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What is integrity? And why does it matter?

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Five ways you can lead with integrity, in life and in business.

Integrity is about making the right choice, even if no one knows about it. Image credit: Jon Tyson

Integrity. The quality all good design professionals aspire to have. The adjective that features in the bio of most high achievers. The thing that contributes to our enduring success, in business and in life.

Integrity is defined as the, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. Some people believe you’re born with integrity, but like most things, it’s a choice. A choice you make every day to live in a way that reflects your values. It’s deciding to do the right thing. Even if it sucks. Even if it’s awkward and confronting. Even if no one knows about it.

Having integrity can be tough, sometimes it means taking a harder path to achieve a fair result. But it is always, always worth it. Here are a five ways to make sure your moral compass is pointing in the right direction.

You have to work collaboratively and keep learning from others. Image credit: You X Ventures

1. Lead with Empathy

Make sure you treat people with care and compassion. This is especially important now. If your clients, suppliers or fellow designers are having a challenging time, reach out and offer an ear (or a socially-distanced elbow). If you’re good to people during the tough times, you’ll be remembered positively during the good. Not only that, you’ll feel proud of who you are and what you stand for.

Integrity check:

Did I act with empathy today?

Did I try and see a situation from someone else’s perspective?

2. Be open and honest

You need to tell the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. Think you’re going to miss a deadline? Own it and offer a sincere apology. Avoid the urge to save face by blaming suppliers, contractors or employees, take responsibility and develop solutions. None of us are perfect. Things go wrong on design jobs. How you deal with it reveals your integrity.

Integrity check:

Did I stretch or avoid the truth today?

Did I take full responsibility for a mistake or setback?

3. Put in the hard yards

Having integrity means putting in the work to achieve meaningful and enduring success. There is no room for shortcuts, elbowing people out of the way or taking full credit for joint efforts. You have to act in a way that aligns to your values and aspirations. Achieving lofty goals takes determination, time, tenacity and a commitment to never stop learning.

Integrity check:

Did I give credit where credit was due?

Did I try and take a shortcut to the detriment of others?

When was the last time I focussed on my learning and development?

4. Focus on the Client

You have to not only figure out what your clients want, you have to delve deeper to find out what they need. While you may have an incredible idea for their space, your vision can’t override the brief. It can be challenging when you can’t get a client to buy into your idea but you have to remind yourself that they’re the one living in the space. It has to reflect their personality, preferences and lifestyle.

Integrity check:

Did I listen with intent to what my client had to say?

Did I override or silence someone’s opinion because it didn’t match my own?

5. Clean up any mess

Even people with the strongest moral compass can find themselves acting without integrity from time to time. If you find that you’ve waded towards the morally murky zone, make sure you do everything you can to rectify things. If you stick your head in the sand and ignore where you’ve fallen short, things will only get worse and your reputation will take a hit.

Integrity check:

How did I respond to an error in judgment? Have I done everything in my power to right my wrong?

Even if you regularly check in on your integrity, you might find that it’s M.I.A. If that’s the case, don’t dwell on it. Process the learning, clean up your mess and move on. Tomorrow is another day to get back on the integrity wagon and be a business owner that inspires their peers and endears their clients.

If you lose your integrity, don’t dwell on it. Keep pushing on until you feel in sync again. Image credit: You X Ventures

Integrity is vital if you want to be respected in the design industry and develop genuine relationships with your clients. Acting with integrity means you can feel proud of who you are and the contribution you’re making to the design world. And that, is the best feeling of all.

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Stay well, be kind and keep in touch.


Andrew and the TDC Team

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