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Question: (E-101)

"Sources and Impact of Integrity"

A university student asked the following questions and challenged me to "dig deep" for a substantive response. Obviously, our every action is a model for someone to emulate. The pressure never lessens for exhibiting integrity-centered behavior by responsible adults, including all public figures.

Three questions about the sources and impact of integrity:

  1. At what point in your life Mr. Bracher, did you find out that the concept of integrity was important to obtain long-term success; where did you find out that integrity really mattered?
  2. How did you learn about integrity as an important aspect in one's life?
  3. What are the beginning steps towards preparing and building a good sense of integrity for one's self?


Mentors, role models and friendships. Those are my answers to the three questions. The first question asks how I found out about integrity and how it related to long-term success. The answer is that the insights and lessons about integrity came from my own observations along with clear counsel from two individuals who worked in education and business. Each was to become a life-changing mentor. Mentors are those caring individuals who come into our lives with a lot of encouragement combined with a directness and clarity that challenges us to always become the very best that we can.

My experience with mentors is that they combine a reassuring pat on the back with a swift kick in the pants with equal vigor and intensity. Obviously I needed (and still need) both.

Our college Dean, later to become President, brought me into his office after I had offered greetings on behalf of the student body before the annual Homecoming crowd of several thousand people. He told me my speech had been simply unsatisfactory. When he finished with the blunt clarification, I knew I had let him down, along with the student government and college itself. I was aware that I had not done the best that I could. He challenged me to remember and apply the following integrity standards to all areas of responsibility; namely, to never stand before a group of people or an individual, without proper planning and preparation. Suffice it say, his clarity has never left me nor my desire to complete unrelenting efforts for preparedness.

My first business mentor challenged me to listen to differing positions on issues and always keep in mind that famous and controversial Major League baseball coach, Leo Durocher, had been credited with a mistaken idea that "nice guys finish last." He said that quality, compassion and integrity will always win out in the long run. He also said that we have a moral responsibility to "give back" to society in whatever ways we can, whether that means money, time, talent or simply encouraging words. For him and his work, integrity always meant "following through" with promises made or implied.

Role models, at least when some of us grew up in the Middle West in the 1950"s, were a combination of myth and reality. Role models in those days were heroes who came to our schools and spoke of what was possible and what we should do to be better people. This list included public servants, police officers, elected officials, lawyers, doctors, teachers, movie actors, writers, military personnel, nurses, athletes and spiritual leaders, of all types. Television programs provided unrealistic portrayals of what life might be, yet these "oversimplified" situations called upon the viewers to strive for patience and thoughtfulness, while maintaining a sense of humor. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were role models regarding fighting for what was right and getting rid of whatever was bad. Jackie Robinson opened eyes regarding the capabilities of those who had been denied opportunities to excel in the sports world. Billie Jean King taught us that men and women should be judged upon their ability to perform, and not be discounted because they were only recently considered peers on the tennis courts. And the list goes on.

Regarding the answer to the third question, namely, how to initiate living a life of integrity; here is my response and it centers in one's friendships. Good and caring relationships call upon us to be all that we can be, sometimes even more than we thought we could be. Relationships, like any growing organism, require nurture and care along with the nutrients of water, sunshine and protection from those weeds that can even life itself when ignored or forgotten. Strong relationships require the investment of energy and attention, accepting the praise and welcoming the criticism and always remaining attentive to the gentle and caring nudges that bring improvements. When relationships enable the healthy and constructive development of character, then an integrity-centered approach is alive and well. In our personal lives and in our careers, integrity boils down to seeking and accepting mentors, role models and relationships.

Question: (E-102)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 7, 2004

"Top managers must earn high salaries"

My question concerns the Performance portion of the Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Company. How can top management (CEO's, Executives, Senior Management) earn 70-80% of a company's total salaried pay for an entire company while other employees and managers who are working harder than the top management earn less? When a company is doing poorly, it always seems to make layoffs lower on the corporate ladder, while top management still earns the same amount without any pay cut. Do these companies need to focus more on the top management's performance rather than the employees performance who were hired by management in the first place?

One of my mentors told me that bosses get paid for doing nothing. However, they are often well compensated for being responsible for everything. Allow me to explain. The person in charge is responsible for making sure that organizational objectives are achieved by overseeing and sustaining excellent customer service, superior product quality, career growth opportunities for employees and maintaining a motivating (constructive and healthy) environment in which to work. In almost every task that is accomplished, the employee is more capable of the successful completion of the job than is the leader. So, the boss is not doing the job, and in many cases, probably cannot still do the job. Bosses who enable those about them to complete their jobs effectively and efficiently would be classified as successful, but only if they can show positive results, often in terms of profits. Still, effective leaders will have also addressed other responsibilities as well. As a consequence, the more respected leaders do earn their incomes - unless the financial rewards are simply outlandish. There will be more on "outlandish" compensation later.

Successful leaders also are accountable for these nine functions:
1. Attract Capital
2. Foster Competence
3. Insist on Character
4. Clarify Organizational Purpose
5. Refine Communication
6. Be Consistent
7. Develop Chemistry
8. Leverage Confidence
9. Utilize Compensation

When bosses provide the foundation for success - with and through others - then they have earned the right and privilege to lead and be appropriately rewarded, compensated, as determined by their boards of directors. Regarding your statistics about how much the highest level positions earn in relation to the remainder of the workforce - there could be different ratio"s depending upon the size of the enterprise. However, that does not seem to be your concern. The problem you raise centers in our Integrity-Centered Leadership criteria, specifically related to Attribute # 6: PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization. When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform repeatedly, are they given due process and then, if necessary, replaced? Or, as has been revealed on recent years by the media, have irresponsible leaders and their boards of directors simply "winked" about top level performance criteria? Have these poorly-lead companies "skated" from real leadership accountability and passed along what should have been their financial misery to those further down the corporate "food chain" and retained their own security while compromising the nest eggs of those who helped build the organization? A small number of "irresponsible" organizations have created this "self-serving" reputation that has tainted too many opinions of the value and importance of the people who are the building-block partners of free enterprise. These trust and confidence problems stem from aggressive compensation packages and short-term pressures for financial performance.

The question you ask relates to the compensation issue and manifests itself in the erosion of trust between management and labor. When those observing what they feel are an "outlandish life-style" of those with whom and for whom they work, then their resentments can build into anger and a lack of commitment to higher levels of performance. Over and over, when employees lose confidence that their employer cares about them, to point of not making appropriate sacrifices at the top, instead of simply hiring, firing, laying off, reducing benefits, etc. - capriciously, then trust will erode and productivity will suffer. The issue is integrity, built upon trust, and is demonstrated in consistent behaviors to colleagues, all colleagues, that they are important.

Question: (E-103)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 3, 2004

"Like it or not, 'real' news matters most"

Journalist-historian Richard Reeves was asked to define "real news," and he answered that it's "the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

What portion of news coverage is essential to our freedoms? What percentage is entertainment, posing as news? What amount is opinion, masquerading under the banner of "fair and balanced news?"

A few excerpts from a speech by Bill Moyers may shed light on our challenges.

