10 Tips to Improve Your Own Integrity

April 30, 2019

Trust and integrity are inextricably linked. I believe before you can trust other people, you must trust yourself.

That means you must not be fighting with yourself in any way, which is a pretty tall order.

Integrity is about what you do or think when nobody else in the world would know. It is an interesting topic because it is very difficult to determine your own personal level of integrity.

We all justify ourselves internally for most of the things we do. We have it figured out that to take a pencil home from work is no big deal because we frequently do work from home.

We drive 5 mph over the speed limit because not doing so would cause a traffic hazard while everyone else is going 10 mph over the limit anyway. We taste a grape at the grocery store as a way to influence our buying decision.

When we are short changed, we complain, but when the error is in the other direction, we might pocket the cash. We lie about our age. We sneak cookies. If you have never done any of these things in your whole life? Let me know, and I will nominate you for sainthood.

There are some times in life when we do something known by us to be illegal, immoral, or dumb. We do these things because they are available to us and we explain the sin with an excuse like “nobody’s perfect.”

I guess it is true that all people (except newborns) have done something of which to be ashamed. So what is the big deal? Since we all sin, why not relax and enjoy the ride?

The conundrum is where to draw a moral line in the sand. Can we do something that is wrong and learn from that error so we do not repeat it in the future? I think we can.

I believe we have not only the ability but the mandate to continually upgrade our personal integrity. Here are ten ideas that can help the process:

1. Pay attention to what you are doing – Make sure you recognize when you are crossing over the moral line.

2.  Reward yourself – When you are honest with yourself about something you did that was wrong, that is personal growth, and you should feel great about that.

3. Intend to change – Once you have become conscious of how you rationalized yourself into doing something not right, vow to change your behavior in that area.

4. Reinforce others – Sometimes other people will let you know something you did, or are about to do, is not right. Thank these people sincerely, for they are giving you the potential for personal growth.

5. Check In with yourself – Do a scan of your own behaviors and actions regularly to see how you are doing. Many people just go along day by day and do not take the time or effort to examine themselves.

6. Recognize Rationalization – We all rationalize every day. By simply turning up the volume on your conscience, you can be more alert to the temptations before you. That thought pattern will allow more conscious choices in the future.

7. Break habits – Many incorrect things come as a result of bad habits. Expose your own habits and ask if they are truly healthy for you.

8. Help others – Without being sanctimonious, help other people see when they have an opportunity to grow in integrity. Do this without blame or condemnation; instead do it with love and helpfulness.

9. Admit your mistakes to others – Few things are as helpful for growth as blowing yourself in when you did not have to.  When you admit a mistake that nobody would ever find out about, it says volumes about your personal character.

10. Ask for forgiveness – People who genuinely ask for forgiveness are usually granted it. While you cannot ever wipe the slate completely clean, the ability to ask for forgiveness will be taking concrete steps in the right direction.

Which of these 10 tips do you think is the most difficult to do, but the most important one of the bunch.  My own personal opinion is that #6 has the most power.

Some people will say, “I don’t believe I am guilty of doing the kinds of things in this article.”  If you truly believe that, I challenge you to think harder and recognize that perfection is impossible to achieve, and all of us need to tune our senses to understand our weaknesses.

We all need to build our own internal trust so we can trust other people more. To do that, it is important to follow the ten ideas listed above. These ideas will allow you to move consciously in a direction of higher personal integrity.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


9 Steps to Rebuild Trust

April 1, 2012

I believe trust between people is like a bank account. The balance is what determines the level of trust at any point in time, and it is directional. I might trust you today more than you trust me. We make deposits and withdrawals in the trust account nearly every day with the things we say and do. Usually the deposits are made in small steps that add up to a large balance over time. Unfortunately, withdrawals can be massive due to what I call “The Ratchet Effect.” All prior trust may be wiped out quickly. Nobody is happy when trust is lost.

I believe trust withdrawals can lead to a long term higher level of trust if they are handled well. Just as in a marriage when there is a major falling out, if the situation is handled well by both parties in a cooperative spirit, the problem can lead to an even stronger relationship in the long term. Let’s investigate some steps that can allow the speedy rebuilding of trust.

Act Swiftly

Major trust withdrawals can be devastating, and the trauma needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Just as a severe bodily injury requires immediate emergency care, so does the bleeding of emotional capital need to be stopped after a major letdown. The situation is not going to heal by itself, so both parties need to set aside normal routines in order to focus significant energy on regaining equilibrium.

Verify care

Both people should spend some time remembering what the relationship felt like before the problem. In most cases there is a true caring for the other person, even if it is eclipsed by the hurt and anger of the moment. It may be a stretch for some people to mentally set aside the issue, but it would be helpful to do that, if just as an exercise. If the problem had never happened, would these people care about each other? If one person cannot recognize at least the potential for future care, then the remedial process is blocked until that happens.

Establish a desire to do something about it

If reparations are to be made, both people must cooperate. If there was high value in the relationship before the breach, then it should be possible to visualize a return to the same level or higher level of trust. It may seem out of reach if the problem was a major let down, but it is critical that both parties really want the hurt to be resolved.

Admit fault and accept blame

The person who made the breach needs to admit what happened to the other person. If there is total denial of what occurred, then no progress can be made. Try to do this without trying to justify the action. Focus on what happened, even if it was an innocent gaffe. Often there is an element of fault on the part of both parties, but even if one person is the only one who did anything wrong, an understanding of fault is needed in this step. Sometimes neither party did anything particularly wrong, but the circumstances led to trust being lost.

