Principles are the codes by which we live our lives. Some of the principles we live by are programmed into us by our parents, others we pick up along the way. Some principles require work, practice, and intention. Others are simply ingrained in us and we practice them without even realizing it. As a company, we at IMS operate inside of a set of culture principles that give us a playbook for what we’re going to do and who we’re going to be. In order for principles to be more than just words in a company handbook or beautifully stenciled noise on the walls of a corporate office, they need to be practiced, trained and tested. They need to be lived. In this series, I’ll explore several of our IMS principles as well as a few others that have been top of mind. Today: Integrity.
The other day I stopped at Whole Foods for a couple apples I wanted to bring on a hike later that afternoon. I was in a hurry, distracted, a phone call in my ear and a list of to-do’s in my head. I tossed a couple Honey Crisps into a plastic bag and was halfway through the parking lot before realizing I had walked right past the checkout lines and out the door without paying for the apples. Oops. I stopped and looked around. Was a security guard going to come charging after me? Nope. No one seemed to have noticed.
I could have kept walking and successfully pulled off the heist of the century, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Sure, it was just a couple apples, a loss of maybe fifty cents for Whole Foods. I’m sure Jeff Bezos could have absorbed it. And it’s not like I was stealing, it was an honest mistake. I could have justified it as, “Hey, they should have been paying better attention” or “I’ve paid for plenty of apples in my life, I deserve to get a couple on the house.” But all of that was beside the point. It was a matter of integrity. My integrity.
Living with integrity means adhering to a set of ethics and morals, practicing honesty, fulfilling promises made, following through on commitments made. In short, integrity means sticking to your guns even when it’s the last thing on Earth you want to do. And that can be challenging, especially because integrity plays a role in every aspect of our lives. In our careers, in our relationships, even in the way we engage with our bodies, our health and vitality, having integrity is key.
Gary found himself in a real conundrum. About a month ago he was coming up on a hard deadline and the boss was really climbing up his ass about what was causing the delay. As team leader it was his responsibility to bring the project home and he was starting to panic. One night he was alone at the office, burning the midnight oil, when he stumbled across the problem. Gary had given the wrong information to one of his team members and it had caused a chain reaction of missteps that created the bottleneck they couldn’t get through.
So, he had solved the problem, but in doing so, he learned that he was the cause of the problem in the first place. Considering the amount of undue stress it had caused around the office, finding the solution created its own problem. Gary was going to be in the shithouse. Unless…he blamed it on the person he gave the bad information to. In fact, with just a couple keystrokes, he could erase his fingerprints altogether. But could he live with it?
Integrity in career means being reliable and dependable. It means being trustworthy, respectful and honest. It means having a strong work ethic and consistently driving to produce high quality results. And, maybe most importantly, it means taking responsibility for your actions, especially when you make a mistake. So, did Gary own up to his oversight and take his lumps? Or did he cave to his own selfish interest? I don’t know, Gary’s not a real person. But I’d like to think he did the right thing.
Then there’s Ramona. She hates 90’s rock music. Grunge. She hears the first chord of a Nirvana song and she dives for the NEXT button. Neal loves grunge. Can’t get enough of the stuff, and recently he’s been seriously talking about starting a Pearl Jam tribute band. Neal is Ramona's husband, which makes things interesting. Not only is she appalled by the idea of her garage being turned into a rehearsal studio, she also knows that Neal has the singing voice of a wounded sea lion and his guitar playing sounds like a violent crime is being committed.
Ramona doesn’t want to hurt Neal’s feelings. And she wants him to do what makes him happy, of course. But she also owes it to him to be honest about the level of his abilities. Jamming with some friends on the weekend is one thing, but actually starting a band and expecting to be booked into clubs to play real songs for real people was an alternate universe. She knew they would settle in the right spot, but first she was going to have put herself in the role of the bad guy, the sour puss, the party pooper. She’s not any of those things, of course, and Neal will come to see that. She’s just answering to integrity in their relationship and that’s not always an easy thing to do.
Integrity in relationships means being authentic, vulnerable and honest. Even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation, and knowing that what we must share will have an impact. We don’t always have to agree with each other, or approve of every decision the other person makes, but having integrity in the relationship means approaching those moments with compassion, openness and kindness. On Neal’s part, integrity means listening to what Ramona has to say and trusting that she’s coming from a place of love and compassion. It means not blaming, keeping score or making things personal. It sometimes falls under the heading of “easier said than done” but practicing integrity is key to a happy and fulfilling relationship.
Now let’s take a look at Cheyenne. Thirty-six, single, career-oriented, and seriously out of shape. In the past year, she’s tried five different fitness programs, six different diets, joined and quit three different gyms, and ingested enough lemon juice and Tabasco sauce to kill a small elephant. The outcome of her efforts has been a gain of five pounds and feeling worse about herself than ever before. So, what the heck is going on?
Cheyenne is not living inside of integrity when it comes to her own health and fitness. She’s caught in the “New Year’s Resolution Loop”. You know what I’m talking about. Start the year with big hopes and dreams, lofty promises and expectations, only to watch them dwindle as the days pass until, somewhere around March, they become a distant memory. Then, come January 1, we start all over again.
Integrity in health and fitness starts with being honest with yourself. What is it you really want to get from your fitness program? Are you really committed or just dipping your toes in the water? Are you really willing to do the work it’s going to take to reach your goals? Cheyenne’s knee jerk answer to those questions is, “F#*k yeah! Let’s rock n’ roll!” But clearly, her actions don’t align with her enthusiastic response. Because she’s not being honest with herself. And as long as she’s not being honest with herself, integrity will inevitably break down. “That diet is a scam”. “Keeping a food journal is for the birds”. “I deserve a break today”. (And tomorrow.) (And maybe the day after that.)
I chose to put integrity in health and fitness last because, in a way, it’s a bellwether of how we practice integrity in our lives as a whole. If you aren’t being honest and loving to yourself, how can you be honest and loving to others? If you don’t keep your word to yourself, how can you keep it for others? Before you can have integrity in the workplace or in your relationships, you have to have integrity in yourself.
As I said, here at IMS, we follow the guiding set of culture principles and not least among them is Integrity. Without integrity we could not survive as an organization. Honesty, responsibility, accountability, respect, gratitude and service. Those are the aspects of integrity that we bring to our work each and every day. And the good news is, we can teach you how to train those qualities in yourself.
I work with high-achievers. People at the top of their game. My clients are individuals who want to make an impact—whether it is on their family, their community or the world at large—they have a drive and desire to be exceptional, and they want RESULTS. Part of creating those results is developing and training a principle of Integrity. One of the places I go deep into training principles is with the Elite Cohort, a group of up to 20 individuals who drive together through a year-round curriculum led by yours truly. These folks want to optimize every area of life, and we get results.
The current Elite Cohort is full. The chemistry is just right, and the majority of people have been driving together for nearly 3 years now. However, my leadership team and I have our eyes on several clients who may be a great fit for this training, and will curate another Elite Cohort as candidates emerge. You can find more information at joeyklein.com/elite-cohort, and book an Alignment Call to explore what’s possible. I firmly believe that everyone deserves to live a life they love.