In a November keynote speech at the National Conference on Media Reform, Moyers offered the following three quotable and important insights:

  • "Free and responsible government by popular consent just can't exist without an informed public."

My observation is that a growing number of people won't seek information that might challenge their opinions. Associating only with those who are like-minded can lead to a drifting toward ignorance and even irresponsible actions. This is no way to sustain and strengthen any form of free government, most especially a democracy.

  • "The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it."

Most of us recall the wisdom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The challenge for those who would accept social and journalistic responsibilities is to fulfill a dual role: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When the press is free to provide each service, society is stronger, which means our freedoms are safer.

  • "If free and independent journalism committed to tell the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy."

One of the mysteries of a democracy and a free press is that they can exist, often at odds, without seeking the destruction of the other. The integrity of our system (economic, political and cultural) depends upon our ability, and freedom, to disagree without being disagreeable.

"Real news" reporting is always about integrity, intelligence and courage. Integrity provides the platform for truth seeking. Intelligence builds the road to insightful, accurate and thorough research. Courage is a timeless quality and becomes all the more important when the government or any other institution of power and control is tempted to suggest the legitimacy of censorship.

Demand the real news -- the news you and I need to keep our freedoms. It is important, always has been and it always will be.

Like it or not, 'real' news matters most

By: James F. Bracher, Founder
Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership
Monterey, California
Co-Author: Integrity Matters

Journalist-historian Richard Reeves was asked by a college student to define "real news" and he answered that real news is "the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

As readers, hearers and viewers of the current reporting of the news, what portion of what is
presented to the public is essential for the retention of our freedoms? What percentage is
entertainment, posing as news? What amount is editorial and biased opinion, masquerading
under the banner of "news" that is "fair and balanced" information? These questions are meant
to move individuals to think hard and long about the current state of the news we all absorb.
There are challenges to remaining informed, intelligently and objectively, in our era. Perhaps
things today are no different than in the past, however, the power of the press, print and electronic can make things seem worse. A few excerpts from a speech by Bill Moyers may shed light on our challenges.

In November 2003, Bill Moyers, while providing the keynote speech at the National Conference on Media Reform, offered the following three quotable and important insights (in bold type, to which I have offered commentary):

1. "Free and responsible government by popular consent just can"t exist without an informed public."

My observation is that a growing number of people seem not to seek information that might challenge any opinions they already have. Associating only with those who are like-minded and who offer little or no challenge can lead to a drifting toward ignorance and even irresponsible actions. This is no way to sustain and strengthen any form of free government, most especially a democracy. Since perfection is seldom achieved without refinement, should the world of ideas and institutions be treated any differently?

2. "The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it."

Most of us recall the wisdom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The challenge for those who would accept social and literary responsibilities is the act upon the dual role: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When the press is free to provide each service, society is stronger, which means our freedoms are safer.

3. "If free and independent journalism committed to tell the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy."

One of the mysteries of a democracy and a free press is that they can exist, often at odds, without seeking the destruction of the other. The integrity of our system (economic, political and cultural) depends upon our ability, and freedom, to disagree without being disagreeable. Even when we are rascals, we do not need to stoop to a zero-sum game, scorching the earth as we offer differences of opinion. Debate and discussion, conflict and resolution, all can be conducted in the bright light of openness and honesty. When the common good is relegated to anyplace on the agenda, except that of first place, then any number of activities can sink the democratic "ship of state."

Moyers further commented in his November speech that way back in 1776, Thomas Paine came to America, a penniless immigrant from England, who had left a trail of failure as a businessman and husband. Just before enlisting in Washington's army, he published Common Sense, a hard-hitting pamphlet that slashed through legalisms and doubts to make an uncompromising case for an independent and republican America. It has been called the first best seller, with 100,000 copies bought by a small literate population.

Courageous and insightful Paine had something that writers, and leaders, of today need to restore, an unwavering concentration to reach all of the people with a message that each one matters and can stand up for themselves. He couched his message of human rights and equality in a popular and readable style. "As it is my design," he said, "to make those who can scarcely read understand; I shall therefore avoid every literary ornament and put it in language as plain as the alphabet."

Here are some samples of Thomas Paine's straight-forward language, and you will clearly see that what he wrote, difficult for some to accept, confirmed his insights and his integrity, intelligence and courage:

"These are the times that try men's souls."
"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered."
"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly."
"Virtue is not hereditary."
"Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God than all the
crowned ruffians that ever lived."

Real news reporting is always about integrity, intelligence and courage. Integrity provides the platform for truth seeking. Intelligence builds the road to insightful, accurate and thorough research. And courage is a timeless quality and becomes all the more important when the government or any other institution of power and control is tempted to suggest the legitimacy of censorship.

Demand the "real news" -- the news you and I need to keep our freedoms. It is important, always has been, and it always will be. Integrity matters.

Question: (E-104)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 31, 2004

"Hotel club leaves guest out in cold"

I have been a member of an international hotel chain's awards program for seven years, amassing over 35,000 of their "Points" for staying at their properties around the world. Recently I was inquiring about a trip for my family of seven to one of their premier properties in Hawaii when I was told that my account as a "frequent hotel guest" had been cancelled because I had not used my account for a year. I feel ripped off.

I have no doubt their lawyers retained their rights to set the rules of their programs at will. I also understand how this powerful hotel group would want to manage its balance sheet to not show too much liability to offer free stays, etc., but it feels to me that they enticed me to stay at their hotels for all these years under "false pretenses."

My question is this: does a company like this have an ethical obligation to highlight to its customers some of the "fine print" before it takes harmful actions? Or does it show integrity to reserve rights then use them whenever it suits the company's accountants?

Welcome to your new status as an official member of the "now you got it and now you don't" club. Sadly, your story is not unique. Hotel chains and airlines have found "legal" avenues to ask for loyalty from customers only to find ways to create self-serving loopholes that free them from certain obligations. If not legally "ripped off" - your story sounds as if you were morally mistreated. Chances are that you will never choose that hotel group again, unless there is simply no other option.

Integrity includes the attribute, "honesty: truthful communication." Honesty asks the question: do you have confidence that leaders (in this instance, suppliers) would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation? From the experience you have had, the fine-print has caused you stress and disappointment and you are angry. And, who wouldn't be! Obviously, you will vote with your wallet. The very programs that were intended to build customer loyalty, when not honored, will defeat their own purposes. You will take your business elsewhere, maybe for a long time.

The real issue here seems to boil down to the path business leaders choose. What a shame when they select the "shell-game" option. They elect to manipulate the "letter" of the law, providing just as small of an amount of benefits as they feel they can get by with, while presenting a misleading face of customer service. They design clever and attractive promises, announced with bold print and enthusiasm, and then protect, minimize and defend their downside obligations. They employ "legalese" in their documents and "doublespeak" through their customer service programs along with enough "use restrictions" that only a minority of those who felt entitled to the rewards can meet the criteria to ever utilize them. Feeling ripped of by these airlines and hotel chains may deserve the same "investigation and regulation" that finally occurred when the incessant telemarketing calls were challenged. This lack of responsible self-regulation by an industry was motivation for the establishment of the "National Do not Call Registry" - which, as you know, reshaped how one industry was able to do business. Does anyone miss those nightly calls that interrupted reading, dinner, conversations or dinner? Probably not.

