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Power comes from integrity
Power is duty that comes from integrity.
The truth is that at the CEO level there are many opportunities to do wrong. The CEO has a very long leash. There’s little scrutiny above that level in many business situations. And when you clearly have the option—but choose not to take it—you have personal power because of how you handled yourself
and people will see, understand, and respond accordingly.

We like movies with some version of a hero overcoming a hurdle— a time where he could lie, cheat, or steal—but instead he ends up more powerful because of not doing it. Well, that opportunity
comes to you every day to be a hero at the office. “People felt I’d be fair and compassionate. And I got devoted employees because of it. I didn’t need to worry about standing in the doorway at 5:00 and be trampled by exiting employees,” says Dr. Kelvin Kesler, Chief of Ft. Collins Women’s Clinic.

(Author’s Note: Throughout this post, I’ve pretty liberally interchanged words here such as integrity, ethics, character, values, and honesty. I know the dictionary definition is different for each but I’m going to continue interchanging them because you get my point when I use them that it’s all about being a good person. I could even add moral, trustworthy, upright, authentic, sincere, and “does
the right thing.” Whatever word you choose to use is fine—to describe right or wrong—as long as you never try to fool yourself.

You have to be truly true to yourself. As the CEO, no matter how hard you try, you won’t please everyone and some will feel you lack integrity. That’s a price you pay for being in the spotlight. You’ll have enemies. When they appear, listen to what they criticize you for. Change if they are right and be grateful for them—they help you get better.

Integrity is the goal but not always the reality.
The fact is that sometimes integrity takes a back seat to keeping a CEO going in the direction of a target. More than one CEO has stepped over a few marginal hurdles without spending 2 seconds
of thought on people he’s hurting. There is a lot done “in the dark, not in the public light,” as one CEO put it. He explained, “A company starts up a project, adds people, and builds up an infrastructure. Then every 3-5 years they clip it off to make it economically viable. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the division full of people who have to relocate or the 20- year employee who’s losing her job. Companies trim back and see what raises its ugly head. The goal is to gain efficiencies. To get what is good for them in the long term. They give a financial package to people of six or nine months for an early out, help to re-educate them and so forth. It’s patchwork. They do it because it’s demanded of them or there would be an outrage.” (But, on the one hand, you could make the case that the smaller operation was shut down for the common good of the bigger operation.
It can get pretty gray out there as you can tell.)

CEOs have super ordinate goals. They don’t start out to not be ethical. But with pressure from outside sources, timing issues, things can start to slip and slide. Unfortunately, there will always be many times and many companies who do not reward integrity if it gets in the way of getting things done.
“The CEO is still a person. There is no such thing as a perfect person. A CEO may slip from time to time when he sees a chance to do something a little unethical to help make things look better to stockholders or whatever. One time I had a supplier give me a pretty valuable gift but I gave it right back to him. I didn’t want to be indebted to him if things turned sour. To hell with it, do what’s right, I always say,” says Ernie Howell, retired president of WPM Systems. “You don’t have to live with the stockholders or your employees. You stay ethical more for yourself, because you have to live with yourself…. There have always been con artists, in any field, the only difference now is that they can just communicate faster today.”

I was in Japan during their worst nuclear accident in recent history. The television news carried coverage of the Japanese company president whose plant had caused the nuclear leak. He was literally on his knees in front of his employees asking for forgiveness, with the words, “We apologize from the bottom of our hearts.” True, it’s partially a cultural thing, but can you imagine a U.S. president on his or her knees asking for forgiveness? I don’t think so! The same television show had an interview with a U.S. company CEO who had been fired from his highly visible, big company job,
and was going to head an Internet start-up. The reporter asked if his departure had been a humbling experience. He avoided the question so the reporter asked again. After being pressed to answer, all
the CEO would admit was, “I do not wish to repeat the experience.” Known for his arrogance while CEO, he continues it in his new venture.

These two individuals didn’t start out to do anything questionable. Things happen. The best you can do is to listen when the alarm goes off in your head: Every person is the architect of his or her own character. Integrity—character—affects absolutely every other part of your life. It’s the one thing no one can take away, and we can’t lose it unless we choose to. This is your reality; your reputation is what others think, but this is reality. It’s the result of your own effort and endeavors; no one gave it
to you other than early exposure from parents and society. It’s the area to work on the most for it will serve you the best (J. P. Morgan considered the best bank collateral to be “character”).
To create something of value, you must be someone of value.
I have to, and you have to, be careful not to judge—“there but for the grace of God go I” and “walk a mile in my moccasins” are expressions that have lasted for a reason. It’s our responsibility to
seek to understand, not judge.

