Integrity, Ownership, and Trust
I was lied to!! About something that was so trivial that it left me baffled that someone would lie about it! Allow me to paint this picture for you. I live in an apartment complex where we have a package receptionist and an automated package machine. If items do not fit in the package machine because they are either too big or because it is full, the package receptionist accepts them from the courier, notifies the resident, and ensures they are delivered to the correct person. That is literally her only job. So, on the day in question, I received an email from my shipping courier notifying me that my package was delivered. I waited to receive an email notification from either the machine or the receptionist until it was about hour before the office closed for the day (sorting and delivering can take time so I didn't want to be pushy).
I finally did call the receptionist and here is what happened.
Me: "Good afternoon, I'm calling because I received a package delivery notification from my courier but I have not gotten one from the machine or you just yet. I need that package for tomorrow and I wanted to see if you could help me locate it."
Her: "Sure, let me check the office, the storage area, and the machine log. What is your apartment number?"
Me: I tell her and she then places me on hold. I watch the clock tick down to about 45 mins until the office closes for the day.
Her: "Ma'am, I'm sorry but I do not see it here or in the machine log. ***Commence lie*** When the delivery guys arrive, they just have us sign for all of the packages in bulk then bring in their cart. Sometimes things get left on the truck and they will bring it back tomorrow, which is probably what happened, so it's best if you check back tomorrow or call the company and ask if they can check the truck. I wish I could do more to help."
Me: "Ummmmmmmm what? Okay, I'll call them and see but it says it was delivered several hours ago."
Her: Continue to cover herself with more "I'm sorry's" and "I wish I could do more."
Me: "Well, ok have a nice night" Click
Here's why it was a lie and what get me rolling: I got an delivery notification email from the main, faceless apartment complex email address FIVE MINUTES before the office closed for the day stating "Package delivered - Previously left for wrong resident." She knew!! She knew while on the phone with me she'd made a mistake or at least she didn't take the time to really think about it while I was on the phone with her. Then she waited until there was no chance for a face-to-face encounter to notify me she'd fixed it and used the group box to attempt to continue to hide it! What a silly thing to do! I've lived at several apartment complexes before with a similar set up and this has never happened. Packages have been misdelivered but never did the receptionist create such a story or not promise to look into it themselves. And that has been under my skin for days and that is how we arrive at the topic of Ownership.
Now that I've made it through Simon's book, I understand where this woman was coming from and why she was doing it. There has been a high turnover rate in her position, so she doesn't feel safe in her environment to own her mistake and therefore pointed a finger at someone else who is conveniently out of her organization to keep the danger away from her and keep her job secure for another day. But here's the rub in that, she was caught not taking ownership. Simon quotes a Marine Corps Colonel (Ooh-rah!) in his book on page 149: "taking responsibility for one's actions must happen at the time you perform your actions, not at the time you get caught." This quote is in Chapter 19 with the subtitle of "Integrity Matters." She got caught and then took responsibility - sort of - which almost makes it worse because it calls her integrity and trust worthiness into question.
Ownership and responsibility stem from a sense of integrity and this builds trust between people and organizations. Integrity is something people are taught at varying stages in life. It is also something that can be reinforced by those we are surrounded by or it can be damaged by our environment. Integrity "must be a practice and not simply a state of mind. Integrity is when our words and deeds are consistent with our intentions. A lack of integrity is at best hypocrisy and at worst lying" page 150. The environment her leaders had cultivated did not make her feel safe enough to admit a mistake. " n organizations in which there is no safety provided, people are more likely to hide mistakes or problems out of self-preservation" page 146. I came to the conclusion that it's not her it's them after reflecting on the situation and realizing that she isn't the first person in the leasing office to cover up missteps. This realization is even more evidence that it is a culture issue.
Leaders are responsible for culture. Simon presents excellent, recent-history examples of companies that have gotten the culture right (Costco) and companies that have ignored the importance of culture all together (Goldman Sachs). He sums up the importance of culture so well on page 129 by saying "In a weak culture, we veer away from doing 'the right thing' in favor of doing 'the thing that's right for me.'" Which is exactly what the receptionist did. Her leaders created an unsafe environment for her which lead to her lying to me to prevent admitting a mistake to protect herself. This then lead to me doubting her trustworthiness and integrity but identifying the problem with their culture and now I feel like I cannot trust their organization at all. That is how powerful culture is! "How you do anything is how you do everything" page 157. At least it is when it comes to perception of a company from the eyes of a customer. The several less than admirable encounters I've had with different current, and previous employees, of this company have led me to never want to rent from them again. How many stories have we seen in recent history about "toxic leadership" or "poor corporate culture" being the reason for the company downfall? Simon calls it a "disturbing trend in modern business" page 157.
I recently had the opportunity to offer parting words to the members of my unit. This wasn't just me leaving the unit, this was me leaving active duty as well so I took time to think about this ahead of time. I used the phrase that has become somewhat cliché but, if executed, is powerful. I told them to "Model the way in the office. Model the way at home. And especially model the way when no one is watching because you will always know." Integrity is a practice, a mindset, and a value leaders must spread to their followers. Integrity breeds ownership, trust, and safe culture. All of those are what truly set a company apart in the long term. "The performance of a company is closely tied to the personality and values of the person at the top. And the personality and values of the person at the top set the tone of the culture" page 174.
"Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more." page 214
Phew, I'm glad I got that off my chest! Have you been lied to? Was it because of the person or because of their culture? Have you lied or covered something up? Is that you talking or your company culture talking? I'd love to hear your stories, thoughts on the book, book recommendations, or feedback of a constructive nature so please comment below or hit up the email. I apologize for the delay in posting. I'll be back on schedule with the next book that I think will actually continue this conversation some. Head to your favorite bookstore, or online store, and pick up a copy of Why Won't You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriett Lerner. Come on back on Aug 17th for my thoughts on the first half of what I'm sure will be a thought provoking journey.