Should similar actions be taken against airlines and hotel chains that routinely create a set of customer expectations that are made so difficult to claim that a significant number walk away in disgust or frustration, or both? Please let us know your experiences with "promises unfulfilled" and include the circumstances, name of offensive company and any actions you feel should be taken. Include your name and how best to make contact with you.

Creating false expectations, along with a perception of the ease with which, in this instance, that "travel points" can be redeemed, does not build customer loyalty or trust. Let's see if we can make a difference and improve how business does business. Help us to make one particular point very clear. It should be common knowledge that free markets, including hotels and airlines, must regulate themselves (and treat customers honestly and graciously) or governments (we the people) will step forward and support incredibly stringent rules and regulations. What choices are left? We deserve integrity in our business environment and we will fight for it until we get it. Let us know if we can be of help. Integrity matters.

Question: (E-105)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 17, 2004

"Drug abuse in sports threatens a crackdown"

Here's a question that needs answering. It was asked by a seven-year old: "Why is it bad to take drugs that make you stronger?"

First, a drug is a biological or chemical substance that has been found to cause change in the human body or attitude. Medical science, at least in Western Civilization, has supported the benefits of chemical intrusions on the human body in exchange for efficient ways of addressing certain ailments. In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration has the responsibility to ensure that the effects of drugs are verified and tested as to their safety. The taking of approved, medically-prescribed, drugs in their intended application and prescribed amounts, in order to speed a return to health can be a very a good thing. It is also true that regaining health can lead to being stronger, with improved coordination, as predictable and valuable by-products. However, the purpose of health-improving drugs was restoring of physical vitality, not simply the enhancing brute strength. Patients and physicians have known the trade-offs: a disease could be controlled, and perhaps eliminated, with understood and generally minimal chemical risk to the rest of the human body. Appropriately applied, powerful chemicals can seemingly "work miracles" and save lives.

However, some shrewd and maybe even shady individuals (those who may not behave very honestly) have found ways to use drugs in other more self-serving, short-sighted and greedy ways. They encourage and sometimes provide performance-enhancing chemicals and drugs, for talented athletes, that cause muscles to grow faster and larger than would be otherwise possible. They develop and distribute these drugs to athletes, who then use them, in order to achieve "incredible" results. These performance-enhancing drugs enable already talented athletes to pursue seemingly super-human feats: running faster, jumping further, hitting and throwing balls greater distances. And what is the reason for this? Fans have shown that they will pay significant sums of money, in large numbers, for the privilege of seeing these incredible athletic feats.

However, pushing the human body in such an artificial manner often creates substantial risks to future health, while it also works to the career and performance disadvantage of the majority of professional athletes who are honest and do not engage in such biological or chemical stimulation. It is documented, for example, that long-term use of certain anabolic steroids has damaging effects on bone tissue, internal organs and reproductive systems.

When the motivation for performance-enhancing drug use is greed, even with the known risks of destroying the longer-term health of the athlete, then something is very wrong with the organizations and institutions who are not addressing the problem. Behaviors are not integrity-centered when individuals are being "artificially/chemically" stimulated like animals to perform beyond their natural capacity. Breeding animals for specific tasks may be acceptable, but sanctioning (or simply not stopping) chemically-induced athletic performance, showing little or no regard for the ramifications to a human being's quality of life, is dishonest and destructive. Performance-enhancing drug abuse damages the fairness and the future of the affected sport, and the quality of society as a whole. Such usage also may shorten the life or career of the athlete who uses the drugs.

So, is it bad to take drugs to make one stronger, in sports competition, where the playing field is supposed to be fair between human beings? Yes. Medical knowledge, used properly, is for the good of society. It should be common knowledge, however, that when medical information, is misused and continues to be unregulated in a sport, the sport itself is corrupted. When owners, agents and players do not stand up with integrity and police their sport, outside controls will become inevitable. The longer our society waits to make this situation right; the most drastic could be the measures that will be enacted. Citizens, the fans, will turn to government, federal, state and local, to act and force regulation - if for no other reasons than to maintain a level playing field and protect the health and integrity of the athletes themselves.

Those involved in chemically "hopping up" athletes, risking a human being's health for greed, must be stopped. It really doesn't matter who is pushing the drug-induced performance enhancements. Whether initiated by the individual athletes themselves or by the organizations they have been hired to serve, the abuses of drugs must stop. Performance-enhancing drugs can enslave an individual. The pressure of artificially enhanced results on the careers of otherwise honest athletes can lead to wider abuse. The victims of these unregulated abuses are many, perhaps none more important than the very young and impressionable children who are being shown by some of their sports heroes that winning is all that counts, that money is the only legitimate measurement and that the exploitation of human being in modern times is really alright. Even when a naïve athlete succumbs to these drugs, no longer listening to the body's need for rest and recuperation, then life itself is placed at risk for the hope of fame, riches and glory. Such human abuse is a reminder of the last days of the Roman Empire, when skilled athletes were forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of nobility while others were fed to the lions for sheer spectacle of the blood and carnage it produced. Can we tolerate such abuses today? No.

Unless or until the public demands a level playing field, the integrity of sport is at risk as is the legitimacy of records set and medals won that may have been accomplished with performance-enhancing drugs. When sports activities regain a proper sense of proportion in our society in the eyes of adults and children, fair play will return and we will have renewed confidence in the integrity of the sports and its various stakeholders. Playing by the rules is all about integrity.

Question: (E-106)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 24, 2004

"Integrity still key in hiring"

As an employer, what are the right things to look for in an employee? How does one identify integrity? Can integrity increase team effectiveness?

The answers to your three questions are: integrity is what you look for, observation is how you find it and yes, integrity among leaders is a key to success.

Regarding your first question about what to look for in an employee, the following wisdom, from an unknown source, is a great place to start; and it begins with integrity:

"When selecting individuals to join an organization, or entrusting them with the responsibilities of leadership, one must value:

Integrity above motivation,
Motivation above capacity,
Capacity above wisdom,
Wisdom above experience,
Experience above knowledge, and
Knowledge above training.

What must be known and considered
is not a list of claimed positions or achievements, but
the qualities and characteristics of the person."

Obviously, you are searching for the right attribute when you start with integrity. The quotation we used to introduce in the Preface of our book, Integrity Matters, in bookstores May 3, came from a wise and successful business leader, Mr. Warren Buffett: "In evaluating people you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And, if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you." p. xiii

As you know, integrity will always be apparent in the consistency in the actions of those who have it. Observation of behavior, through consistent and constructive actions, is the best method for assessing integrity. More often than not, those with integrity recognize their own imperfections, acknowledge their mistakes matter-of-factly, and are aware that their flaws are only fatal when ignored or denied.

Integrity will thrust itself upon an organization when leaders understand values, people and communication. In November 1994, a client asked for our help in addressing conflicts between and among the company's top leadership. We interviewed a dozen senior-level executives and came up with this observation, recommendation and solution to their problem:

When individuals:
Understand the required skill sets to make their team productive,
Are valued by and bring value to the organization,
Are committed to the vision, mission and strategy, and
Are signed-on to the organization's supported behavior and culture,
then no issue can polarize the group or create destructive behaviors.

