Archive for the ‘Incidents and Profiles of Integrity’ Category

 

Dr. Helen Caldicott: A Profile of Integrity

August 15th, 2014
Jim Thomas

There are many ways of looking at the cardinal virtue of integrity. John King, an MBA student at Loyola University, defined it as “being the same person all the time.” Robert A. Reed, CEO of Physicians Mutual Insurance, said integrity means “not straddling the fence—living a principled life consistently.” Author Charles Watson sees the virtue as a “consistency between standards espoused and actions taken.”

All point to the core truth that integrity means holding fast to the right ideas, even when it is difficult, inconvenient, or unprofitable. In looking for those exemplify it we came across the career of Dr. Helen Caldicott, a native of Australia and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

She is among those featured in the book Hope and Heroes, by Madelaine Palko and Shannon Fitzgerald.

As a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Caldicott became aware of the harmful effects of nuclear radiation. In 1971 she learned that France was testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific near Australia. Alarmed, she addressed a letter to a local newspaper detailing the harm the testing could cause. The mainstream media picked up the story and extensively circulated it. As a result she became an international spokesperson for the growing nuclear disarmament movement. She went even further. Combining medical knowledge with her leadership skills, she organized rallies and protests. One year later the French government abandoned further nuclear testing.

In 1980 Dr. Caldicott resigned her lucrative and prestigious position in medicine to become a full time anti-nuclear activist and educator. Her’s is a vivid case of standing by the right ideas.

 

 

 

 

For A New York Fish Store, Integrity Pays Off—Big Time

April 25th, 2014
Jim Thomas

You will find this gem of a fish store exactly where it has stood  for four generations, on East Houston Street on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Its owners and managers are the Russ family, heirs of the great grandfather who founded it a century ago. He started out peddling smoked herring from a pushcart in a teeming Jewish Ghetto.

Nothing remains the same. The neighborhood has changed. New York has changed. Diet and food consumption have changed. The old-fashioned grocery is virtually a thing of the past. The druggies and prostitutes that once plagued the area have come and gone. Russ & Daughters remains steadfastly in place, purveyors of mackerel, sturgeon, kippered salmon, smoked salmon, whitefish, and the like.

And it has flourished. Today, the store continues serving herds of dedicated walk-in customers, but it also takes orders online and ships fish by FedEx. Believe it or not, it now employs behind the counter a Sherpa fish-slicer conversant in Yiddish.

Why, through it all, from pushcart to revered institution, has Russ & Daughters prevailed? Because, it settled on a set of time-tested standards for doing business. They were the right standards, from which deviation was unacceptable. It was dedicated to its physical place and location in the City’s scheme of things. Its owners scoured fishing boats and smokehouses for the finest products available. Employees were obsessed with customer satisfaction and an abiding cheerfulness toward each who entered their shop, even the difficult and the obnoxious.

The cardinal virtue of integrity invokes an adhesion to standards; those that withstand scrutiny, that one way or another are beneficial to all concerned, irrespective of the inconvenience or difficulty. Across four generations, the Russes have known these truths and practiced them. And, they have reaped the rewards.

 

Holding Fast to Principles—Costs and Benefits

March 21st, 2014
Jim Thomas

For the individual, holding fast to a principle, conviction, standard, or value often carries both costs and benefits. It can cost one a friend, a sale, a contract, a client, a patient, a job, a promotion.  On the other hand, steadfast integrity preserves the one asset no one no one can afford to lose—one’s self respect.

Consider this incident from the 1970s at the Environmental Protection Agency. [Names are disguised to protect confidentiality.]The EPA was in the market for a new scientific instrument capable of measuring light and chemicals in water. John Doe was an EPA Area Director with responsibility for reviewing proposals submitted by vendors competing for the contract.

As it turned out, a company in Washington DC, owned by A. Jones, Doe’s long-term friend and professional colleague, was among the competitors. Their friendship dated back to Johns Hopkins University, where the two men shared housing while working on their PH.ds. Their friendship and professional contacts continued across the years.

