We have seen an erosion in the confidence that society has in organizational leadership and its integrity recently with the numerous accounting scandals that have become public.Clearly this has led to the demise of several large organizations. In performance terms it is obvious that erosion of leadership integrity is not good for business.
The integrity that exists within an organization either lives or dies with the mission statement and underlying values around which an organization functions. Often the mission and values focus on such things as organizational performance, customer service, quality products, profit goals etc. These are then used as guiding posts and navigational aids to lead and inform leaders and employees at all levels within the organization.
Effectively, individuals then have to “integrate” themselves within the organizational directive in order to survive there. The organizational mission becomes an overarching theme in the lives of these individuals whether or not it is truly aligned with their own values and purpose in life. Of course most individuals are not in the habit of considering their values or purpose in life so they are only too happy to adopt someone else’s in order to stem the inner feelings of insecurity that arise from not having their own.
The organization then becomes a species in its own right and the individuals working within it have to alter their own values and purpose if they hope to remain a part of it. The problem arises however with the fact that organizational mission and values are often not aligned with basic human values. A clear example of this relates to the increasing number of hours that individuals find themselves working in a week and the increasing incidents of burnout related illness. Truly, I think anyone would say that this is not what he or she desires.
So the organization has become an entity that runs individuals lives rather than a means for individuals to achieve their purpose in life. They serve the organization not the other way around. But wait a minute here, isn’t an organization a “human” construct meant to further our goals, desires and purpose in alignment with our basic human values? After all don’t we want to do something in life that gives us joy, happiness, peace of mind, that helps us expand our creative potential in meaningful ways, that furthers the quality of our lives and the lives of others on this planet and that protects our environment? Have we therefore given up our power to an entity that doesn’t represent us? Is it possible to restore our rightful place in this equation and return the organization back into an instrument (or perhaps more accurately a process) that serves human values and humanity in general?
If we come back to the issue of integrity it becomes clear that the integrity, that is the “survival”, of the organization has become the imperative, not the integrity, that is the “wholeness”, of the individual. Notice that I have used the concept of integrity in two different senses here. The individual loses her/his sense of wholeness by repressing his/her basic human core values, effectively “cutting off” important parts of themselves. This repression often occurs out of fear of not surviving and effectively is an unconscious way of “lying” to oneself about what is truly important to that individual. The behavior of lying to oneself is about being “dishonest” with ones’ self or losing one’s integrity or wholeness.
At this point one might ask, is trying to survive not a basic human value? Well I might say that if given a choice an individual would rather “live” than just try to “survive”. Yet because the fear is so powerful most of us have even lost a sense of what it means to live. The idea of survival has a negative feeling attached to it for most people. It’s a feeling of just getting by and for no other purpose. It begins to feel like a meaningless exercise. Living however feels more positively motivating and full of potential. It in fact encompasses most of the human values for joy, peace of mind, creativity, etc. that I mentioned earlier.
Now if you follow me so far I think you are beginning to see that the problem of integrity has something to do with how we as individuals have been conditioned to react out of fear throughout our lives. It is clear that there is a lot to be afraid of as we are growing up in an uncertain world. It is this accumulated fear that we carry around that ultimately undermines our integrity (sense of wholeness and sense of personal honesty) in the long run.
Coaching for Organizational Integrity is about restoring our sense of wholeness and sense of personal honesty. This will allow us then to have the awareness of what we truly desire for ourselves and possibly enhance our courage to pursue it. Its premise rests on the observation that our conditioned responses to life long trauma become associated with limiting negative beliefs about others our environment and ourselves. Below is a short example of an exercise that I have used with individuals in my coaching practice to help them go beyond internal limitations to a place of greater awareness and self determination
A sales executive selling water treatment equipment is under pressure to meet his sales quota for this month. The economy is in a slump and he knows he will be unduly pressured to explain why his performance is slipping. He generally likes his job and has felt that his mission in life has been to help improve the environment and offer customers a product that they will truly get health benefits from. But under recent pressure he has started to doubt his sales abilities and this has inhibited him from being his normal ebullient self. He has started to have fears of failing and worries that he might get fired if he doesn’t meet his monthly quota.
Analysis of Situation:
There are a number of beliefs that this individual is unconsciously entertaining that need to be addressed:
1. His doubts about himself suggest that deep down he “doesn’t believe that he is capable of succeeding”. This is evident because if he knew with certainty that he could succeed doubt about this would never arise.
2. His fears of failing suggest that he ” believes he could fail”. This is evident because if he knew with certainty that he would never fail this thought would never arise.
3. The worry suggests he “believes the quality of his life would be made worse with failure to meet his quota”.
Now from the standpoint of integrity the highlighted beliefs clearly are not doing him any good. They are causing him to turn against himself; they create anxiety, confusion, inhibition, and ultimately reduced performance. We therefore have an individual who is “disintegrating” not one who is “integrated” or “whole”. So why would anyone accept these negative statements to be true?
Well over our lives we unconsciously learn to accept such negative beliefs about ourselves based on the failed experiences we have had. Rationalizations form around these negative beliefs and anchor them in our minds, whether we want them there or not.
Let me illustrate:
1. The negative belief ” I don’t believe I can succeed” is held in our unconscious by the rationalization: ” Well if I believe this then I will work harder and I will succeed”.
In other words we unconsciously come to believe that this negative belief actually “helps us to succeed”.
2. However when we look at the evidence the belief ” I don’t believe I can succeed” actually ushers in self-doubt, anxiety, fear, confusion, inhibition all of which ultimately lead to reduced performance and potential failure. There is no success in this picture.
3.The rationalization “Well if I believe this then I will work harder and I will succeed” is actually a “lie” we choose to accept as truth. By doing so it anchors the negative belief in our minds and makes us susceptible to its ravages.
It is possible to make individuals aware of their negative beliefs and the rationalizations that anchor them. Additionally through a simple exercise, known as the Mind Resonance Process