Ask for forgiveness

It sounds so simple, but many people find it impossible to verbalize the request for forgiveness, yet a pardon is exactly what has to happen to enable the healing process. The problem is that saying “I forgive you” is easy to say but might be hard to do when emotions are raw. True and full forgiveness is not likely to happen until the final healing process has occurred.

Determine the cause

This is a kind of investigative phase where it is important to know what happened in order to make progress. It is a challenge to remain calm and be as objective with the facts as possible. Normally the main emotion is one of pain, but anger can accompany the pain. Both people need to describe what happened, because the view from one side will be significantly different from the opposite view. Go beyond describing what happened, and discuss how you felt about what happened. Do not cut this discussion off until both parties have exhausted their descriptions of what occurred and how they felt about it. Sometimes it helps in this stage to do some reverse role playing where each person tries to verbalize the situation from the perspective of the other.

Develop a positive path forward

The next step is the mutual problem solving process. Often two individuals try to do this without the preparatory work done above, which is more difficult. The thing to ask in this phase is “what would have to happen to restore your trust in me to at least the level where it was before.” Here, some creativity can really help. You are looking for a win-win solution where each party feels some real improvement has been made. Do not stop looking for solutions just because it is difficult to find them. If you have gotten this far, there is going to be some set of things that can begin the healing process. Develop a path forward together. What new behaviors are you both going to exhibit with each other to start fresh.

Agree to take action

There needs to be a formal agreement to take corrective action. Usually this agreement requires modified behaviors on the part of both people. Be as specific as possible about what you and the other person are going to do differently. The only way to hold each other accountable for progress is to have a clear understanding of what will be different.

Check back on progress

Keep verifying that the new behaviors are working and modify them, if needed, to make positive steps every day. As the progress continues, it will start getting easier, and the momentum will increase. Make sure to smell the roses along the way. It is important to celebrate progress as it occurs, because that reinforcement will encourage continued progress. If there is a another set-back, it is time to cycle back on the steps above and not give up on the relationship just because the healing process is a long one.

In many cases, it is possible to restore trust to a higher level than existed before the breach. This method is highly dependent on the sincerity with which each person really does want the benefits of a high trust relationship with the other person. That outcome is really good news because it allows a significant trust withdrawal to become an opportunity instead of a disaster.


When Trust is Lost

June 27, 2010

There is a whole sector of the trust technology that deals with betrayal of trust. The bottom line is that hard-earned trust is easy to lose and very hard to rebuild when the basis for it has been destroyed. If you would like to read a good book on the technology, you can read Trust and Betrayal by Dennis and Michelle Reina.

In my work, I use the concept of a trust withdrawal as a trigger point for building trust to a higher level. It takes a lot of work, but it is critical to do because trusting relationships are what drive good performance on every level. Great leaders use withdrawals in the trust account to redefine the relationship quickly if possible. Rather like a marriage, if a leader can take the right steps after an inevitable withdrawal, the relationship can emerge stronger rather than wrecked. Sometimes the stakes are too high and the personal interface time does not allow a rebuilding process to happen.

We were reminded of the conundrum when President Obama accepted the resignation of General Stanley McCrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan. I am not going into the politics of the situation and whether Obama was right or wrong to take the action. Any strong action by a president is going to draw a firestorm of rhetoric from supporters and detractors. The fundamental reason why McCrystal was asked to step down had to do more with trust than talent, capability, or even circumstances. Obama said that he had great admiration for the work of McCrystal over the years and the personal relationship they had, but the actions in giving that interview to Rolling Stone “eroded the trust that is necessary for our team to work together…” In a time when actions every hour of every day hold the fate of American lives and interests, there was just no room for anything less than a trusting relationship among the top leaders. That is why Obama instinctively went to General David Petraeus to fill the void. Trust with McCrystal will need to be rebuilt over time offline and will probably never be whole again.

Every day there are countless decisions made in corporations and families around the world where trust becomes the defining characteristic. It actually seals the fate of organizations and relationships every day. The majority of promotions and marriages are based on trust, while the majority of dismissals and divorces are rooted in lack of trust. In my three books on trust, I outline numerous aspects of trust and how to rebuild damaged relationships. Here are a few ideas that apply to your world and might have led to a different outcome in national drama we witnessed.

If a leader can extend trust when it seems irrational to do so, it is often a huge and lasting deposit in the trust account. The ability to forgive an errant subordinate who was clearly off base can strengthen rather than sever the relationship. The nature of trust is reciprocal. When we are extended trust, even if we do not at the moment deserve it, a chain reaction goes on within us to live up to that commitment far into the future.

The ability to forgive someone who has wronged you, especially in a very public and impactful way, flies in the face of conventional wisdom in most organizations. An egregious sin needs to be punished in proportion in order to maintain discipline and respect. An ancient Jew from Nazareth taught the world that forgiveness often leads to higher respect in the long run. Ultimately, greater power is derived from humility, empathy, and love than from command, discipline, and control.

The ability to reinforce candor is another significant way to build trusting relationships. When someone points to something about a situation that is happening that does not seem logical, it is easy for a leader to become defensive and clobber the messenger. Leaders who have a high batting average at reinforcing rather than punishing people who express their concerns take the higher road to building trusting relationships.

Please do not misread me here. I do not want to get into a political debate; I would lose in a heartbeat as I am not a political animal. My objective is to use the McCrystal case as illustrative of lesser decisions we all are called on to make on a daily basis. I do believe Obama made a very difficult call with consideration, maturity, and conviction. It was a defining moment in his presidency, and he passed the test of strength and courage. He also ended a long standing career of excellence and lost a friend, probably for life. History, not I, will determine the wisdom of his decision.