However good you are, get better
As good as you are, check on what you need to work on to get even better. You should try to get better on every skill part of your job— try to improve the integrity side too. It seems a little silly. You could say you have it or you don’t. I know myself pretty well and I work on being the person my dog
thinks I am but I also know I could be better. And in your heart I bet you feel similarly. “Most people who attain the CEO level have values early on in their career. You can improve management skills but integrity is one thing that has to get stronger. At the end of the day, the other party has to believe in and trust the other party. Trust is most important with the CEO,” says Larry Dickenson, senior vice president, of Boeing. You can reinvent yourself every day (or every month or every year) as necessary. You do not have to rely on what has worked to date. You can change frequently and still be yourself—but always a better self! And by changing yourself I don’t mean like Dustin Hoffman
quipped, “I want to be as I always envisioned myself to be: taller, smaller nose, handsome, better teeth.”

Everyone needs periodic review. “As you get older you have more information about yourself and what you’re good at,” says John Sculley, former CEO of Apple. Don’t wait until you’re older,
have more time, have a problem, or a “change in life.” Do it now. First you have to do a little self-reflection. If you wait until you are at the top to try to be self-reflective, you won’t be able to
because you’ve not developed the habit. Or more likely you won’t want to because you don’t want to “jinx what got me here” as one CEO put it. (You might want to review my book Secrets of a CEO
Coach, McGraw-Hill, 1999; it contains 20 pages of self-reflection questions.)

Think of five important situations you’ve been involved with recently that turned out “just okay,” not “great.” Isolate each one and ask yourself:
How could I have handled that better?
Where did I disappoint myself a little?
What negative impact did I have on people and what can I do about that now?
What do I want to remember when it happens again so I handle it better?
What can I do about it now?
Sound like beating yourself up? Wrong. Sound like a waste of time? Wrong.
I just took a recent situation that happened in my own life through these questions. What I learned about it upon self-reflection: I should have kept emotional reaction out of it. I shouldn’t have listened
to other parties with an “agenda”. I’m a little embarrassed that others saw me “less than the image I like people to see.” I now have an enemy, at least temporarily, until I fix it. In hindsight I would not have done this and instead engaged with a more open point of view with the person involved. What I want to remember next time is not to be so high and mighty about how right I was because I wasn’t as right as I thought I was! And what I have to do about it now is swallow my pride and apologize.
The higher the altitude, the lower the feedback. Self-reflection is to provide your own tough feedback before you get it from others. I, like you, hate to disappoint myself so by doing this little exercise,
I’ve thought it through with enough intensity that I will likely not repeat it. Or if I do, I’ll catch and correct earlier on. (For those curious about the situation that I didn’t handle well, no, I’m not
going to tell you any more!)

You can do self-reflection on your drive to the office, in between appointments, while resting after exercise, or any other time you have 5 minutes of concentrated thought to focus with. Simply decide what’s right for you. Write it down, date it, keep it. Refer to it later. (Don’t turn the page and just make a mental note. Do it now. It won’t take that long. You can do it again when you have more time. Someday is right now.) “Every year I go off to the mountains in Utah and revisit what is important to me. I write it down. I carry it around in my briefcase, put it by my phone on my desk, share it with people I value. I ‘declare’ myself and basically say ‘judge me’ against what I say. I’ve done this for 10 years. It’s made me grow and have more insight into myself. Every year I make revisions but I’m the same essential person. The way to authenticity is to work at understanding where you are.

Network with people who help you develop insight into yourself.
I use a graphologist, a retired CEO 80 years old, and some friends and family. I periodically check in with them. I’m alert to their insights. Once I declare it, I feel like the emperor with no clothes. I’m obligated to keep at it,” says Doug Conant, President of Nabisco Foods Company. “I initially didn’t share my goals with people but now I do. I’ve found it helps me live up to them.” As I wrote earlier, ethics is a word that is frequently brought up. There’s the dictionary definition of the word: a principle of right or good conduct. And then there is Bill Daniels’, CEO of Daniels Cablevision, working definition, “If you make a deal and it doesn’t feel right chances are it’s unethical.” Bill, who was frequently on the business magazine’s income lists of the “top 400” in the country, proudly gave me a copy of his company’s code of conduct since 1958. Although written as the company code, I’ve rewritten it for a personal code:
1. I will exemplify the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and personal conduct, and adhere to all legal and ethical principles.
2. I will deal with all constituents in an honest, courteous, respectful, and polite manner.
3. I will work with all in an honest, civil manner, and will show respect to my colleagues and to their opinions.
4. I will not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information and will act promptly to correct any erroneous communications for which I am responsible.
5. I will not engage in practices which corrupt the industries I serve or damage the business community.
6. I will scrupulously safeguard the right of privacy of present, former, and prospective associates and treat information obtained in a confidential manner.
7. I will base my professional principles on the fundamental value and dignity of the individual.
8. I will take responsibility for my actions.