Simple as this sounds, once our observations were shared, explained and accepted, actions were taken and the executives regained their enthusiasm and rallied around their leader. Just as important, these senior managers rediscovered their respect and appreciation for one another. Direct communication reduced misunderstandings, increased productivity and proved once again that integrity matters.

Question: (E-107)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 14, 2004

"Questions you should ask an employer"

What are the main questions somebody should ask when applying for a new job? (from a business student at California State University Monterey Bay)

Here are a dozen questions that will clarify the environment and provide clues about the probable "fit" for you in a new position. If you are uncomfortable with any of the responses, you may want to consider continuing to look for the right position. Obviously, there can be circumstances that push back on one's luxury of finding the "perfect" job. However, when values are already at risk of having been compromised during the interview process, it is quite likely that the situation will not improve with time. So, be prepared to walk away if a healthy environment is what you are seeking. If, on the other hand, you are simply looking for a place to put in hours and take a paycheck, you may not want to utilize this line of inquiry.

Here are the 12 questions and finding "yes" answers to each one is important:

  1. Can I fulfill the responsibilities outlined, at a level that is consistent with the expectations of the organization, in a timely way, with confidence?
  2. Will the organization provide the resources and training that I need to be successful?
  3. Will I be able to incorporate their values and organizational culture without compromising my own code of conduct and personal principles?
  4. Will the organization and its products and services fit well with who I am and who I hope to become?
  5. Will the organization support my efforts to continually learn and grow in capacity?
  6. Will I be proud to join the firm and represent it to people I respect?
  7. Does the person interviewing me reflect the Bracher Center's Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Organization (character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness)?
  8. Is the individual able to answer, to my satisfaction, just how the organization operates, without any hesitation or seeming to structure responses to cover any unpleasant issues?
  9. Do I trust the integrity of the interviewer?
  10. Can I afford to work for the dollars they offer?
  11. Are the benefits what I want?
  12. Do those who already work there smile?

Please let us know your feedback on the effectiveness of this process. If integrity is important to you and if integrity (really) matters to the company or organization you wish to join, then the likelihood of success, for all parties concerned, is greatly enhanced. Ask the twelve questions clearly and listen, very carefully, to the responses. You will then be in position to make the best decision for you and your future.

Question: (E-108)

"Used cars and lemon laws"

I sell used cars, often to overseas buyers. Is it wrong for me to fix a small dent or scratch so that it is never noticed and not tell the buyer? My repairs are so good that they will make the car better than new. If I tell them, it my cause me to lose the sale. So what is wrong with simply fixing the dent perfectly, keeping quiet, and increasing my profits?

Telling the truth is a fundamental attribute of integrity. Honesty, defined as truthful communication, requires that each person be able to answer one important question with a clear "yes," namely; do you have confidence that your leaders would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation? Your seeming comfort with concealing the truth pushes hard against the Eight Attributes' definition of honesty and integrity. If it is acceptable to lie about scratches and dents, then what is to prevent lies about the quality of drive-shafts, brakes, horns, odometers, transmissions, batteries, windshields, or anything else you might choose to misrepresent to the unsuspecting buyer?

How you choose to conduct business is your decision. However, you may want to be aware that in the State of California is considering legislation (regulation) called the "Car Buyer's Bill of Rights" - now referred to as the Lemon Law. If passed, California would be the first state in the nation to define a certified used car and give consumers three days to return a newly bought pre-owned vehicle. The bill, according to Anna Oberthur, of the Associated Press, would crack down on used-car sales abuses and save California consumers thousands of dollars in hidden costs.

Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, San Fernando, recommends creating a three-day period during which used-car buyers could return the vehicle for a full refund, minus a reasonable charge for mileage. This same law would tighten regulations relating to certifying a used car by a qualified technician and require auto dealers of new and used cars to tell buyers their credit score and the lowest interest rate for which they qualified. Existing laws that prohibit sellers from receiving a commission for assisting buyers in obtaining a loan would be stronger.

So, if you choose to polish a scratch or pound out a dent and not inform buyers, then be aware that when your actions are discovered, you and those who behave as you do will encourage even stronger regulations by an angered public. When you look the other way instead of telling the truth, then there is a good chance that trust will be broken and legal remedies will be sought. Disappointed customers will demand, through regulations, that things be made right. Angry customers will sanction hard-nosed justice. Where there is no trust, relationships cannot be built. Because integrity matters, it is time to tell the truth - even about dents and scratches.

Question: (E-109)

"Life changing events and relationships"

What prompted you to start your business? Any pivotal moments in your life?

The answers to each question: mentors. Mentors teach, challenge and encourage - when the protégé is willing to listen and follow-through. Necessity, opportunity and motivation combined to create the timing on March 1, 1980 - the official start of our company, Dimension Five Consultants, Inc. From there, it was simply a matter of working half-days, six days per week, for about ten years, and all of the sudden, things fell into place: reputation, client base and a history of causing executives to be more effective and their actions more impactful. The pivotal events were, once again, mentors juxtaposed against the usual number of dramatic moments most everyone experiences. My encounters allowed me to better see ways to leverage talents that I had: airplanes making emergency landings with bomb scares, automobile accidents, marriage and family, a cancer scare, blindness, loss of loved ones and exposure to the extremes of wealth and poverty. Because of your question, it occurs to me that a summary of the mentors who have impacted my life are very much in order - half are already dead and the others are getting older. Maybe a review of their pivotal impact would be valuable for others building futures. Thank you for the idea.

By the way, the half-days to which I made reference above, they were twelve hours each, minimum, most of the time, and usually on my days flying back to the Monterey Peninsula, from the Midwest of East Coast, after a week of work, the trips home usually extended into 18 to 20 hour days.

And, I wouldn't trade the opportunities to learn for much of anything else. Thanks for asking.

Question: (E-110)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 21, 2004

"Businesses balance outsourcing against corporate profits"

How can American companies claim to have integrity when they are sending US jobs overseas?

Jobs are going overseas because the costs of labor, over there, are less. Demands for corporate profits remain high. Jobs are going to other countries because the American workforce demands a more costly lifestyle. What would be considered luxuries in most of the world are considered almost necessities among members of the work-force of the United States. Housing expectations, clothing demands, transportation requirements and a whole host of other benefits - provided by these same companies themselves - are looked upon as extravagant to a significant segment of the world's population. Jobs are going off-shore because many of these same employees, who expect higher salaries and benefits, are demanding and getting, many of their basic needs, as well as wishes, met at (relatively speaking) bargain prices. The percentage of income spent by most Americans on food, clothing and shelter is significantly less than citizens around the globe. Many of these American companies, who are shipping entire departments off shore, are successfully meeting customer expectations and investor requirements. In this sense, they are practicing integrity-centered leadership, quite effectively. At the same time the pressures for change upon the American workforce are serious, real and even overwhelming.

