Recently, Pat Koch of the Holiday World Theme Park here in Indiana had a quote for the ages:
“Integrity is like virginity. You either have it or you don’t.”
Since I’ve been working with some folks lately with issues revolving around integrity, the quote really resonated with me as I moved a couple of managers through the decision making process about their employees. The question to ask is simple – Were these issues of performance caused by not knowing what to do or was it a breakdown of integrity? If someone does not know what to do or if there is a larger system issue that is causing difficulty, then we should strive to work with someone to fix the problem. Given the value of good talent, it’s important that people be given the opportunity to know what doing good looks like so that they can learn and be valuable in the days, week, months, and maybe even years ahead.
Contrast that to someone having a breakdown in performance because of poor integrity. When it comes to integrity issues, the learning curve should be non-existent. This is something that even in my early days working at a theme park (not Holiday World) I knew and acted upon. One of the only times I laughed directly at and openly mocked a supervisor (instead of with a supervisor) was a time when it was suggested we give someone 30 days to “improve their attitude.” I stated that the attitude needs to change immediately even if some of the resulting behaviors take a little longer. Those acting with integrity will adapt immediately and will strive to meet performance expectations even if the skill isn’t there. Knowledge and skills can be learned while one’s attitude and acting with integrity is chosen. It’s important to recognize that and be able to discern the difference.
Two scenarios with similar stories but different perceptions of integrity. Scenario A has an employee come to work and take a smoke break outside, but under the canopy of a house. We tell people to smoke outside away from clients but this house has extra restrictions from the landlord. This person hadn’t worked there before and was told the rule. Next time, they stepped out to the sidewalk. Scenario B has an employee who is caught smoking in the bathroom at a home. Once discovered, the person is counseled on our policy of not smoking inside. The next week, the person in scenario B is again caught smoking in the bathroom. At that point, he is invited to leave the organization. Rather than act with integrity, they demonstrated that it wasn’t there.
Finally, as we reflect upon Pat’s quote, think about what integrity means to you and how it can be demonstrated with each interaction we have throughout our busy days.