“Can you do business without this code of ethics?” I asked Daniels. “Yes, but not for long. Anyone who does not live up to his integrity, ethics, and character will eventually be found out. Can you
learn to be better at it? The answer to that is yes.” The purpose of the self-reflection questions earlier is to give you experience in shaping your personal code. Then write it down.

A couple of chiefs let me share theirs with you:
It is my continuing resolve to be: Financially secure and independent of outside influence.
A source of positive influence and example with those I meet.
Confident all friends will be served and cared for according to their needs and my abilities.
Vigilant that my business and personal affairs are conducted in a manner which will enrich those involved.
Balance in my business and personal goals so each will be successful and fulfilled.
— John Krebbs
CEO, Parker Album Company
(Note: When Krebbs gave me this I wanted to use it but wanted his permission to attribute it to him. “Yes, use my name, I’m proud of it. It took me five years to come up with it and I’ve stuck by it
for twenty years.”)

My mission is to raise my family, teach my children, lead my organization, be a good friend, feel good about myself, continue to grow, and help others to grow.
To be bold in m y pursuits, but balance our age and consideration.
To be a great companion to my wife, love her and care for her, not caretake her.
To provide a home that is loving and caring and mentor interdependence.
To have good friends to share our lives with.
To always keep learning . To be responsible and accountable to me first, and society second.
And finally, to live so when my children think of Fairness, Caring, and Integrity…they think of me.
— Michael Trufant,
CEO, G&M Marine Inc.

And one CEO’s code of conduct was simply, “I put myself in the other person’s shoes. It’s my constant compass.”
“We put our values down on one sheet of paper, enclose them in plastic and keep them on our desks. We eat our sandwiches on it. We post them at the workplace. And I put my support behind it. Any time we send a message that is different than on the statement people tell me about it. Some companies have strong cultures and some have weak cultures. The CEO decides which it’s going to be. People want to be part of an organization with a strong culture they can commit to,” says Sam Ginn, Chairman, of Vodafone Airtouch. At the Frank Russell Company, they laser their business code into a wood cube: We value integrity, in an environment of mutual trust and respect, including fairness, teamwork, tolerance, family, and community, in our process of providing added value to
our clients.

We value our associates, families and clients, who are critical to our success. We especially appreciate our associates’ commitment to the Company, and in return seek to provide opportunities for them to develop. We require honest profitability for continued success, and we reward our associates accordingly. We seek to exceed client expectations. We aspire to a higher set of values than required by law.
A code of ethics can be personal one or it can be corporate. The point is to have one that works personally and professionally for you. Think carefully, purposefully, and seriously about what really
matters to you—for your own growth and development “A couple of weeks ago I went through a re-evaluation: where I am and what I’m doing. I found I’m extremely happy, and satisfied. I value and enjoy life and my friends, “says John Krebbs, CEO of Parker Album Company. If you’re lucky, you may come up with a similar conclusion but I want you to go through the exercise to check it out. (Remember, he’s one of the people who had written down a code. You’re more likely to meet it if you know what it is and can refer to it on a regular basis.)

There is no separation, in my opinion, between who we are at work and who we are away from work—so work on improving both. Conduct yourself in a manner that if whatever you say or do gets back to your wife, children, parents, grandparents, friends, parish priest, etc., you’re okay with it. If you “spit up” on yourself do not hesitate to apologize to those you offended, hurt, or humiliated.
— Ron Brown
CEO, Maximation

Live your code: where you falter, alter Be self-disciplined to the extreme when it comes to living your code. Any honest self-evaluation results in areas for development so do something about your weaknesses. Where you falter, alter. You wouldn’t be reading this book if you didn’t have the goal to
be better. Like a lot of things in life, it’s not how talented you are, it’s deciding what you want and wanting it bad enough to be self-disciplined in getting it. Every day I get the difficult things done first thing in the morning.
— Rick Pitino
Boston Celtics coach