A tried and true statement seems appropriate: "We want to have our cake and eat it too." American workers want to maintain an incredibly complex and expensive life-style while seemingly depending upon the rest of the world to sit by (passively) and not compete effectively. With instantaneous communications, 24 hours per day, the whole world can see what is happening in more prosperous nations and then seek to participate, much more aggressively. Reality and current circumstances are saying "no" to naive hopes that things will remain as they are. These challenges are creating political capital, first regionally, then nationally and now globally. Politicians will jump on this bandwagon, promising security and failing to address the real issue which is the demand to increase productivity and improve education. Stemming the tide of growing numbers of off-shore technology jobs, at first in manufacturing and now including entire service departments, is unlikely, if ever achievable.

The economic engine that has driven business in America has depended upon innovation. For the last couple of hundred years, the United States has not sustained prosperity simply because of low-priced labor - but rather because of creativity, education and management skills. Today, the global economy is the reality. We will not build walls along our borders and cease partnering with those around the world. As certain jobs go away, as they did when the automobile replaced the horse, the demands decreased for those making buggy whips and increased for those skilled as engineers. Education and retraining were important before and they are again. Re-invention is not a slogan for the classroom; it is a self-renewing demand for those who will rise to the occasion of opportunities yet to be discovered. It is important to remember that we can adapt. We can learn. The system is not broken, it is changing and we must understand it, appreciate it and accommodate it. Our own integrity demands for us to remain productive participants. And this is what it means.

Integrity is congruence between what company leaders say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did. Integrity is the keystone of organizational and corporate leadership. The keystone holds the enterprise together at its most critical junction, where ideas, products and services meet the customer. Integrity enables an organization to achieve its mission. Integrity is the strength, unity, clarity and purpose that upholds and sustains all of the activities of the enterprise. Integrity provides this stabilizing dimension by never, ever, compromising. Integrity recognizes risks and assumes responsibility. It drives the realization of vision toward the enterprise's destination. When leaders and companies fulfill these demands, they have integrity.

So, in a real sense, integrity-centered business leadership will address the demands of their stakeholders and achieve the mission: serving customers and retaining valuable employees. Beyond the obvious needs for continuous education and training, the business enterprise must remain competitively engaged and flexible. Integrity is about meeting objectives for all stakeholders over the long haul.

Question: (E-111)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 28, 2004

"Keeping business honest requires new laws"

Almost every day there are news reports about individuals involved, many near the top of giant accounting firms and multi-billion-dollar investment companies, who are still being cited for violations. I thought that the Sarbanes-Oxley bill of 2002 was supposed to fix these legal and ethical problems. Will Congress now feel compelled to pass more laws to clean up the misbehaviors of business in an effort to bring back integrity?

Unfortunately, yes. And here are four reasons why.

1. Janus Capital, the Denver-based mutual fund, recently named a new boss in an attempt to move beyond its upcoming actions to settle trading abuse charges. It has been reported that certain privileged clients received preferential and possibly illegal treatment to the detriment of other less influential (translate wealthy, connected and powerful) investors.
2. Royal Dutch/Shell leadership faces challenges in the wake of its energy-accounting scandal. Reports say that questions must be answered about deceit in the executive suite before investor trust can be restored. Grossly (whether simply irresponsible or shamelessly dishonest will be determined by the legal system) over-estimating oil reserves may have created credibility problems for the energy giant that will take years, even decades, to restore.
3. USA Today's top editor, Ms. Karen Jurgensen, quit amid a probe of how a high profile reporter, Mr. Jack Kelley, was able to fabricate articles, time after time.
4. New York Times executive editor, Mr. Howell Raines, was forced to step down after revelations about the fraudulent articles written by Mr. Jayson Blair, and regularly published, brought a spotlight to poor management practices in other areas of the newspaper.

Even with bad news about a variety of business leaders, the economy seems to be getting stronger. Consumers are spending more which usually means that trust is back. However, it may be wise to ask if this gradual business rebound is simply another opportunity to be seized by the next round of hucksters who will again take advantage of the public and blunt the public's confidence? Unfortunately, when consumers, federal regulators, elected representatives and others in leadership positions - in both the public and private sectors - let their respective guards down, slimy, conniving, articulate, too often well-educated and impeccably-dressed, these crooks can more easily strike again. So, yes, unfortunately, even though it should be common knowledge that free markets must regulate themselves or governments will, many good people are so eager to trust others, that they may tend to let their optimism get in the way of prudence.

Even so, there is hope and lots of it. One interesting example of a leader who has recently and successfully addressed the marginally-honest is Mr. Warren Buffett, known as the "oracle of Omaha." His speeches have become so popular that he is now selling tickets to non-shareholders who may wish to hear him speak at his annual meeting in Omaha.

Pay attention, this may be different that it first appears. According to Berkshire Hathaway's chief financial officer, Mr. Marc Hamburg, Mr. Buffett decided to sell tickets to the meeting at the price of $5 for a pair after he learned that certain shareholders were auctioning tickets on eBay, for as much as $250 for four passes. He does not like the fact that these tickets are being scalped. Approximately 10,000 shareholders and admirers flocked to Omaha last year, according to a report in the New York Times, April 17, 2004, to the annual event that Mr. Buffett calls "Woodstock for capitalists." The 10,000 tickets were made available on eBay after failing to have the auctions stopped. As it turns out, each Berkshire shareholder receives four free tickets and it appears that Mr. Buffett does not tolerate folks taking advantage of others. Buffett did not ask legislators to pass a new regulation, he "self-regulated" these inappropriate behaviors and fixed the problem.

So, he cut off this "scalper-opportunity" - and for that reason, one can conclude, that, yes, integrity matters. Individuals can blunt the bad behaviors of the crooks and the scheming minority by taking positive and constructive actions, every day. After all, each person can expand and extend the national conversation on integrity - one reaction, one decision, one conversation, one transaction and one relationship at a time. Integrity-centered behaviors are more important and more powerful than politically-crafted regulations.

Question: (E-112)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 5, 2004

"Teen steroid issue goes beyond testing"

What has happened to our society? High schools are now the target of legislation, sponsored by California State Senator, Ms. Jackie Speier (Democrat, San Francisco), addressing the need for the testing of steroid use and performance-enhancing drug abuse. What does this situation say about the integrity of high school coaching?

Growing up in the Midwest in the 1950’s, when asking me to do chores, my father reminded me that a diligent effort was the best pathway to rewards and recognition. He seemed to know that like many young people, I too, really had hoped to find success (in this case, a few dollars, often described as my allowance) ahead of completing chores (hours of physically-demanding work related to mowing the lawn, weeding, washing and waxing the family car, watering young trees and shrubs, scraping paint, sweeping the driveway and, in the winter, shoveling snow)? You really cannot find success before work in real life. The exception that my father mentioned was that success can come before work, but only in the dictionary.

So, what does my hard-work story have to do with performance-enhancing drugs and high school athletes and their coaches? Everything.

