What better time to talk about integrity than in a presidential election year. Certainly the perception of integrity within the building industry is much, much more low-key than the integrity of politicians, but it is the political environment that sets the bar for bad behavior. Unfortunately, people (especially younger people) see what politicians get away with and that can only encourage these men and women to act the same. It appears that there are no rules today for integrity (a.k.a. honesty and thoughtfulness).
Here are my rules for those seeking guidelines for honesty and thoughtfulness in the building design, build, operation, and maintenance community. These are guidelines I have tried to live by and ones I think are important if one is to be characterized as a person with integrity.
- Being polite. How hard is it to say please and thank you or show up at a scheduled meeting on time, just to mention two different types of being courteous?
- Speak your piece. Of course, do so in a polite manner when you offer your experience, because your opinion can matter and it should be shared and not kept confidential.
- Don’t lie. Oh sure, many will say, “I didn’t really lie.” It was “just spin.” But everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. Our industry is not made up of idiots and yet many lie to themselves, e.g., when they knowingly say something will be completed by a specific date but know the project won’t be completed until two weeks beyond the due date.
- Mentoring. This is a characteristic of integrity demonstrated by individuals who take a personal or professional interest in another person. Whether a foster father, foster mother, technical mentor, or a business mentor, the mentor is committing their time to help/guide another person by sharing their years of experience and noting the good and the bad about life and/or business.
- Standing behind your word, work, or product. Many will be quick to direct the blame or deficiency away from their own commitment to maintain their own honor. As one engineer told me years ago: If you make you make a mistake, “muddy the water so that it isn’t clear who is at fault.” He was humorously emphasizing a need to be motivated by self-interest in an industry where errors and omissions insurance is a prerequisite for many.
- A person to be counted on. This is one with the character to make a commitment and to be reliable to do everything within their power to fulfill the commitment on time and as promised.
- Don’t back someone into a corner so that they can’t get away. A mentor of mine gave me this advice early in my career. He said if you want to be respected, then focus on the solution and not on the “criminal.” Some day you may be the one backed into a corner.
These are just seven examples of what I consider as characteristics of a person who possesses integrity. I’d think most would agree with me about them and could probably offer other characteristics that would shape their interpretation of integrity. Unfortunately, it is all those traits that corrode integrity that get the most attention and seemingly are accepted as simply a part of the business. Certainly, politicians have taken this to a higher level when one knows that politicians are in Washington to represent us but let other interests influence their commitment (i.e., their integrity).
On a much smaller scale, how often in the building industry does a member(s) of a building program/project allow integrity to take a backseat to simply getting the job done? How often does a person in responsible charge allow associates to let integrity crumble, resulting in a loss in quality control and/or individual professional development simply because the person in charge has other interests that influence their own performance.
One definition of integrity is:
Integrity is the characteristic of behaving and thinking congruently with one’s personal values and beliefs. Put another way, integrity is doing what you believe to be right, irrespective of the costs, downside, hardships involved.
Can we honestly say we continuously strive each day to fulfill this definition in our personal life and professional life? If you do, I can assure you that you will be a much better engineer, technician, operator, etc., than you will be a politician. ES