Integrity Matters
July 19, 2006

Planning, integrity linked at hip

Question: (E-245)

Dear Jim:

You talk a great deal about how sound planning reflects integrity. Do you believe taking things as they come along and simply reacting lacks integrity?


Yes, way too often! Abdicating responsibility for substantive planning and timely preparation often puts valuable resources at risk, including time, energy, raw materials, individuals and teams. Inadequate planning is almost never constructive. Someone said that 99 percent of the time surprises are not good news - at least in business.

Certain personality types love spontaneity because it allows them to leverage their creative problem-solving prowess to provide last-minute miracles, appearing - time after time - to have saved the day.

Even though proper planning would have discounted their latest dramatic accomplishment, they appear reluctant to drink the glory. But, they do.

Bosses, spouses, parents, children, friends, board members, politicians, social workers and others on life's path know that "a firefighting society breeds arsonists."

Thriving on recognition and rewards, these self-proclaimed super heroes do whatever it takes to secure recognition with their grand entrances, having sanctioned the very "fire" they can't wait to smother.

Children learn early that if they do not properly prepare (homework, managing money, etc.) then one or both parents will bail them out. Co-dependent behaviors thrive from the mutual benefits of poor planning: the need to be needed, allowing others to shrug responsibilities so that someone can maintain manipulative "last-minute" control.

Thankfully, integrity-centered leadership offers a constructive alternative:

  • Differentiate work from play, choosing to plan for work, while enjoying play.
  • Communicate planning limitations and solicit expertise when necessary.
  • Implement according to mutually-accepted standards, in a timely way.
  • Resist the "firefighting" mentality by insisting on pro-active collaboration.
  • Challenge "arsonists" who encourage emergencies, suggesting that their methods are more often self-serving than organizationally productive.
  • Recognize spontaneity as a legitimate source for happiness and celebration that bring value through creativity and integrity-centered relationships.

Remember, however, that being open to opportunities is not the same as ignoring leadership-planning responsibilities at home, work and community.

Leadership integrity comes with a plan that remains open to change.

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