Early in life it became clear to me, and lots of other people, that there are no legitimate shortcuts to quality, integrity, relationships or world-class performance. Many who are reading this column right now know that our society has sought and accepted easy answers to complex questions, superficial responses to heartfelt needs and performance-enhancing drugs at the expense of addressing root causes. Phrases that became bumper sticker, culture confirming, philosophies include: "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing" "Greed is good" "To be rich is glorious" "Those who die with the most toys win" "Nice guys (and gals) finish last" "It is not what you know, but who you know."

Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger has admitted using steroids during his body-building career. Today he confirms that he believes that it is incumbent on parents, coaches and peers to talk with young people about the best way to become a star athlete. Today society knows the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and the California Governor says that the best was to reach the top is the old-fashioned way through hard work, exercise and a balanced lifestyle. In fact, through a spokesperson, Ms. Terri Carbaugh, Governor Schwarzenegger indicates that if he know then what he knows today, he would never have used steroids.

Please be aware, that across the United States, high schools are struggling with steroid abuse and cannot afford to install costly tests that detect the illegal bodybuilding (which are really body-destroying) drugs.

However, the issue is not testing. The issue is the mentality of a society that wants children to perform so agents, parents, owners and investors can prosper on the raw meat they seem willing to sacrifice at the altar of celebrity, big bucks and short-lived glory. Where is the leadership on behalf of young people? When the pressure to win permeates children’s sports, we have lost our moral compass and have made little progress since ancient times when gladiators fought to death to entertain the idle rich and political masters. Parents, coaches, teachers, agents, owners, - please, leave the young people better than you find them. Integrity is what we have to give. They need it, now. Laws, however well-intentioned, will never take the place of responsible adult leadership.

Question: (E-113)

"Boeing Investigation - Criminal Conduct "

Are you aware that the United States Air Force paid Boeing an extra $10 Billion dollars (of taxpayers' money) for an air tanker order? To make matters worse, the competitive bid by the Airbus organization met 20 of the 26 specifications while Boeing met only seven. This smells rotten. What do you think?

Assuming that your information is even close to being accurate, then, yes, this smells rotten. Integrity has been sacrificed, yet again. If this $10 Billion transaction is not corruption and/or criminal conduct, at the highest levels, it will be surprising. This story has the aroma of special backroom deals that lead to incredible tax dollar waste. In fact when looking into this Boeing-Air Force investigation, the situation was even sicker than you described. An audit report says the first 100 versions of the Boeing 767 tanker, designed for the Air Force, wouldn't meet the Air Force's key requirements: unable to refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously and wouldn't be able to be used for other missions, such as medical evaluations. In a phrase: this is awful.

Such disgusting and irresponsible behavior, too often in the name of national security, puts at risk important social, educational and health programs throughout our society. Waste in one area can bring devastation upon those least able to cope. Yes, this is wrong, should be investigated, culprits brought to justice and their organizations (and every individual involved) punished to the fullest extent of the law.

One of the most important goals of leadership, in this or any society, is to generate confidence and trust in the integrity of those in charge. Creating cracks in the fabric called trust and confidence by abusing rules and regulations, and in this instance, misappropriating tax dollars and risking lives, simply opens up our system to cynicism. It must be demoralizing for young people (and adults as well) to watch elected and appointed officials take oaths of office (to protect and preserve) and then have pointed out that they have used their positions to line their own pockets. Being "on the take" was a phrase readily applied to autocrats who controlled third-world republics and demagogues who ran roughshod over their own citizens while siphoning millions and billions of international aid into their own personal bank accounts, out of the reach of the law.

Integrity is the foundation of organizational health and those responsible for this catastrophe need to go away for a long time, perhaps not in a country-club prison. We know that "Integrity-centered leadership is the only reliable foundation for long-term success!" We also know that integrity matters, now more than ever.

Question: (E-114)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 12, 2004

"Everyone pays for military atrocities"

Where is the integrity of the "liberating American army" when it commits atrocities on Iraqi prisoners of war? What ought to be done to make right this ever-widening military abuse scandal?

The integrity of American military forces has not been destroyed by the hideous behaviors of Abu Ghraib prison-guard group. However, the humanity of this small, misguided, perhaps even degenerate segment of a larger military force has been diminished. What has happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is awful. Appropriate actions are being taken and will continue to be taken - as this investigation reveals more and more of exactly what happened. Our leaders will fix the problem and a shocked American society will brace itself for global reactions, many of which will be understandably negative. And we will go on. Going forward to make things
right - even when "things go wrong" - is what integrity requires of individuals, nations and societies. In my observations of both constructive and destructive human behavior, certain patterns and habits remind me that "it should be common knowledge that free markets (and societies, military organizations, families, government officials, parents, doctors, lawyers, bankers, spiritual counselors, and all of humanity) must regulate themselves or governments (the people who are the real stakeholders of society - all over the world) will."

Everyone pays for atrocities, one way or another. We may see an erosion of national pride and confidence. Some people will be embarrassed, feel guilt and experience a lowered self-image. The nation will likely come away with some further loss of cultural innocence. This is a costly mistake. Some few soldiers behaved hideously. The images they have created with their behaviors will not easily fade away - especially for those who were targeted.

One of my friends, a retired judge, reminded me that only about 6% of the people - in any walk of life - create an overwhelming percentage of problems. Even though most people, probably 94%, go about their lives responsibly; still, it is this minority that creates chaos and captures the headlines. He included teachers, students, clergy, business leaders, social workers, public servants (elected and appointed), farmers and even consultants, columnists and authors. Because the news often addresses irresponsible behavior or catastrophic events, then it is not surprising that this small percentage of activities (natural disasters or human frailties) will garner a disproportionate share of news space and mind-share. As a consequence, with the bombardment of "bad" news, humans can easily conclude that just about "everything" is wrong, as opposed to the "truth" that some things and some people are problems and will always create pain for others.

Regarding your question about the integrity of those American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad who committed these unspeakable acts - they exhibited no integrity. They acted upon the lowest common denominator of humanity. These individuals who in a depraved way, degraded fellow human beings, must be identified, separated from those who are doing their jobs appropriately, charged, prosecuted and penalized. Torture, humiliation, abuse and other gross acts seem totally out of place, almost unimaginable, in this or any society. These prison guards and staff have demonstrated nothing about the best of what humans can do or can become. How shameful for all who were involved.

President George W. Bush owns these behaviors because he is commander-in-chief. We know that all leaders are responsible for what happens "on their watch" - for better or worse. How he chooses to acknowledge his responsibility - politically or otherwise - will help this nation sustain a sense of direction, confidence and integrity. What we do know is that leaders reward constructive behavior and eradicate destructive behavior. Recognition and praise builds consistency around excellence. Education, inspection and evaluation clarify performance for improvement. However, when core values are violated, sometimes only once, and in other instances, when they are repeatedly ignored, the best solution can be removal. Today, the world is watching the United States, just as other nations were observed regarding how (after World War II) they dealt with those responsible for death camps and murdering children with bayonets.

Integrity is how we go about carrying out our mission - in life - leveraging our strengths and addressing our mistakes - regardless of who we are, how much money or power we have or even who we know. Integrity matters and how we treat our friends and enemies - speaks volumes.