When Jones’s company submitted its instrumentation proposal, EPA researchers found it contained a minor flaw. It failed to measure photosynthesis in water to the required levels. Doe had to make the final judgment rejecting it.  He received a phone call from Jones. Invoking their long-standing friendship,

The contractor appealed to Doe to approve his instrumentation. In addition he reminded Doe they were dealing with public money only, not each other’s private funds, and he, Jones, “needed some of it.”

Doe declined to budge. Said he; “I would have helped my friend any way I could. But the standards for measurement were the standards. The instruments either met them or it did not. It was a close call, but Jones’s instrument failed the test.  I was at peace with the decision.”

From that day forward, Doe never heard from Jones. When their paths crossed at professional conferences and meetings, Jones refused to speak and broke all further contact with his old friend.

Doe lost a friend but kept his self-respect. Said writer Brad Blanshard:

What above all else puts power into our ideals, what sets the drive wheels of the  moral engine in motion, is not a schedule of dogmas of first and last things, but the picture in one’s mind of something one has to be if he is to keep his self respect. It is the most powerful of motives, for it is what no one can afford to lose.

 

 

Standing by the Right Ideas—Ray Kroc’s Example at McDonald’s.

July 22nd, 2013
Jim Thomas

In Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, published in 1943 and a modern classic, her character Kent Lansing, a real estate developer, speaks to his architect about integrity. His definition of integrity is one of the finest in the language:

 “And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch from your neighbor’s pocket? No, it’s not as easy as that…Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presumes the ability to speak.”

 I would amend Lansing’s definition by adding a single word. Hence, “Integrity is the ability to stand by the right idea.”

 Ray Kroc of McDonald’s Corporation, in rock-solid fashion, demonstrated what standing by the right ideas means in business life, and elsewhere. He was largely responsible for building it into the world’s leading fast food company.  

 In 1954 Kroc was 52, married, living in Chicago with his third wife, Joan, and traveling the country as a milkshake equipment salesman. His business afforded an inside look at the operations of fast food restaurants and short order diners, and Kroc was always the astute observer. He also confessed to having consumed a great deal of fast food. As the years passed, he formulated an unshakable belief that the three essentials of a successful dining experience were Quality, Service, and Cleanliness. He labeled his credo the QSC

 As chief executive of McDonalds, QSC became Ray Kroc’s guiding standard. Throughout the organization he preached and practiced it wherever he went. No one could cite an instance of his veering from it, compromising it, or failing to enforce it. (He was often seen cleaning the bathrooms when visiting a store.)  McDonald employees trusted their chief explicitly because he lived what he believed, and stood by what he said, so others would know too. The big yellow arches sprouting all over the nation were proof Kroc’s ideas were sacrosanct.

 Kroc’s performance with integrity painted a timely and timeless message.  Integrity enforces purpose. It generates commitment.  It strengthens standards at all levels, encourages adherence to values, and magnifies the firm–the brand–products and services. In the immortal words of Bill Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin’ Doughnuts,”With integrity you deliver as promised, when promised, in the manner promised.”

Strengthen Your Organization With a Code of Integrity

June 11th, 2013
Jim Thomas

We hear and read about “Codes of Ethics.” Far less about the indispensable “Codes of Integrity.” Yet, it is Integrity that is the first great element. And, it has no down side. It cannot be over emphasized. Here is a model from which you can mold a Code of Integrity for your organization. All you stand to gain is a magnified, stronger, more competitive organization.

  MODEL FOR A CODE OF INTEGRITY

 We, the staff and personnel of (name of organization), adopt this Code as our commitment to conduct with integrity in all our affairs, work related and otherwise. We shall adhere to its words and spirit, confident they will lead us to the right decisions, at the right time, for the right reasons—irrespective of the inconvenience or difficulty.

 No document can cover every problem and predicament. However, with fidelity to this Code we can make choices that are consistent with our commitments.

