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Integrity is Hitting the Market Place

By Julia Williams

What is this word ‘integrity’ which is being used more and more frequently in the world of commerce? As we are not quite sure how to define it, is it going the same route as ‘holistic’ and ‘organic’ to be overused and distorted from the purity of its essential meaning? From my observations, I think language itself is losing its integrity as original meanings are changing and distorting, through texting and cross-cultural additions. Those who are less interested in the original meaning of words interpret them according to their own values and create new variations. There is nothing wrong here. With the same exciting creativity they/we also add to the ever changing band wagon of the latest buzzwords whose meaning only carries the latest narrow slant for those first in the know. But how do we communicate with clarity?

At the risk of distorting the meaning myself, I would say ‘integrity’ is staying utterly true to one’s core values; being rigorously and often brutally honest with oneself; not compromising to suit others expectations, with clear intention, daring to act according to what feels right for one to do and say. At its best it carries with it, full respect for the often opposing differences of others.

The word comes from the Latin root which has the same base as ‘integrated’. Someone with integrity is therefore ‘together’ as a person, not battling with him/herself. The mind, heart and gut all working together creates a congruent whole person who is therefore highly impactful, influential and productive, no matter how quietly so. Neither is it time bound. It does not vary from day to day or from decision to another. A person either has it, or doesn’t have it. When materially successful people recognized it in themselves and own it, they are much happier. It’s the difference between true happiness and outer wealth. They are not at all mutually exclusive but a man of integrity is far happier without millions than a man without integrity with millions, as the latter doesn’t know how to be or has sacrificed being true to himself.

Having worked as a coach for nearly 30 years I had to face the daily challenge of holding my core value of integrity which I saw as being the greatest gift I could develop in my clients, when they thought they were being coached to become more commercially successful. They achieved their outcomes too of course, but not by the route they imagined. When I chose to play the corporate game like so many of you, facilitators and coaches, it was not helpful to mention these abstract concepts of human qualities based on soulfulness. To gain their attention I had to engage in corporate management speak which did not come easily. That was the only way to achieve a win/win situation. I won by gaining my place to do the work I value, and they gained by getting more than they bargained for, in confidence, self- awareness, personal effectiveness and a whole range of new soft skills.

I had to dress the work of Personal Impact in all kinds of attractive garments like ‘Influencing skills’ ‘Powerful presentations’ ‘Voice training’ ‘Assertiveness training" etc. to enable the most senior leaders in organisations to find the time and resources to do some crucial self-development. Like so many I had to masquerade as the designer-suited, successful, corporate norm in order to be able to reach people who would run a mile if you mentioned the words spiritual, soul, energy or integrity. One reason why I am writing this is because I feel the corporate climate is changing and I for one, have at last been able to take off the wraps.

In the past, you could always find integrity in small caring groups who were pioneering social change based on values that challenged human and planetary abuse and therefore the status quo. But they were not popular because they always rocked the boat. From a base line of values like justice, fairness, and equality, we have always grown small philanthropic organisations and charities of many kinds that have for a long time supported the sick and underprivileged. The change is that these all have to become global. Thanks to the Internet, charities, by which I mean people care and planetary care, have entered new arenas.

What I see has changed in recent months is that charities have entered, with their integrity, into the business community in the form of planetary CRS (Corporate Social Responsibility). With fuller awareness of how we have abused ourselves and the planet, comes a new focus on individual responsibility in the corporate world, from which there is no escape, no matter who you are and what you do. We are all individually responsible for who we are and what we do with ourselves and there is no escape from that. It sounds heavy, but the good news is that when you find it, you discover your real passion, your real love and the joy being alive today.

That is where integrity sits. That awareness of your connection to everything brings the joy, and what you need to do, or not do. So if you are not used to being totally honest with yourself, and are not used to looking at your real and deepest motivations for doing anything, and your head and your heart are at loggerheads, how can you be clear with yourself about what is the best thing for you to do? When you know how to integrate your head and heart, you can live with integrity. Those who do, stand out from the others and are fired with passion. They know that relationship, with yourself first, is the key to it. From finding your true self comes the passion, then the practical relationship with others and your relationship to the planet at large.

Working both for yourself and for the planet and can often look at odds, but in fact it is not. Seeing, feeling, knowing, appreciating that connection does not come overnight unless you have been forced to face it head on in some personal shape or form. And that is what most of us are having to face right now in this recession/financial uncertainty. Being true to yourself is what businesses now are having to face full on. Relationships crumble in times of stress unless they are based on deep foundations and it is no different in the corporate world.

In the last few months I have been attracted to many new networking groups where the core leaders are coming from that new place of integrity. Rather than seeking people with the obvious marketing, IT or management skills to fine outlets for their products and services, they are seeking business connections that are personally meaningful, genuine and committed. The key is to form relationships with those whose values match yours and then, rather like a healthy family, it is self-supporting and sustainable in both feast and famine.

The quality of support and positive regard of just two groups demonstrate to each other, and to everyone they meet, has inspired me to write this piece. I would like to recommend them without reservation to anyone who feels attuned to this way of making connections.

The Athena Network is for women entrepreneurs whom they address as ladies. It is regionally based throughout the UK and sells local franchises (nearly 100 groups in 2 years) I believe because of the total commitment and integrity of its founders, Jacqueline Rogers and Louise Heasman. There are formal lunches for ladies once a month, based roughly on the format of the BNI but with a focus on sharing skills rather than getting brownie points for referrals, and holding additional informal meetings – Cappuccino Connections once a month in mornings - with an open invitation for anyone to come free of charge. See They teach networking skills and how to form profitable strategic alliances with new tips at every meeting.

EClub and EBEN (a more committed level of EClub) is also a tremendously inspiring forum for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to build sustainable businesses out of sound, ongoing relationships. These are grown by providing a free forum for connecting people of similar values through trust and integrity, instead of the old way of simply looking for people with desirable skills and expertise. This means friendships are formed and developed in this context by those who like each other before any committed engagement to sales, marketing or business operations takes place. This pioneering group of high caliber guys know that what you offer comes back to you and they have been truly walking their talk over the last 2/3 years. They are all ex-city guys who are making a difference to the commercial world by bringing a higher level of personal integrity to business communities everywhere. There is no membership fee. Eclub is open to anyone who is interested. Contact Shaun Cooper at

The impact of these two networks is not small. If you would like to comment on anything I have written I would be delighted to hear from you.

Julia Williams

020 8451 7696