Developing Personal Integrity

Posted on November 11, 2019

JW Way* Fundamental #8: Act with integrity.

“Demonstrate an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in very action you take and in every decision you make. Own up to your own mistakes and apologize. If you make a mistake, clean it up.”

The expression of integrity is a virtue. Many of our JW Way Fundamentals reflect our aspiring to have cultural integrity throughout our firm. Fundamentals such as respect, truthful communications, honoring obligations, and accountability are all attributes of an integrity-centered organization.

This Fundamental – Act with integrity – asks us to focus on personal integrity, a quality of a person’s character, integrated with moral integrity, a behavior standard of right and wrong. It gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves – What is it to be a person of integrity? It reminds us that our behavior is a reflection of our character.

One aspect is an unwavering commitment. Because we find ourselves with so many commitments, of so many different kinds, and because commitments inevitably clash and change over time, acting with integrity is more than remaining steadfastly true to one’s commitments. It matters which commitments we remain true to.

At our firm, we stand for something. By acting with integrity, we express our commitment to morally correct action, even in challenging circumstances. As Norman Schwarzkopf once shared: “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”

Acting with integrity has both short and long-term benefits. Many years ago, I was involved in a very contentious divorce that was headed for trial. My opposing counsel was a very high profile, well-respected attorney who had a great deal more experience than me. A few weeks before trial I discovered a new asset that had not been disclosed by my client. It was a paid-up insurance policy purchased years before the divorce which had a cash value. The other side would never have discovered it. I insisted that my client disclose it and we did. My opponent was surprised and it led to a breakthrough that allowed the case to settle. The breakthrough was that the other lawyer appreciated my honesty and it motivated him to get his client to make additional compromises that allowed us to settle. This happened over 15 years ago and I have had a great relationship with that lawyer ever since. We have been able to settle every case we have had since then and he’s referred business to me.

How can we develop personal integrity?

  1. Do what is “right” or moral, even if no one will ever notice.
  2. Maintain honesty in all of your relationships.
  3. Repair all relationships that may have been damaged in the past.
  4. Maintain humility and modesty.
  5. Recognize the contributions of others. Express sincere gratitude and appreciation.
  6. Cultivate relationships with those whom you admire for having high personal integrity. Don’t associate with people of questionable integrity.

When we act with integrity, we are honest about making mistakes and we are accountable. Apologize when you make a mistake, even if you think you are only partially wrong. By being accountable we take responsibility for mistakes and work to correct them.

Personal integrity is foundational to leading a happy, well-balanced life. It serves as a guide to making tough decisions and a cornerstone of our identity.

* JW Way – Refers to the 27 Fundamentals which are the foundation for Jaburg Wilk’s unique culture: