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Cultural Integrity – There Is No Place To Hide

Organizations with cultural integrity consistently and fairly apply the rules for how the organization operates and they apply to everyone in every situation no matter their title.  Cultural integrity is transparent not because an organization wants to be transparent but because people within the organization quickly figure out if an organization walks the talk and upholds and operates within its own espoused system of core values, standards of behavior, performance, compensation and advancement systems.   People in the organization have to know that the organization makes greatest attempt to ubiquitously and consistently apply the stated rules.  Cultural integrity demonstrates to employees that the organizational values are not a charade and that their creativity, energy and commitment to excellence are valued and will be fairly measured, recognized and rewarded. Cultural integrity brings credibility to the appraisal process/results, promotion decisions and compensation actions. Is it likely that the most talented professionals are going to be attracted to, stay with and give 110% to an organization without cultural integrity?

Cultural integrity is the absence of thin-skinned, self-deluded arrogance that deflects accountability for bad decisions and rationalizes poor performance and bad behavior.  Even the best leaders and institutions occasionally make mistakes.  Organizations with cultural integrity acknowledge mistakes and appropriately and effectively respond in a timely fashion without threat, prodding or coercion.  Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders is a perfect example of both cultural integrity and performance culture leadership.  In the annual letter Buffett has established cultural integrity because for over 30 years he has been humble, direct and transparent about how his decisions and actions have lead to both successes and failures.

Tom Watson Jr. the legendary former chairman of IBM had the following to say to about cultural integrity in a speech at Columbia University.  Said Watson, Jr.: “The basic philosophy, spirit and desire of an organization have far more to do with its relative achievements than do technological or economic resources, organizational structure, innovation and timing.  All these things weigh heavily on success.  But they are, I think transcended by how strongly the people in the organization believe in its basic precepts and how faithfully they carry them out” As Watson Jr. described, high cultural integrity inspires passion, trust and a desire to excel not present in organizations with low cultural integrity.

Want to attract and retain the best talent.  Having cultural integrity is a good place to start.

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