The Importance of Values: Why is Integrity a Value Needed for Successful Change?
The last entries in our Importance of Values series explored keeping people at the heart and putting the client first. In this last article of the series, we wanted to talk about the value that underpins them both at Afiniti: integrity.
In fact, integrity is a value that underpins any business change. We see integrity as doing the right thing, whether anyone’s looking or not, as well as being willing to have open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations with colleagues or clients.
For organisations that truly embrace integrity as a core value, the benefits are rarely more prevalent than during change. This is because any change programme brings a degree of uncertainty, which means creating trust is pivotal.
By creating an authentic narrative on why change is needed, people feel more confident raising concerns, suggesting improvements and being accountable – all key tenets of integrity themselves. Only through this open communication can you achieve the kind of buy-in that leads to truly sustainable change.
Lead by example
As with many behaviours, integrity is most strongly influenced from the top down. Leaders who actively demonstrate ethical decision-making will encourage the same of their people.
In Afiniti, we discuss how we as partners can continue to make integrity a true core value, as opposed to just a corporate buzzword on a wall or a website. The most obvious way is to live and breathe it as leaders in how we show up with each other and for our clients, how we speak to each other and how we recognise people for doing the right thing.
On a more tactical level, this value can be embedded by reiterating and celebrating integrity through relevant, engaging channels, like newsletters or employee awards.
For example, at Afiniti, our quarterly ‘Values Heroes’ awards see nominations from across the business for people actively demonstrating our core values, including integrity. This promotes the right behaviours, encourages the team to feel comfortable having honest discussions and keeps integrity at the forefront of our people’s minds.
More formally, official policies, practices and processes should align with your core values. For instance, we strongly focus on integrity in our recruitment and onboarding process, emphasising how people will be supported to speak up and do the right thing for our clients and each other.
Even in the most values-focused of organisations, no change goes entirely smoothly. However, those organisations see this as a significant opportunity for reinforcing integrity.
This is one of the traits at Afiniti I’m most proud of. In our position as a trusted, independent adviser to our clients, we don’t shy away from difficult conversations. We develop trust by being open, honest and bringing challenge where it’s needed, all with a core focus of helping the client achieve their desired outcomes.
And that’s true internally as well; Afiniti is one of the most collaborative places I’ve worked, because of that ability to have the right conversations with each other, based on a shared goal of delivering the best possible results for our clients.
This means that behaviours are completely constructive, motivated by seeing our clients and each other succeed, and therefore everyone at Afiniti feels that sense of accountability.
All too often, accountability is seen from a punitive perspective: “you were accountable for this, and it’s your fault it’s gone wrong!”
Of course, it’s important to encourage and have appropriate channels for people to acknowledge shortcomings, but accountability should actually be seen through a different lens.
When Afiniti talks about accountability, both with clients and internally, we present it as an opportunity to create excitement about a change. By making people accountable for relevant outcomes, emphasising the importance of their contributions, you can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility around those outcomes that engages them like nothing else.
People who understand and appreciate the importance of their contributions are far more likely to make ethical decisions based on integrity.
If you combine this with the open, honest and two-way communication approaches we touched on earlier (which include recognising integrity) and keep a focus on desired outcomes, then your culture will sit in a strong position to deliver your change agenda.
Be guided by integrity
Of course, it’s not always clear which decision is the one that reflects integrity the most. If we assume all organisations undergoing change are doing so for ethical reasons, integrity isn’t always about choosing from what’s morally right or wrong, but instead about what’s right or wrong for the organisation. So what should you base your decisions on?
This is where that outcomes focus comes into play. Any successful change programme should start with a roadmap for the change, emphasising the desired outcomes that will result. Your organisation needs to be clear on what these are, something we advise on in another article.
In change management, resistance can stem from worries about the personal impacts on someone’s position, influence or opportunities (and this occurs at leadership level too).
But if the change in question is organisational, then it’s about more than one function or role. This means your people need to align on collective, unified outcomes. Once those individual agendas and silos are addressed, the integrity-based decision should always be clear: it’s the one that benefits the desired outcomes of the organisation and the customer.
In the dynamic landscape of modern business, integrity has remained a timeless core value guiding decision-making. No organisation will ever get it right every time, all the time, and as with any culture change it requires constant continuous improvement.
But by encouraging people to be accountable, feel safe asking critical questions, consider ethics and celebrate success, organisations can create a more change-ready culture, guided by integrity as a compass through any change that comes.
Whatever change you’re implementing, we’d love to have a conversation about how we might be able to support. Reach out to our expert team to tell us more about your objectives.