Question: (E-115)


Dear Readers:

Are you ready? We launched our book, Integrity Matters, on May 3, 2004, in bookstores across the nation and also on My co-author, Dan Halloran and I are thrilled. Two days later, on Amazon, used copies of our brand new book were being advertised. How could this be? So, I phoned our publisher, Torchlight, and asked for an explanation and here is what was said. It seems that publishers send out hundreds of copies of a book to newspapers, magazines and reviewers. Certain mailroom employees recognize the packages and remove the books, list them online, hoping to pocket the profits. So, there you have it, stealing integrity (or in this instance, our book, Integrity Matters) is now part of a business made slimy by crooked employees.

Over the past few months our topics have addressed much more weighty issues than common pilfering of mail and low-level thievery. Our Integrity Matters columns have addressed serious issues such as: atrocities in war, performance-enhancing drug abuse, ethnic cruelty, police integrity and culture-destroying greed. However, this time a petty crime has gotten under my skin. Publishers know that a certain amount of dollars are required to market a book: printing, postage, phone calls and brochures (press kits). It seems that this is not enough. Adding to the costs is the brazen stealing of the books, thwarting the marketing of the title and requiring costly follow-up via phone, resending the same book and re-issuing time-consuming emails. What a waste.

Who taught these folks in the mail room to steal? Was it a careless parent who bragged about cheating on taxes? Were the thieveries less dramatic and simply demonstrated by the presence of hotel logo towels in a suitcase being brought home after a particularly wonderful vacation? How many pens and pencils with a company logo made their way home instead of remaining at the office where they were to be used? Or, was the driving of the company car for personal use simply accepted as O.K. since no one really monitored the usage?

Where do people learn that it is really acceptable to be a thief? Is stealing time when making others wait – over and over – another form of abuse and thievery? Is it o.k. to speed down the highway and risk harm to self, family, friends and strangers simply because no law officer is on site? Is it acceptable behavior to make costly long-distance phone calls on the company phones when the boss is not watching or listening? When does poor judgment become thievery?

We are setting examples that might seem to give permission to break basic laws of society – when taken to an extreme – can lead to the breakdown of human decency and trust. Examples set by those in authority (parents, teachers, celebrities, officials) will encourage or discourage integrity. Somehow the Integrity Matters thieves felt they had permission to take our books and try to resell them. How sad for them. How long before we all wake up and set better examples, demonstrating that integrity really does matter, all the time.

Question: (E-116)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 19, 2004

"Employee loses confidence with boss, move"

My current boss asked me to move from the East Coast to the West Coast so that I could be mentored by him in order to accelerate my career in our company. I was clear that such a move was disruptive for me, financially and personally. However, I accepted the opportunity with the commitment that my mentoring would be personally conducted by the same hiring executive with whom I had wanted to work. After only a few weeks into the new and exciting position, my mentor broke his promise. The “boss” has decided to relocate to Asia, asking me to move yet again. He knows my fiancée and I agreed to a 3000 mile separation for a year or even 18 months, but half way around the world was and is out of the question. It is now obvious that he knew before my move West that his own location change was “in the works” even when I directly asked the question about the longer-term commitment to our “mentoring” relationship, specifically, on the West Coast.

What does this say about integrity?

Sign me as dislocated, abandoned and frustrated. So, now, what do I do?

Your story is filled with blank spots. And some attention needs to be given to answering questions related to your own due diligence, to fill in those blank spots – in this instance about both the company and the individual doing the hiring. However, let’s begin with the integrity concern. The answer to the integrity question is clear: someone lied to someone. Using the insights offered in Integrity Matters, it is apparent that several of the “Eight Attributes”© have been violated:

# 1 Character: the leader did not exhibit congruence between what was promised and what was delivered: namely, a stable job location, a personal mentoring commitment for the long-haul and forthrightness in communicating changes before you made a significant relocation.

# 2 Honesty: it sounds like you now lack confidence in the leadership of your mentor, and maybe even the firm, regarding the willingness of those in charge to misrepresent the truth. How very de-motivating this must be for you!

# 3 Openness: the lack of transparency in the communication between you, the protégé and your boss, the mentor, has fractured the trust that is essential for the professional/interpersonal relationship you need to work effectively and productively with this individual.

# 5 Partnership: this “shifting sands” approach to mentoring talented colleagues confirms that your organization does not pride itself on the timely fulfillment of all commitments (including telling the truth, up front, about the availability of a mentor to remain on site to work directly with you).

# 6 Performance: it appears that senior executives in your firm can under perform, at certain higher levels concerning not being honest with fellow employees, in this instance a high-potential employee worthy of mentorship, and still maintain their positions of power and influence. This says a lot about the organization’s values and should be a clear signal to you that something is not right. When promises and performance do not match, integrity is an issue.

# 8 Graciousness: the lack of respect and discipline (for you and your career commitments and your firm’s moral obligation to follow through) confirms that some in higher positions do not demonstrate care and concern for all stakeholders. Find out what leadership in this firm intend to do to make things right and keep track of the timetable, monitoring progress.

Six of our “Eight Attributes”© have been violated. Unless or until those issues are addressed, you are in a situation that appears to lack integrity and could lead to further career frustration, personal emotional pain and understandable self-blame and further disappointment.

At the appropriate time, after you have gained what you need from your current organization, or if they fail to fulfill promises made to “make things right” professionally and personally, then bid them farewell. Check your budget along with your career opportunities, make careful notes regarding better questions to ask before you take the next “giant” move and then say good bye to this organization. Sounds like integrity matters to you, even if it is a stretch, at this moment, to assume that integrity matters to those with whom you currently work.

Question: (E-117)

"Distinguishing Between Perks and Obligations "

My fiancée is in graduate school. This week, she had a medical issue that kept her from completing an assignment. Her professor exempted her from it. She is an excellent student in all respects. She was the only student allowed not to complete the homework. Should she complete the assignment anyway (late), or respect her professor's decision and take the "perk?"

In a phrase, “do the assignment.” The perk for a student is the recognition by the professor that the student is a high-performing individual. This is good news. So, after a genuine thank you to the professor for being sensitive to the need to miss the target date, then it is important to complete the assignment. Future clients and/or employers of this student only need to know that she is qualified to handle their issues, concerns, questions, etc. No responsible professor would ever want students, even the best ones, to miss opportunities to refine their learning and enhance their expertise.

Integrity is at risk if any legitimate assignment is missed, ignored or completed poorly. Legitimate learning is built upon a solid foundation of valid principles and reasonable applications, thoughtfully constructed, clearly communicated, carefully applied and accurately audited for refinement. Each purposeful stroke of the educator’s teaching “brush” is important in the completion of the “canvass” that becomes the foundation for a more productive graduate. Missing any stroke, avoiding any important step in the preparation of the mind and body, undercuts the quality of the learning.

Integrity doesn’t take short-cuts that risk quality performance, intellectual, physical or interpersonal. Integrity demands that both partners in the relationship, in this case both teacher and student, make the most of the learning opportunity to capture and apply the very best that the instructor can pass along. Assignments are designed to bring home important lessons and “learnings” and ought to be accepted and completed to sustain the momentum required for a well developed mind and fine-tuned skill set.

In summary, here is the counsel for your fiancée. Meeting with the professor, she should say and do the following: “Thank you, professor, for your graciousness in allowing me the time to take care of my medical emergency, and, here is the assignment, late, but complete.” In this simple and straightforward response, she demonstrates all “Eight Attributes” © of an Integrity Centered Organization: 1. Character; 2. Honesty; 3. Openness; 4. Authority; 5. Partnership; 6. Performance; 7. Charity; and, 8. Graciousness.

Question: (E-118)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 26, 2004

"Have a plan when it’s time to pass firm on"

It is time for me to pass the senior management role of my company to a high-potential colleague. She has been with me for 20 years, doing a good job. I like and trust her and have confidence that she will take the new position seriously. Her integrity is not in question. Her ability and her drive are way above average. However, my concern is this: how can I minimize the risk of either disruption to long-term business relationships or loss of revenue when she takes over the firm?

Giving up control in larger corporations is generally a structured process, often related to age or financial success. At age 62 or 65, the boss is required to retire. Boards of directors identify the successor and the new regime is introduced. In circumstances where performance is less than stellar, this process can happen precipitously; sometimes dramatic decisions by boards, driven by noisy investors, can have the appearance of an axe-wielding gorilla. Even so, the formula for transition must be clear. Private companies, however, may have various plans for succession and sometimes no plan at all.

In closely-held organizations, including family firms, the process can get mixed up with interpersonal connections, marriage, stock ownership and a whole host of emotional issues. Sometimes performance runs a distant second to other relationship dimensions. Even so, for the stakeholders (employees, suppliers and certainly customers) - the issues are always about productivity and consistency in standards (even if the heir-apparent did marry the boss’s son or daughter). Successful succession is about the economic viability of the institution and it is driven by effective teams which are to be guided by competent leaders – by whatever route they took to reach the top. The fact that you have worked closely and confidently with your likely successor is important. Yet, there are other issues to consider. Below are six questions for which you need clear and positive answers before any final succession decisions are made:

  1. Does the individual being considered understand, appreciate and accommodate the values you hold near and dear?
  2. Will this “heir apparent” treat your customers and clients in ways that are compatible with your operating style?
  3. Will your employees be reassured by this person’s behavior or be “jarred” her conflicting patterns of communication, feedback and management disciplines?
  4. Are you confident in the accuracy of your assessment of her operational and leadership potential?
  5. What is your back-up plan in case the transition with her fails?
  6. Will a mistake in this transition jeopardize your reputation or your future?
    If your answers are not clear or positive to any of the above six questions, then it would be wise to seek “succession expertise” before turning over the keys to your economic future and reputation (and maybe even retirement nest egg)?

Take the necessary precautionary steps and remember: for your customers and your employees, as well as for your suppliers – integrity and success (in succession) matters.

Question: (E-119)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 02, 2004

"Business, ethics will always go together"

Will adding ethics courses to the studies of those pursuing business degrees, undergraduate or graduate level, make a difference in how executives operate?

Probably not! The teaching of business ethics can too easily become self-defeating. Think about the concept. There is no legitimate separation between sound business practices and integrity. Good business means providing high-quality products and customer service, paying what was promised in a timely way and treating all with respect. An overwhelming percentage of people operate this way or the entire economic system would grind to a halt.

If the academic courses do little more than wallpaper over the cracks in our "integrity-challenged" social structure, then irresponsible behaviors will go on, only with a more pleasant appearance. Honest leaders would be honest without any classes on integrity. Integrity is an operational process that must not be treated superficially. Coming into vogue is the latest "instant solution" -- business ethics classes and governance seminars. One-dimensional responses in this era of the "quick fix" appear to be little more than an "ethics" Band-Aid. Simply learning new words and phrases to create an image of honesty and integrity is superficial, literally and figuratively.

On the other hand, substantive engagement with real (ethical) issues in conjunction with the instructive insights of constructive role models can affect behavior positively. It will take more than new words and windows in offices to correct horrible business practices. Leading discussions in classrooms about ethical and socially responsible behaviors cannot take the place of what must be learned at the knees of parents: right from wrong. Conducting conferences involving successful (translate as wealthy, powerful and well-positioned) executives does not replace demanding and fair role models for young people, beginning at home and including adults with whom they come in contact: teachers, coaches, counselors, drill sergeants and mentors.

By the time students are ready to pursue either college-level or graduate studies, they have pretty much made up their minds about what works for them. They know how they intend to treat customers, employees, investors, suppliers, competitors and the members of the communities in which they live. Those who will violate ethical principles remember the movie "Wall Street" and have adopted the expression "greed is good" because it resonates with their admiration for the "tigers of the '90s" who amassed wealth, ignoring integrity-centered behaviors and selfishly seeking personal gain. Many will write the "politically correct" answers on their exams, secretly believing that the ends justify the means. A seminar is unlikely to reform their attitudes.

Question: (E-120)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 23, 2004

"Press on with recycling campaign efforts"

I live in England. Do you think companies should be obliged to provide recycling facilities in their offices? My manager thinks I am asking for too much. He says I am just being a hippy. Since I disagree with him, how am I to argue my case?

Recycling is a modern-day response to compensating for the multiple ways human beings have both constructively used and destructively abused the earth's natural resources. The need to argue the case for recycling seems to offer no added value to those who might enter such a debate. Here are two simple and straightforward truths. The earth is a fabulous source of raw materials. Using up those marvelous resources and not attempting to preserve, protect and replenish them is both self-centered and short-sighted. Those who understand and agree with these two statements know that recycling is simple common sense. Those who cannot grasp the intelligence of the two statements will not be argued into submission. Spend your energies recycling, with or without corporate assistance. You will anyway.

This is not to suggest that your employer must use scarce capital to build a recycling facility that is out of scale to available resources; it does mean that the recycling resources in your community should be used appropriately.

Of the "Eight Attributes"© that we have defined as integrity-centered behaviors, # 6 Charity is the one that most adequately affirms the importance and legitimacy of recycling. Over and over, the same questions need to be answered: Is your organization a responsible steward of the people and assets within its responsibilities? Does your organization reach out to those in need? When discussing the concept of charity with youngsters representing the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County, this definition stood out: give to others with no strings attached - don't expect to get anything back. Almost everyone understands the importance of caring for the less fortunate, the injured, the handicapped, those who are sick and alone, the homeless and certainly the elderly. Many folks appreciate the need to be giving of both time and money.

But, what about the source of the oxygen we breathe? Do we care for the air, the trees, the plants, oceans, wetlands and all of the other sources of minerals and natural resources that fuel our work, our life-style and our homes? We owe the earth a great deal. We owe the children of our grandchildren no less. The importance and legitimacy of caring for the earth pro-actively (recycling) seems all too obvious.

Integrity-centered living says that the better job we do now will enable those who follow us to live better and longer. So, yes, recycling is sound behavior because it is integrity-centered. Recycling looks at the earth as a space we occupy for only a short time. The earth is simply on loan to us. We should respect it. We should make it easy for those with whom we live and work to protect it.

Thoughtful people do not take others for granted. Neither should they take the earth for granted. Yes, recycle - all the time.

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