So many of us have to make decisions that define who we are and what we believe in. It's that moment when we arrive at the crossroads of choosing between toeing the line for the wrong reasons or doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do, period.

Billionaire Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, understood this premise by calling integrity the most important hiring trait you want in an employee. Buffett said: 

We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.

Another billionaire, the late Jon Huntsman, Sr., who grew his chemical company from scratch to a $12 billion enterprise, attributes integrity to his success. He wrote in his bestselling book Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times that the difference between the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful is character.

Finding someone with integrity and character

Let's face it, we're in an age of increasing polarization and social upheaval, even in business, where the gender pay gap, while narrowing, still persists and value and dignity for other human beings are slowly becoming extinct.

And while blatant sexual harassment has declined since the #MeToo movement began, research reported in Harvard Business Review suggests that workplaces may be seeing a "backlash effect," or an increase in hostility toward women.

Yes, we need to pump the atmosphere with more integrity. With the virtuous trait in short supply, hiring people dangerously close to Buffett's "dumb and lazy" scale may have an adverse effect on the growth of the businesses we lead.

To avert disaster, consider assessing and observing job candidates, new hires, and employees in a probationary period for these integrity behaviors on display:

1. Do they communicate openly?

A person of integrity knows that open and honest communication is not only the ethical thing to do; it's what builds trust and increases value, so work gets done efficiently, and without barriers or politics. 

2. Do they practice what they preach?

Do they follow through on their promises or commitments? People walking in integrity deliver on their word and set a good example for others to do the same.

3. Do they display a positive attitude?

Take an unhappy customer or a disgruntled co-worker, for example. High integrity in a colleague will show up by staying calm and positive during tough conversations; it also shows up with firmness and boundaries to set limits on people during spiraling disagreements and unhealthy conflict.

4. Do their actions match their words?

How would you feel if, every day, your colleague said what he meant, stayed true to himself, and behaved in accordance with this? Chances are you'd quickly trust the judgments and decisions of that person because his actions are consistent with his words. This works wonders in environments with heavy people-collaboration.

5. Do they hold themselves accountable?

People operating on integrity hold themselves accountable not just to their superiors but also to their peers and fellow coworkers. They treat everyone fairly and with respect and dignity, regardless of another person's identity or standing in the organization.

Published on: Aug 26, 2019
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