The ABC news show 20/20 reported on a nationwide study that determined self-control was an indicator of success. Previously it was thought that self-esteem was the key success factor. But no, it’s
self-discipline. The study concluded that self-esteem comes out of self-discipline.  Self esteem, like self-discipline is one of those personality traits prevalent in effective CEOs. You feel good about yourself when you’ve accomplished something and you accomplish something through self-discipline.
You and I both know we are more capable than we act on many occasions. If we will discipline ourselves to go further, faster, we can do more. A good foot racer runs past the finish line. When you
run through the goal, not to it, you won’t fall short of it. Like anything in life: If you go on, you win. If you stop, you lose.

The CEO test—a crisis
The real test of integrity is when something goes wrong. A crisis. Or, to put it nicely, a nonroutine situation. There is no better way to observe someone than during a crisis. If you change your integrity when times are bad, you had no integrity to begin with.
As one CEO put it, “set them to simmer and take off the scum.” A crisis is where your character really shows up. The test isn’t during the good times where you’re just keeping a steady helm in
the storm. The behavior you exhibit during a crisis—whether you panic or cave or play a little dirty—that’s what people look at as the real person.

“A crisis is when you are challenged the most. You grow the most. And you find out who you really are. How you behave at those times is as important as what you do today or every day,” says Leo Kiely, CEO of Coors. “People won’t work for submarine captains.” The CEO must have the ability to stay on deck while the wind is blowing at gale force.
— Thome Matisz
CEO, Solotec

People with an ethical reputation can guide others through a crisis. Those without, simply won’t be trusted and therefore cannot get others to follow them to turn things around. Even as the CEO, in a crisis, you have to rely on others, put faith in others. And, those others will only be reliable if they feel you are reliable. There are varying levels of crisis. From losing a major customer, to finding out the computer failed and you’ve gone offline, or your health insurance company goes bankrupt and in 30 days your employees will be out of coverage. (One CEO described a crisis situation he was in, “I felt like I was in deep water and was caught in a wave in a cave.”) Then there is the manufacturing plant that blows up, or the food product that was tainted or the airplane crash, or someone shoots up
the workplace. (“Foxhole religion,” is what Jack Falvey CEO, calls it. “Leaders have a better prayer life.”)

You can’t control 99 percent of the stuff in business life. There are steps to deal with in a crisis which I will lay out. The steps, although important, aren’t as important as the tone and manner in which you carry them out. The mantle of integrity must pervade in every single detail in every way.  Take charge.You must call the shots. You can direct a public relations person or vice president to help relay information to the media, public, shareholders, whomever—just remember you are in charge and responsible for the crisis management, not anyone else. “When things are down you have to be out in
front. You’re the captain, it’s your problem,” says Lee Roberts, FileNET

Choose someone to collect information.You need to have as much available data as possible to make decisions. Few crises start at the CEO level, but rather way down the line. You don’t have a lot of control but you can have lots of information. Ensure the crisis is over. The CEO usually cannot fix the problem directly and most likely doesn’t even have the technical knowledge to know what needs to be done. Hopefully, the frontline workers are trained well enough and have the attitude of integrity, inspired by the CEO, to do the right thing and get the situation resolved or at least under control as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Assess damage. As soon as possible review the ramifications of all parties involved.
Delegate who is the person to develop the recovery plan.You want someone with integrity as we’re discussing in this chapter. At this time, more than ever, you need someone who will “keep his or her head about them when others are losing theirs.” Be visible. Above all, don’t become paralyzed with fear about whether what you’re doing is right. Go out and show concern and compassion. While the frontline troops are fixing the problem, you must be boosting their morale, comforting families,
and letting everyone know that this is a leader and an organization that cares about its employees and their welfare and will be with them in a time of crisis.
That’s a more formal crisis management approach but all day little ones pop up that require the CEO’s intuitive creativity. If you truly trust and understand your integrity, you’re able to use it
in emergency situations intuitively. When your 6-year-old falls off his bicycle, you don’t race to the library to pick up a book or search the net to decide what to do. You react instantly and you react
intuitively.

Similar minibusiness crisis occur all day long. You don’t know when one of them is going to occur and at the time you experience it you react with the right call that comes from your character. So
you: (1) gather facts, (2) get your mind over the fact you’ll never have enough facts, (3) take the shortest amount of time for #1 and #2, and (4) then do it—act!
One CEO gathered his legal team in a borrowed conference room, threw a key onto the center of the table, and said, “This is the key to the restroom. After we figure out this problem, who’s going to do what, when’s it going to be done, what will be the cost, you can have it.” Two and a half hours later the plan was on the white board.

