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Review: Integrity - The Courage To Meet The Demands Of Reality (How Six Essential Qualities Determine Your Success In Business)
on May 17, 2006
The Collins imprint of HarperCollins Publishers continues to pour out a very impressive stream of books that address ethical issues in business. Dr. Henry Cloud's book, "Integrity," published just a few weeks ago, is the latest offering in this genre. I found it to be a very encouraging, challenging and ultimately uplifting work. Henry Cloud, despite his background as a psychologist, manages to avoid the "psychobabble" one often encounters in reading clinicians who opine on business ethics. He anchors his thoughts in the real world of clients he has consulted with in helping them to address very real and concrete business issues that have deep roots in issues of ethics and integrity.
Dr. Cloud makes it clear that "integrity," as he uses the term, is much more than mere "honesty." Throughout the book he parses and elucidates six essential qualities and character traits that lead to success in the business world. He describes the kind of character that . . .
1) Creates and maintains trust
2) Is able to see and face reality
3) Works in a way that brings results
4) Embraces negative realities and solves them
5) Causes growth and increase
6) Achieves transcendence and meaning in life
"You will see how these character traits supercede gifts, talents and ability, and how the ones who have them succeed and the ones who don't, ultimately fail." (Page xii)
In this review, I will offer more quotations than I typically do in writing about a book. The reasons for this proliferation of quotes are that I want to share a fair sample of Dr. Cloud's nuggets, and he states the case very well in his own words. I could not improve upon them through more extensive commentary.
In talking with a wealthy businessman who is a personal friend, Dr. Cloud heard his friend comment on how he chooses to invest his money in businesses.
"I did not invest in those businesses. I invested in the people. I never invest in businesses I don't know anything about, but I will invest in a person. If I know their character, their history, how they operate, what kind of judgment they have, what kinds of risks are acceptable to them, how they execute, and things like that, and I know them well, I will invest. But I don't buy businesses I don't know anything about." (Pages 29-30)
Early in this book, Dr. Cloud gives us his expanded definition of integrity as it applies to the business world:
"And, the origins of the word we can see in the French and Latin meanings of intact, integrate, integral and entirety. The concept means that the `whole thing is working well, undivided, integrated, intact and uncorrupted.' When we are talking about integrity, we are talking about being a whole person, an integrated person, with all of our different parts working well and delivering the functions that they were designed to deliver. It is about wholeness and effectiveness as people. It truly is `running on all cylinders.'" (Page 31)
The author offers a very clear and helpful metaphor for the type of impact that this kind of person of integrity has on the lives of those with whom she or he interacts. Dr. Cloud posits that each of us, as we move through the waters of life, leave behind a wake, like that left by ships as they pass through the ocean. There are two aspects to the "wake" that we leave behind - the tasks we have performed and the relationships we have built.
"We leave a wake of people behind us as we move though their lives and their organizations. . . So, we must ask ourselves, `What does that wake look like?' Are a lot of people out there water-skiing on the wake, smiling, having a great time for our having `moved through their lives'? Or are they are there bobbing for air, bleeding, and left wounded as shark bait?" (Page 18)
In the chapter on Building Trust Through Connections, Cloud offers this profound insight that helps us to understand the difference between those persons and companies that command loyalty and those that do not:
"The human heart will seek to be known, understood, and connected with above all else. If you do not connect, the ones you care about will find someone who will." (Page 70)
Applying this principle alone in most companies today would dramatically reduce the costs of employee theft, turnover, recruiting, retention and succession planning.
In the chapter on Trust Through Vulnerability, Cloud talks about an early childhood experience he had with his mother that caused him to trust her more deeply than he might otherwise have been able to do.
"I needed a model that was strong enough to depend on, but vulnerable enough to identify with. That combination is what made it work. In essence, it said, `Hey, she is like me, in that she is afraid sometimes and feels like she can't do it. But, she does it anyway. She pushes forward.'
Her vulnerability is what made her power available to me." (Page 92)
In sharing What People In Touch Look Like, Dr. Cloud recounts an incident that happened on a retreat for CEO's, when a young "superstar" was given an opportunity to receive feedback from a more senior CEO.
"One of the more experienced guys looked up and said, `Want some feedback?' He said it in a way that left you wondering whether he was going to give sage advice or rail at the young man for being out to lunch in some way. There was just no way to tell from his poker face. But I will never forget the young superstar's immediate response: `By all means. Give me a gift.' He saw the feedback, whatever it was, as a gift because it could give him some reality that he did not know. I remember thinking, `We will be watching this guy's accomplishments for a long time.'" (Page 116)
Cloud then ratchets up the significance of this insight by suggesting a challenging way for us to put this principle of inviting feedback to a practical test:
"If you want to know your comfort level in this matter, think of going to the people you work with or are in close personal relationships with and give them 100 percent permission to be totally honest with you in answering the question: `What is it like to be on the other end of me?'" (Pages 116-117)
I must draw to a close this review, lest I run the risk of conveying Cloud's whole book to you via this Blog! I want to encourage you to buy the book as an investment in yourself and in your growth and success. But, in closing, I will share a final excerpt that captures the essence of what this book is all about:
"I just returned from an international leadership summit in which the leaders discussed their personal orientations toward growth. One global leader said that about ten years ago, he was near burnout and collapse, as his organization had exploded in size. But, he himself was dying. So, with input from his board, he made a huge investment of both time and money. He decided that every summer he would take six weeks away to study, refresh, get input into his soul, and re-create. He put the number two person in charge with orders not to call him `unless the whole thing were burning down.'" (Pages 222-223)
Dr. Cloud chose to protect the anonymity of this global leader. I do not know if he was referring to Pastor Bill Hybels of WillowCreek Church, but I have heard with my own ears Pastor Hybels share a similar story of taking intentional steps to prevent burnout by making the difficult decision to get away from daily pressures in order to carve out some time to recharge the batteries and to reinvigorate the soul. That is the very heart of integrity.
Most business leaders I know will find something of value in this book that they can internalize and begin to apply immediately - for their own benefit and for the benefit of all those who are "surfing their wake."