 Therefore, we hold and affirm:

 1. Integrity means upholding ideas, standards, values—including our products and services—that withstand scrutiny; that are beneficial to those directly involved;

 2. Performance with integrity leads to trustworthiness and reputation; on each we place supreme importance;

 3.  We promote a culture of integrity by assuming full responsibility for our words and actions;

 4. Our word is our bond. We keep it in matters great and small. We stand accountable for our achievements as well as mistakes;

 5. We strive to deliver our products and services—as promised, when promised, in the manner promised;

 6. HOW we perform is equally as important as WHAT we perform. Thus, we decline to cut corners or play fast and loose with rules, regulations, and proven policies;

 7. When problems arise, we avoid expediency and rely upon the tried and true;

 8. We stand by the proposition that loyalty ends when integrity is jeopardized;

 9. We hold fast to the truth, regardless of the consequences. We practice scrupulous honesty, knowing that upright conduct spreads beneficial influence among all concerned.

 When in doubt we shall pause, reflect, use our best judgment, and allow the foregoing to direct us on the proper course.

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

 

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Morgan Stanley Enforces Its Code of Conduct—“Leading With Integrity”

January 8th, 2013
Jim Thomas

Founded in 1935, Morgan Stanley is one of America’s leading financial firms. From the beginning, its partners ascribed heavy emphasis to upright conduct. Morgan executive, Bryan Jennings, found just how heavy when he was fired over a cab-fare dispute with a New York taxi driver.

All Morgan employees are required to read, acknowledge they have read, and abide by “Leading With Integrity.” It reads in part:

 ”We promote a culture of integrity by taking personal responsibility for our actions making the right decision and being accountable…If you violate this Code or any other Morgan Stanley policy of procedure, you will become subject to the full range of disciplinary sanctions, including termination of your employment…”

The Jennings incident occurred on the night of December 21, 2011, when the investment banker departed a gathering at a Manhattan bar following a charity event. Mr. Jennings climbed into a cab for the 40-mile ride to his home in Darien, Connecticut. Nearing end of the ride the driver is said to have demanded $294. A fracas ensued with rider fleeing the vehicle leaving driver with a lacerated scalp. The driver claimed Mr. Jennings pulled a pen knife from his briefcase.

On February 29, Darien Police arrested Mr. Jennings and charged him with second-degree assault and “intimidation by bias.”Criminal charges were ultimately dropped, but the episode became a matter of public record.

In early October. Mr. Jennings was fired. The Wall Street Journal reported that Morgan officials declined to discuss the details. However persons close to the case indicated the cause was the investment banker’s violation of behavioral standards set out in “Leading With Integrity.” Mr. Jennings’s altercation was viewed as damaging to the firm’s reputation.

Morgan Stanley has hold on an iron-clad truism: harm to the firm’s reputation is as damaging as other forms of outsize losses. And, executives at the firm are acutely aware that the great underpinning of reputation is conduct with character and integrity. Boiled to its bare –bone essence integrity means adherence to standards, principles, and conviction that withstand scrutiny, that are beneficial to the parties—even when adherence is difficult, inconvenient, or unprofitable.

In today’s scandal-plagued financial industry, Morgan Stanley’s actions stand stout as an oak.

[For more complete details of this story see The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2012, page C1.]

WHEN INTEGRITY FAILS; THE CASE OF GENERAL PETRAEUS

December 3rd, 2012
Jim Thomas

From every standpoint, the scandal surrounding General Petraeus demonstrates once again a universal truth. That is, when it counts, in all settings, the failure of Integrity bears detrimental consequences. At the highest levels of government and public trust, the consequences become of monumental import.

Consider the evidence. When Petraeus made the wrong choices—and Integrity is always about choice—the nation lost a valuable public servant. Shame poured on the Army and the CIA. Disbelief and dismay spread wide and deep, further diminishing confidence in the institutions of government. At the personal level, the scandal besmirched the General’s reputation and self-respect, priceless intangibles no one can afford to lose.

Where the breach? The First Great Virtue—is based on a fundamental tenet. It requires adherence to standards that withstand moral scrutiny, that to some extent in some manner are beneficial. In simple terms, the tenet means holding fast to time-honored principles, even when difficult, unprofitable, or inconvenient.