Michael Trufant, CEO of G&M Marine Inc., offered his five-step approach to dealing with a “test”:
1. Keep your head when others are losing theirs (credited to Kipling).
2. Be strategic, unless the building is on fire, and take the time to think beyond the first steps and consider the good and bad consequences of action.
3. Maintain a broad perspective over time versus looking at an “event” in time. (Something he learned from his father.)
4. Have faith and do the right thing which is usually the easiest to know, yet often hard to do.
5. Communicate well: keep a cool head, think strategically, keep perspective, decide on the right thing to do…and communicate all of this to those to whom it is important and relevant to know.

Craig Watson, Vice President of FMC, says, “I like the Marine Corps definition of integrity: doing the right thing when no one’s looking. Then when a crisis hits—something that tests whether you
believe the end justifies the means—you’re face-to-face with your values that you’re supposed to hold sacrosanct.

Some additional steps: 
(1) since you understand your deeply held values,
(2) use this understanding to rank order what’s important in a given situation,
(3) if you have to give something up in the process of dealing with a crisis, start at the bottom of the list.”

For life to be meaningful you must have a challenge. It feels satisfying to overcome a crisis and it gives you strength for the next time. Sometimes you’re going to lose. Regardless of preparation, effort, and good intent, you don’t always achieve the outcome you desire. That’s another crisis, when
you lose. For most CEOs if you aren’t winning, you’re miserable. And it’s little consolation that losing makes you better. But it does. Losing is Nothing but education The first step to something better Closer to victory the next time…if you turn up the 1000 percent effort And besides “winning” is easy and you don’t need easy! You can temporarily feel a little sad about things not working
as you hoped. But you just keep going. That’s another test of integrity, when you get knocked down, do you get back up? Again, and again, and again, as necessary? “I remember a guy I counted
on who was corrupt. I can still see him as he drove out of town in a yellow Porsche owing $90,000 in unpaid bills that I had to pay,” says one CEO. “Yeah, I feel a little sad about that but we had to
keep going.”

Terry Bradshaw asked John Elway, former quarterback for the Denver Broncos, if he learned more from his losses or his wins. “Losing the Super Bowls made me mentally tougher and makes the
win that much more special.” As another sports legend put it, Rick Pitino, “Losing is fertilizer for my growth.” We know that but it still is miserable while it’s happening. “I had set up a $48 million contract with Moscow. It was 2 years of effort, building trust and getting to know the right people. I had the solution to their problem. My partner in the deal came over for the final meeting. He blew it. Two years worth of work wiped out,” says Jim McBride, CEO of ATMO. “I took him to the airport to
send him home the next morning at 5 a.m. I admit, I was totally inebriated. The taxi driver looked at me and said ‘you start somewhat early for an American.’ If you just lost $48 million wouldn’t you
get drunk?” I said, “Yeah, I guess so,” he said.

How you lose is another test of character. So when you have a setback, crisis, or a failure, don’t be a jerk:
Don’t be overly convinced of your own importance.
Don’t think you are the “exception to the rule” in doing whatever you feel like.
Don’t act only to please yourself.
Don’t break your word.
Don’t be dishonest.
Don’t be mean or nasty.
Don’t kick people in the face anywhere along the way.
Don’t yell and scream.
Don’t embarrass others.
Don’t turn supporters into road kill when the going gets tough.
Don’t be arrogant no matter how much of a right you think you have to be arrogant.
Don’t get good at being bad.

Did you know you can go to jail for these dishonest acts:
-5 years: For exaggerating your symptoms to a doctor so that your insurance company will pay for a checkup it wouldn’t otherwise cover.
-10 years: For taking a confidential list of your firm’s clients and their phone numbers with you to a new job.
-1 year: For copying a friend’s computer game instead of buying it yourself.
-5 years: For eavesdropping on your neighbor’s cordless phone conversation and then gossip about what you heard.
If you follow these steps, you still might make it to the top but it cuts your shelf life down in staying there. And you better have very good people who mend a lot of fences for you. Addressing 800 lawyers at the Waldorf Astoria, Jerry Spence said, “Don’t act like me. Don’t act like someone you know. Be yourself, unless you’re an asshole.” (All I can say is, pretty good advice!)

Final advice on integrity: Exceed other’s expectations.
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
— German motto

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