Do the Right Thing

I saw a great movie over the weekend that brought up a great point about personal branding and career success: Win Win.  Paul Giamatti plays a small town lawyer whose practice is hurting.  He needs money to pay his bills like health care insurance, cutting down a dead tree in his front yard and fixing the furnace in his office.  He finds what he considers to be a safe way to take advantage of a situation and commits an ethical breach that comes back to haunt him. 

Win Win reminded me of the career advice in Tweet 62 in my career success book, Success Tweets.  “Your brand should be unique to you, but built on integrity.  Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

In Win Win Paul Giamatti thought no one was looking – and they weren’t at the time.  But as things played out, several people learned of his ethical breach and lost respect for him.  Things worked out OK for him in the end, but he was in real danger of losing his law practice. 

According to Wikipedia, “Integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles.”  Integrity and consistency are intertwined.  People who are consistent in their actions are seen as people with a high degree of integrity.

Oprah says, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”  This is true.  If you practice situational ethics – doing the right thing only when you’re in the public eye — you aren’t really a person of high integrity, you’re just pretending to be one.

Besides, it’s hard to act one way in public, and another in private.  So to be safe, resolve to act like Oprah.  Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – not because you’ll get credit, or avoid getting into trouble.

John Maxwell is a well-known business author.  One of his books sends the same message.  It’s called, There’s No Such Thing As Business Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions.  According to John that rule is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In other words, do the right thing.  Act with integrity all the time.

There’s a practical side to this too.  Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”  In other words, if you’re always a person of high integrity, it’s easy to be a person of high integrity; there are no complicating factors – like remembering what you did or said in a given situation.

Polonius gave similar advice to Hamlet.  “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the day the night, thou canst be false to no man.”  Roy Blackman, my father in law, passed away a few years ago.  This quote was his epitaph.  It was on the program handed out at his funeral.  Roy embodied it in how he lived his life.  It was the only piece of advice he gave his grandson, Matt, as he went off to college.  When you act with integrity, you are being true to yourself.

Oprah, John Maxwell, Mark Twain and Shakespeare are all in agreement on one common sense piece of career advice.  If you want to become known as a person of high integrity – and I believe integrity is the cornerstone of any personal brand – act as a person of high integrity all the time – not just when it suits you, or when someone might notice.

Here’s a story to illustrate this point.  Cathy, my wife, was a flight attendant for 36 years.  Seniority is a very important thing in the airline industry.  It governs how you bid for trips, positions on the airplane and vacations – everythin that is important to a flight attendant’s quality of work life.

Cathy was very active in her union.  And seniority was one of the union’s most sacred principles.  A few years before she retired, Cathy’s airline made a big push into the international market.  International flights were plum assignments; they went to people with high seniority.

However, the airline realized that it would be to their advantage to have some flight attendants who spoke the language of the country to which they were flying on these international flights. 

Most flight attendants in her airline, and her seniority level,  spoke English only.  The airline proposed putting two “language speakers” on each international flight.  Many people, including Cathy, were upset with this arrangement as they felt it violated the seniority concept.

Cathy used to fly from the US to London.  One day I said to her, “This whole language speaker issue doesn’t really affect you.  You fly to London; there are no language speakers on those flights.  Why do you care so much?”  She said, “I believe in the concept of seniority.  It doesn’t matter if I’m affected by language speakers.  It’s the principle of the thing.”  That’s consistency – and integrity — in action.

Then there’s Tiger Woods.  Tiger had one of the best personal brands in the world.  He earned close to $100 million in 2009 on it.  If you were following the news in late 2009 and early 2010 (how could you miss it?), you know that the Tiger brand has taken som e serious hits because of his marital indiscretions which have come to light.

Sadly for Tiger, his integrity is now in question – and that’s being kind.  His wife has left him, taking the kids.  Several sponsors have dropped him.  And, his golf game is suffering.  It will be interesting to see how he does this week at The Masters.  I’m not writing this to pass judgment on Tiger – enough people have done that already.  I am writing it however, to reinforce my point of building your personal brand on integrity.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Creating positive personal impact is one of the competencies of all successful people.  You create positive personal impact by developing and nurturing your unique personal brand, being impeccable in your presentation of self, and knowing and following the basic rules of etiquette.  Your personal brand is really important.  Don’t mess with it.  Follow the career advice in Tweet 62 in Success Tweets.  “Your personal brand should be uniquely you, but built on integrity.  Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”  As the movie Win Win and Tiger Woods’s case demonstrates, a lack of integrity can lead to serious consequences for a carefully crafted brand.  Take a lesson from Tiger – one he’s learning the hard way – build your personal brand on integrity.

That’s my career advice on the importance of building your personal brand on integrity.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  And, as always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success

Bud

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Comments

  1. I feel it is so important to always have integrity in everything you do. There are way too many people in this world that only have integrity when people are looking or when they will receive something for it. People like that drive me CRAZY!

  2. Kim:
    That puts you in the Oprah camp.
    I agree that if you have real integrity, you are consistent in your actions even if no one is looking.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Bud

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