In the Petreus case, the governing standards were encoded at West Point, in the Army, and at CIA. When the General let go of them, the breach was joined and unwanted consequences burst like a tornado. In this hyper connected transparent age of the Internet, no sin goes unnoticed. Somebody is watching, precisely as the General himself once warned an Army audience.

The sovereign virtue of Integrity does not always demand the superior choice. By all means, however, it demands avoidance of the wrong choice. May all view the fall of David Petraeus—and learn.

.From every standpoint, the scandal surrounding General Petraeus demonstrates once again a universal truth. That is, when it counts, in all settings, the failure of Integrity bears detrimental consequences. At the highest levels of government and public trust, the consequences become of monumental import.

Consider the evidence. When Petraeus made the wrong choices—and Integrity is always about choice—the nation lost a valuable public servant. Shame poured on the Army and the CIA. Disbelief and dismay spread wide and deep, further diminishing confidence in the institutions of government. At the personal level, the scandal besmirched the General’s reputation and self-respect, priceless intangibles no one can afford to lose.

Where the breach? The First Great Virtue—is based on a fundamental tenet. It requires adherence to standards that withstand moral scrutiny, that to some extent in some manner are beneficial. In simple terms, the tenet means holding fast to time-honored principles, even when difficult, unprofitable, or inconvenient.

In the Petreus case, the governing standards were encoded at West Point, in the Army, and at CIA. When the General let go of them, the breach was joined and unwanted consequences burst like a tornado. In this hyper connected transparent age of the Internet, no sin goes unnoticed. Somebody is watching, precisely as the General himself once warned an Army audience.

The sovereign virtue of Integrity does not always demand the superior choice. By all means, however, it demands avoidance of the wrong choice. May all view the fall of David Petraeus—and learn.

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IN THE CORPORATE CULTURE: THE HIGH COST OF EVADING THE TRUTH—THE JACK IN THE BOX CASE

October 22nd, 2012
Jim Thomas

In any organization, suppression of the truth, in all of its myriad variations, is a lethal adversary of Integrity. Without Integrity good works, products, and services find fewer and fewer takers. The competitive edge is diminished and damaged. The penalties, too, are often high.

Note the case of Jack in the Box, as reported in Johnson and Phillips’ book, Absolute Honesty, American Management Association, 2003.

The case arose during a period marked by contaminated and poisoned products appearing in the market place. The Tylenol case was among them. That company’s upright chief executive minced no words and told the unfettered truth, while removing its product from the market. It came back stronger than ever because consumers believed they could trust it.

Jack in the Box adopted a different approach. From 1992 through January 1993 accounts were publicized that contaminated beef served at company stores was linked to the illness of 700 people. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta concluded the culprit originated in tainted meat. The material was insufficiently cooked at company restaurants.

Washington State Health Department confirmed findings at Disease Control. Whereupon Jack in the Box immediately denied all responsibility. It claimed its sickened customers had dined at other restaurants before becoming ill. Six days of silence followed.

President Robert Nugent of Jack in the Box admitted his company was in fact the source of the contaminated food. However, he combined the admission with an attack on the Health Department’s failure to distribute food handling regulations in a timely manner.

His approach proved ill-advised. Public response was as negative as it was disastrous. Newspaper editors far and wide accused Nugent and his company of shirking its responsibilities. By the end of March 1993 the debacle had cost Jack in the Box in excess of $30million in lost revenue. Liability damages eventually exceed $100 million.

Harry Beckwith, one of the country’s leading authorities on marketing, author of the acclaimed book, Selling the Invisible, has this advice for his clients: “Invest in and preach Integrity. And tell the truth, always. For even when it hurts it will help.”

AN AIRCRAFT ENGINEER UPHOLDS TEST STANDARDS

September 29th, 2012
Jim Thomas

In 1961 engineer John Doe (name disguised at his request) was employed in the test laboratory at Lockheed Aircraft at Marietta Georgia. Lockheed was then a supplier of aircraft for the military. He was the youngest and least experienced of his co-workers.

