I was once managed by someone I truly respected. To this very day, I respect and appreciate the role this person played in my life. He was a friend, a mentor and a role model to whom I probably owe my career to at least some degree. In addition to being one of the most capable manufacturing operations leaders I have ever come across, he was a high school basketball coach and he knew how to mold and shape people’s character. He helped develop you as a person, not just as a professional. Our relationship was reciprocal in the sense that I was his right-hand man and he trusted me implicitly. If he wasn’t around, he left me in charge and knew things would operate as they should.
“You’ll never be a good manager….. Because you won’t lie.”
I remember many conversations we had over the years, most of which I took to heart. I applied the concepts and they made me a better leader, and in many cases, a better person. However, there was one conversation we had that has always stood out to me. I was in his office for one of our frequent “coaching” sessions in which he was the coach, and I the recipient. He stated to me “Grasshopper…” (Yes, he actually called me this – and it was in fondness). “you’ll never be a good manager….. Because you won’t lie”. He proceeded to tell me that white lies, omissions and other more palatable ways of describing deceit were not only necessary, but acceptable. On this subject, I inherently disagreed. My definition of honesty does not allow for bold lies, big lies, small lies, white lies, lies by omission or any other type of lie that falls within today’s “grey area” between honesty and deceit. In this particular instance, we agreed to disagree and I simply left it at “I guess we’ll have to see”. This moment didn’t lead to an extended period of discord, or even a heated argument… It actually helped me. This was a pivotal moment in my development as a future manager and leader as it provided a moment of clarity. It helped me realize that no matter how much I respected or appreciated someone as a leader or a mentor, I still had to establish and hold to values that would both allow me to succeed and keep a clear conscience.
“A firm adherence to a code…”
There are three definitions on the merriam-webster.com website for the word “Integrity” of which I will quote the first and third. The first is “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” and the third is “the quality or state of being complete or undivided”. To me, Integrity is who you are. My very best friend in the world (a friend so close my son’s middle name was chosen because of him) is a man whom I believe has the most incorruptible character of any man I’ve personally met. He once stated to me “who you are at home is who you really are”. I will state that my character is shaped by my faith, but I will also state that you do not need to have a certain faith to have strong character. I have chosen to build my career around an undivided and sound adherence to being completely honest. I will not say I have never or will never make a mistake, but there will always be a sincere effort to be transparent and honest.
“…INTEGRITY IS WHO YOU ARE…”
I’ve now served in a management or leadership capacity in both business and personal life for well over a decade. I’ve managed, closed and built various manufacturing plants and have been a leader and mentor to dozens, maybe hundreds of men and women. I start every new team with this message: “I have one rule. It’s Integrity. Never lie to me, never hide anything from me and we have trust. I will do the same for you. As long as we have trust, we can successfully work with one another”. I am upfront about the fact that there will occasionally be questions I am asked that I am not able to answer due to confidentiality, political reasons, etc. but that I will state honestly in that moment that I cannot answer the question. I can specifically recall two times in the last 15 years of my career in which I felt I was dishonest with someone. Both times I went back to each respective person and made things right. The gentleman I spoke of earlier is still a good friend of mine, but in regards to my inability to lie and that it would adversely affect my effectiveness as a manager? He was wrong. I’ve been successful in life and I’m proud of my career but MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have a clear conscience thanks to Integrity. – JT3