Integrity in the workplace is foundational for building a trusting and productive team that can function during good times and bad times. Why is this? Because integrity involves honesty, respect, and vulnerability. These three traits are essential ingredients in maximizing engagement and productivity.
When you choose to lead with integrity, you intentionally set yourself up for success by allowing yourself to be open to change and feedback.
As a result, you expose your actual state of thinking and facilitate others to do the same. When leaders can actively engage their team, they instill purpose in their mission and outcomes.
Here are some tips on building trust and leading with integrity.
How to Lead With Integrity
Leading with integrity isn’t for the faint of heart. It involves emotion, critical thinking, and the willingness to be exposed to the opinions of others for the benefit of the team.
High-level leaders with integrity understand these fundamental ingredients for success and actively choose to use them in their day-to-day communications.
To lead with integrity, today’s leaders must be aware of their actions and respect their team members’ perspectives. It isn’t rocket science, but it does take intention and follow-through to make it happen.
1. Have Hard Conversations Early
Set the tone early to establish trust and, more importantly, show respect. Hard conversations are inevitable in the workplace, so good luck trying to escape them.
They’re essential because businesses solve problems, and where there are problems, human emotions and feelings get involved.
Those who lead with integrity understand this concept and choose to own it every single step along the way. They frame discussions by asking questions, taking inventory of the importance of the conversation, and trying to approach the topic from a neutral perspective.
As they work through the discussion, they utilize emotional intelligence to understand both viewpoints and create solutions to move forward. Keeping it simple is the recipe for success, especially when it’s a conversation that you don’t want to have but need to.
2. Clear is Kind When It Comes to Communication
Whether cultivating a relationship in the office or with your partner, this concept can pay dividends for a lifetime.
In Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, she describes the concept of using “clear is kind” in communication with peers and colleagues. In her experience, muddled communication and a lack of clarity caused more problems. This is why she supports the phrase “caring personally and challenging directly.”
Specifically, when most leaders attempt to provide feedback, they try to be kind and shelter the individual receiving feedback to soften the blow.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t help either party and, in the long run, could cause more problems. If peers don’t receive the necessary feedback about their job performance or expectations, they will continue to operate at the same level of inefficiency.
Furthermore, this could hurt the team or inhibit their chances of making the needed improvements to enhance their ability to execute. There’s a difference between being a jerk and being clear. Those with integrity in their leadership know the difference and confidently walk this line.
3. Be Transparent
Your peers and colleagues pick up a lot more than just your words. Body language, subtle nuances, and processing things you didn’t say can significantly affect your ability to lead with integrity and build trust with your team.
To lead with integrity, you must be aware of your actions and be transparent with your motives. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest.
For example, are you having a bad day because of external factors outside the office? Tell your colleagues within reason. Or maybe you’re struggling with a new role and don’t feel fully equipped to tackle it on your own? Ask for help.
This transparency can be crucial for success and team building because it shows that you’re human, open to feedback, and willing to be vulnerable to improve. Your team will be able to relate to these aspects and be more open to doing the same.
Being transparent is worth the investment!
4. Recognize Mistakes, Then Move On
We all make mistakes. It’s just whether or not you choose to acknowledge them. Businesses exist to solve problems, and where there are problems, there will be miscalculations.
But a mistake is only a label; what matters is what you do with it. Many of the greatest inventions throughout the world came about as mistakes and turned into massively successful companies and initiatives.
Trial and error is a beautiful thing, especially in the business world. Unfortunately, traditional schools teach us that making mistakes is wrong, so we rarely challenge this dogma. But in business, taking calculated risks and making mistakes is the secret to success because it allows a company to learn quickly.
Mistakes are a part of the journey, so embrace them. Regardless of who makes a mistake, be open about it and the subsequent learning opportunities that arise from it.
Embracing this philosophy will destigmatize the mistake-making process and create a trustworthy haven for trying new things. Innovation doesn’t happen in an echo chamber; It happens with intentional and repeated trial and error. Learning from those mistakes is where the actual value is created.
5. Show Vulnerability
Perfection is a fallacy. Yet, those who try to portray it usually shoot themselves in the foot.
Vulnerability doesn’t mean being weak or predictive. It merely means being your genuine self, with no strings attached. Brene Brown’s research has shown that vulnerability and being your authentic self is the underlying root of human connection.
Forming authentic relationships with your peers can create ripple effects that could last far longer than your tenure. Plus, when you get to know someone, you will get the best out of them, as both parties are willing to work harder to help the team grow and prosper.
Being honest and genuine won’t cost you any money, but it could make you a fortune in the long run.
6. Say “I Don’t Know” When You Don’t
The “fake it til you make it” mentality may work in some situations, but not when you’re working within a team and having to make decisions.
Saying “I don’t know” can be one of the most empowering phrases in your playbook because it shows that you’re open and willing to hear other perspectives. It also shows that you’re human. And while that may seem scary, it’s the reality.
We’re imperfect beings, so why do we work so hard to act like we’re not? This whole movement of perfection throughout social media and glorifying those who either aesthetically or financially accomplish significant tasks is overrated.
Influencers post their best photos, not their worst.A nd those who brag about their finances rarely post their checking or savings accounts, so how can we take them for face value?
Actively deciding to lead with integrity involves the willingness to know. And that will allow you to know who to trust and seek answers from in the future.
7. Ask For Feedback; Then Give It
When you actively ask for honest feedback from a coworker, you open up a dialogue of discussion that can facilitate high-level conversations and discussions. By asking first for feedback, you allow reciprocity for your colleague to be open to feedback, creating a give-and-take relationship.
Feedback is inevitable, especially in business. Businesses solve problems, which is why continuous and authentic feedback is crucial for success. Those who can receive feedback but also give it are the ones who accomplish incredible feats. They’re able to work together with others to achieve goals that are greater than themselves.
And when the ego is involved, we must find ways to work around our emotions. Integrity in a leader is shown when you are willing to put your ego on the line to create a stronger bond. These bonds can make or break a team.
8. Listen to Understand, Not to Respond
How many of us make this mistake over and over again? We find ourselves sitting next to someone, engaged in a conversation, when they suddenly ask us, “what do you think?” and we have no response. It’s embarrassing and, more importantly, downright disrespectful.
Sadly, this happens more often than most of us admit. A majority of our population is distracted. And even when we’re engaged, we’re not that engaged.
Being physically present looks and feels very different than being mentally and emotionally present. Choosing to lead with integrity involves active listening and understanding.
It requires intention and cognitive processing behind the words and phrases we communicate with colleagues, and it is needed to create trusting relationships.
Active listening comes through our body language and lack of interruptions. To seek to understand, you should be able to repeat to them what they stated, with a thoughtful response that answers the question or problem they posed.
Building trust takes time, just like a thoughtful conversation. Choose your actions wisely and watch your relationships flourish through active listening.
9. Begin With the End in Mind
Leadership is an ever-evolving wheel of investing time, energy, and resources into a relationship. But if you don’t know where you want to go, you will have no idea whether or not you will get there.
When Stephen Covey wrote his NY Times Bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he laid out the foundation for success and achievement in life.
Interestingly, the second of the seven habits was “begin with the end in mind.”
Not because it sounded cool but because he realized it was essential for success.
As you choose to lead with integrity, you will realize that your actions today have consequences tomorrow. Every day matters. And when you decide to begin with the end in mind, you can reverse engineer what you want the final result to be and work backward to create it.
Success looks different for everyone. It doesn’t always come down to financial goals for each individual.
For example, each person might require a different approach to getting there, which is why individuality matters. Using this approach, you can facilitate a high-level success roadmap and ensure the path to getting there.
Leading with integrity starts with small daily habits. They will eventually turn into tremendous outcomes and the accomplishment of lofty goals. And Barry O’Reilly states “think big, but start small.”
This process will allow you to lead with integrity and create trusting relationships with your colleagues and peers. Those who have been successful in business or life will tell you that it’s all about the people. So as you establish your dream team, make sure you intentionally invest in them.
It’s the best investment you can make in business.
Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com