At the time, those who designed the parts in question and those charged with testing them comprised a single operations unit.

Doe’s duties included testing of aircraft parts, as well as assistance with drafting reports of the test results.  A piece of electrical paneling came in for testing. The device contained a series of circular openings, tiny holes for transmission of electrical current. When Doe ran the test some openings failed. While a limited number were allowed, in his judgment too many had failed.

When he informed those who had designed the panel, they rejected his opinion. They concluded the failures were merely random, in numbers allowed by test standards. They proceeded to report them as random failures. After all, they were more experienced than he.

Doe weighed the hard evidence and his choices. After much deliberation, he elected to by-pass his immediate superiors and co-workers. He provided the Department Head his own assessment of the test results. After reviewing them the man immediately agreed. He rejected the random test and promptly divided the designer-test unit, each with separate and distinct responsibilities. At a meeting of the entire department he said, “We were fortunate that the one with the least experience had integrity.”

Questions:

Do you agree with the opinion and actions of the Department Head?

Was there a lack of integrity by anyone?

How do you see the outcome?

A Great Athlete Showed Us How To Keep One’s Word

July 24th, 2012
Jim Thomas

  A recent article in the Athens Banner-Herald recounted how acclaimed athlete, Charlie Trippi, came to enroll at the University of Georgia, over seventy years ago. The entire account was of absorbing interest.  But one feature in particular stood out—Trippi’s integrity.

 In choosing Georgia, Trippi declined enticing offers from other schools, including Notre Dame. The reason was simple, he said, “I had given Mr. Ketran (a Georgia alumnus) and Georgia my word.” Back home in Pennsylvania, Trippi’s father taught his talented son the value of keeping one’s word. When the chips were down, the Georgia prospect kept it.

 In October 1982, editors of The New York Times ranked the cardinal virtues. They gave integrity first place, concluding, “With integrity much can be accomplished. Without it little else is possible.”  Upholding a promise—in matters great and small—is one of its fundamental tenets.

 The word “integrity” comes at us from every point on the compass. It is invoked to describe the personal and impersonal, from upright conduct to the condition of Old Master paintings. As with Trippi, we know it when we see it, acknowledge it, are drawn to it—irrespective of race, creed, station, or calling.

  Yet, few pause to declare its authentic meaning or benefits in everyday life. In the abstract, it remains vague, indefinite, and elusive. At times its implications are thick and hard to get a handle on. The everlasting underpinnings, however, are steadfastly in place. They are the product of human experience and open for review.

 The authorities of the ages hold, first and foremost, that integrity is the capacity to stand by an idea, an idea that withstands moral scrutiny, that is beneficial to the parties affected. Walter Lippmann said, “One has virtue when one can respond to a situation that is larger than a mere inclination; if one can hold fast to an ideal of conduct when it is inconvenient or unprofitable to do so.”

Consider the case of Eugene V. Debs, a social agitator in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was demonstrating in Ohio against the practice of small children working in dangerous coal mines. He was charged with disturbing the peace and arrested. While incarcerated he received a one-sentence telegram. It read: “Stand by your principles regardless of the consequences.” Signed, “Your mother and father.” Debs held fast and became a factor in reform of America’s child labor laws.

 Those with integrity grasp, intuitively, the rules that govern it. For them certain principles are non-negotiable. It is they whose word is their bond; who ascribe weight to accountability; who deliver as promised, when promised in the manner, promised; who stand up and are counted when it counts; who to the alluring temptation and ill-advised compromise have the power to say “no.”

 Their behavior, regardless of the effort, is characterized by fairness, credibility, and square dealing. The pay-offs are immense. They gain the priceless by-products of trustworthiness and good reputations.

 In our era the times, including the world of big-time college athletics, are marked by high-profile scandals, ethical fiascoes, and moral indifference. Across the spectrum demand for performance with integrity is greater than ever.

 Long ago Charlie Trippi gave us an unmistakable demonstration of it. It still stands.