2012 Series 005 – Integrity

Moments of Truth

Integrity is the ability to face personally compromising situations with courage, and consciously choose truth as a response even at risk of loss.

Integrity is proven at moments of truth.

Person of integrity recognizes moments of truth, faced the fear of risk and loss that characterizes such moments, and choose to speak truth.

Person of integrity does not allow lapses in integrity to continue.

When he fails to act or speak with integrity, he/she is willing to admit such failures, even at risk of losing face.

He/she choose to not define himself, or his future actions by what he had failed to do and decide he can do something different, the right thing, when the next moment of truth comes up.

  1. Recognize moments of truth

Moments of truth are special decision events.

We are called or ask ourselves to make decisions everyday.

Decision regarding ourselves, our work, our subordinates, or our business.

Decision on what to say when our colleague asked us about our past action or words.

Decision on what to say when others asked us about something we don’t know.

But moments of truth are special because:

There’s something personal and important at stake.

Moments that don’t have a personal and important impact to us are not moments of truth.

Speaking truth and doing right is easy when we are not personally affected, no matter how big the decision involved or how sensitive the question being asked.

Doing the same is very difficult when we are personally affected, not matter how trivial the decision is to others, since it’s us who are on the receiving end.

So the ability to recognize moments of truth, comes from stopping the rush of surprise, embarrassment, fear, anger that accompanies moments of truth, recognize that we are feeling these emotions because something personal and important is at stake, and understand what those personal and important things are.

Without understanding the above, we risk putting ourselves is automatic defensive mode, where we say things that are untruth, things that we might later regret saying, but in the heat of the moment, as our brain get hijacked by our emotions, we say things that seems to protect what is personal and important to us but destroys our integrity.

So what are the things that are typically important and personal?

  • Things that we believe will define our future.

Things like: Our current job and the ability to pay the bills that comes with having a job. Our career path or business opportunity and the chance for upward mobility. The favor and respect of our superiors and the chance for expansion that we think would accompany the favor and respect.

  • Things that we believe define ourselves.

Things like: A lifestyle we have or aspire to. People we want to be associated with. People we don’t want to be associated with. A self-image we have been trying to cultivate and promote to others.

Self-definition issues are especially acute for Asians. Keeping face is a very important concept.

Maybe it’s historical, Asia economic growth only happens in the last 5 decades or so, so for the longest stretches of history, a good part of Asia only have their face to claim as their possession.

Maybe it’s cultural, strengthened by an education and parenting pattern that is based on tradition made by insecure humans, who themselves are made insecure by the culture and tradition they are raised in.

But insecurity is no excuse for un-truth.

It’s not uncommon in Asia for managers to speak and act out of insecurity, to choose protecting a self-image over truth, to not discuss problems because it will dampen an aura of success, even to make decisions on company-money based on personal status motives.

But just because something occurs frequently, that doesn’t make it right or desirable.

Recognize moments of truth by first stopping emotion from hijacking our brain, recognize why emotions are involve, and identify what are the personally important agenda that is hijacking our brain.


II.In moments of truth, speak truth

Once, a superior vehemently advises me to not do something. I finally decide to do the very thing he advised me to not do. Based on his passion when discussing the issue, I think he won’t like the decision I made. I haven’t had the chance to told him when he jump the gun on me, “have you done A?”. That’s a moment of truth. Not doing something my superior seems to hate is important for me, it could affect how he evaluate my judgment, which could impact my career. I had an option. Tell the truth and risk his ire, or lie, justify the lie with various reasoning and take the chance that he might not know. I shut up, think, and choose to say the truth. And the instant I told the truth, I felt relieve. I’m still concerned about his response, but I felt relieve, and peace and I know whatever his response is, I have one less thing to worry about, a lie that I could have made.

Recognizing moments of truth is far from enough to be a person of integrity.

To be a person of integrity, man must choose what is right, even when what is right means losing what is personally important to us.

This is where courage comes in.

Courage need to be accompanied by reason. That’s why we need to understand what is at stake, so we can evaluate what we stand to lose.

But courage is needed, since we are facing a real prospect of losing that is personally important to us.

But what is at stake?

At one side, it is the things that are dear to us.

On the other, it’s our integrity, the ability to walk, eat, and sleep without worry or concern that someone might someday, sometime, jump out and expose our untruth, it’s the freedom from the gut-wrenching feeling when piling lies over lies, freedom from headache of concocting barriers when others pursue us with what they believe as truth. And in the long-run, it’s our reputation. It’s what ex-colleagues and partners will say when a future business partner asks about us.

I personally find, that we think are currently important, is often not so important.

Sometimes the need is valid, usually things that could define our future, but at times, it’s just our ego or self image that’s at risk, but because it’s ego, it gets magnified.

And I also find, that doors are opened, and opportunity to expand occurred, when questions about reputation receives favorable response.

When we arrive at moments of truth, and we took the time to identify the moment as such, what will we do?

Have courage, accept the risk of losing what is personal and important to us, and speak and do truth?

Or succumb to the easy way out?


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