Truth and Integrity in Business: Are You Authentic In All That You Do?

There’s nothing that I hate more than feeling like I am being lied to. When faced with a situation where I feel I am being lied to, either personally and professionally, I get that lump in the throat, anxious, stomach in knots, feeling that I just cannot deal with. Luckily at work this situation is a rarity, since at CSI we are encouraged to be authentic and live the values of transparency, honesty, communication and integrity.

There are still too many times in my customer experience, personal, and business interactions where I encounter people on the other side that feel the need to be dishonest in order to “get ahead”. I would argue that dishonesty is just a band-aid solution to a problem, while honesty and authenticity are the remedy.

While conducting research for our upcoming book The Mega Trends of Personalization, I came across some data that the winning companies of the personalization economy use to keep their workplace open, honest and authentic.

Here are a few examples:

  • At Nordstrom, employees only have one rule – to use their best judgment.   This rule enables employees to better serve their customer on a personalized, individual basis. It shows that Nordstrom trusts their front-line workers and colleagues to have integrity and do what is in the best interest of the company. Nordstrom leadership also has a completely open door policy for discussing any issues. This shows employees a reciprocal trust, because they are able to be honest and open and bring up problems that occur without being reprimanded for it.   Nordstrom also encourages their employees to go above and beyond for the customer and says, when in doubt of whether they are going far enough, err on the side of too much rather than too little, and they will always be supported for it.
  • Three of Netflix’s core values that support their desire for authenticity and honesty in their workplace are: judgment, communication and courage. They ask their employees to use their best judgment and act in Netflix’s best interests at all times. They are asked to treat others with respect, remain calm, and collected in stressful situations. They are asked to say what they think, even if it is controversial. Some may view this as risky; however, since leaders support employees being honest and authentic in all situations, they are rewarded for their integrity.  The culture at Netflix places a strong emphasis on open and honest communication, for both employees and leaders. They even eliminated the process of formal reviews because they found them to be too infrequent and ritualistic. Instead they asked all managers and employees to have performance conversations organically as part of their everyday work. Netflix also touts their honest feedback to their talent even in tough situations. For example, because they are on the cutting edge of technology, there are times when certain roles and responsibilities become obsolete or people’s skills fall behind for the best interest of Netflix. Netflix leaders believe in complete honesty when they have to let people go, and offer them a generous severance package. While this may sound like a bad situation to be in, they argue there is nothing people cannot handle if you are honest. When your employer is completely honest (even in a terrible situation like that) it gives the employee the opportunity to grow and plan their future (perhaps going back to school to advance their skills).
  • Southwest Airlines is another company that completely supports their employees being 100 percent authentic with their customers and team. Since they are encouraged and supported to go above and beyond for their customers at every touch point, they are given the autonomy to make good decisions that are in the best interest of Southwest and their customers. They hire people for niceness and friendliness, rather than skills, since these qualities cannot be trained. They do not get caught up in bureaucratic policies and procedures that trump the need for basic human decency. Integrity is at the heart of everything they do and employees will always be supported if their intentions are good and in the best interest of Southwest’s internal and external customers.

Above all else, I believe the key quality these examples have is that when the leadership of an organization values integrity, trusts their employees, and enables them with the autonomy and authority to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, truth and authenticity will shine through. It is then in the hands of each individual person to have good intentions, use good judgement, and be open and honest with their colleagues, leaders, and customers so that they can solve problems together, learn from their mistakes, and create a better experience for their customers, both internally and externally.

I remember my first couple weeks at CSI when I was asked to publish a blog written by my colleague. When I published the blog, I accidentally sent it under my name instead of his. I immediately confessed this mistake to my team, and they were so supportive, helped me to fix it, and even teased and laughed with me to make light of the situation. It was a turning point in our working relationships that showed a mutual trust and support for each other, and fostered the idea that when we make mistakes, as long as we are honest with each other about them, we could work together to solve them. After all, as Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

So I ask you, are you authentic? Are you honest? Do you act with integrity in every interaction?

Is your talent encouraged to use their best judgment and be authentic when serving a customer?

Authenticity is one of the 7 Personalization Principles that you should have in your workplace to create exceptional experiences for your employees and customers. For more information about how you can create authenticity in your workplace keep your eye out for Peter Psichogios’ next book The Mega Trends of Personalization, coming in early 2016.

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