers in many early-stage enterprises. And, some companies, even when they reach billions in annual revenues, never adopt a pattern that demonstrates care and concern for all stakeholders. These companies move from abrasive upstarts to haughty upstarts and then finally to ruthless enterprises. Customers who need their business may tolerate the abuses, quietly seething and despising the fact that they must deal with the insensitivities. One story stands out, because it portrays an individual who had every reason to be kind and thoughtful. He had come to the United States, shining shoes, and worked his way through college, earning a PhD and have acquired in excess of a billion dollars. He was so cruel to his computer engineers that when one of them brought his product to the office of the founder for review, the product, with a small error, was thrown to floor exploding into thousands of pieces.

A few years later, when the man was unable to hire a person to take the top position in his company, he asked what was wrong. The candidate, who had worked with our company for several years, suggested that the “abrasive boss” call me for some assistance. When the man did call, dutifully, he made the following remarks: “Mr. So and So suggest I phone you to talk about addressing problems with people management. When I have such a need, I will call you. Good bye.” That was the end of the conversation.

Three years later, the individual was almost bankrupt, divorced and still convinced he was right.

In his case, he did not listen, was not gracious and seemed not to care. There are other ways to operate, and most of them underscore that Integrity Matters.

Question: (E-099)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 14, 2004

"Openness helps keep business on the move"

Why do you feel that openness is so important in an integrity-centered company?

Openness in organizations encourages two-way communication. Leaders listen as well as talk. Sales professionals, managers, front-line employees and customers all know that the way relationships are built in a “give-and-take” culture builds trust. As a consequence, the politics of “manipulation” is replaced with a process of direct and immediate feedback – confirming the importance of helping one another, making a legitimate profit and sharing credit for success while energetically owning mistakes. Integrity-centered organizations – whether creating cash for profits or simply enhancing the impact of a not-for-profit endeavor – accept the importance of providing stakeholders with necessary and appropriate information.

Privately-held institutions, those not having outside investors, may manage their finances and their operations more discretely; however, their values and culture will always be visible. And, if they have been in business for a generation or more, their reputation will speak volumes about who they are and how they operate.

Many years ago, while consulting with a well-known entrepreneur, he offered the following advice regarding how to lead and manage. His words were: “Never do or say anything that you would not want your parents to know about.” This may not be profound, but it could have modified the behaviors of many who find themselves and their companies on trial for illegal and inappropriate actions.

Openness does not mean foolish and irresponsible “giving away” of trade secrets or profitable business relationships. Nor does openness suggest that “skilled executives” are masters of secretive manipulations, always playing their hands “close to their vests.” Integrity-centered organizations know that talented individuals require trust and deserve to understand the larger picture in order to leverage their talents in the best ways possible. Such forthrightness and transparency are risky, but are not nearly as costly as not enabling those who are central to the enterprise to bring the best of their skills and abilities to bear on the projects that lie in front of them. Since human beings are not mushrooms, very few would seem to enjoy being left in the dark and simply having manure tossed on them until they could be harvested and consumed. Openness allows the sunlight to shine and bring life to the enterprise. Yes, openness is important.

Question: (E-100)

"24-7 is the only time that Integrity Matters"

Does integrity matter most in a larger corporation setting or primarily in a small business firm?

The larger the organization means that more individuals will likely be impacted by decisions and behaviors, for better or worse. However, there are no occasions or circumstances that come to mind in which the application of the Eight Attributes would not be appropriate, for the individual entrepreneur, small business leader or corporate officer. Integrity can be and should be a part of all transactions and relationships beginning with friendships, marriages, family units, community activities, political obligations and economic projects. To make the point more dramatically, please think of these Attributes and let me know of a situation where they might not be applicable:

Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Company or Organization

1. CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
Do the leaders of your organization exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did? Do leaders exhibit the right behavior?

2. HONESTY: truthful communication.
Do you have confidence that your leaders would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?

3. OPENNESS: operational transparency.
Is appropriate information about your organization readily available?

4. AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
Are you able to correct a customer problem? Do you have confidence that your actions will be supported?

5. PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
Does your organization pride itself on timely fulfillment of all commitments?

6. PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization.
When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform repeatedly, are they given due process and then, if necessary, replaced?

7. CHARITY: generous community stewardship.
Does your organization reach out to those in need?

8. GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.
Does your organization demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders?

Because trust is an essential element for success at most if not all activities, one must assume that integrity is at the heart of the matter. Productivity depends upon trust and confidence in the words and actions of those with whom we relate. What stands as the very focal point of these various transactions is integrity, whether interpersonally or internationally. Integrity is the keystone of leadership. It is reflected in discussions, decisions, directives and diagnostics. Leadership emerges from listening, demonstrates character in behavior, and leverages energy with integrity. Integrity is the stabilizing factor that sustains effort and causes energy to create the canopy for accomplishment. Integrity enables the achievement of Vision; whether in one-on-one promises between best friends and marriage partners, students and teachers or high-powered executives managing nations or multi-national organizations.

<< Back