Home > NewsRelease > Leadership Integrity -- Obligation, Obfuscation, or Oxymoron?
Text Graphics
Leadership Integrity -- Obligation, Obfuscation, or Oxymoron?

D. Kevin Berchelmann
From the Top

September is gone. You've got about three months to rock the world, and that doesn't include taking time off for Christmas and/or year-end holidays.

Time to get really specific about a few things. For instance:

1. Budgeting for 2011 compensation, including payroll increases. See link below for my article on 2011 compensation trends.

2. Planning -- both strategic and operational. Time to get focused on next year; this one's almost in the can.

3. Compensation planning. Do you have a structure for compensating your employees, formal or not? Have you looked at it recently? Lots of changes in the past couple of years. Are your incentives paying for better results, or simply adding to budget without obvious increases in performance?

As I mentioned last month, our 2010 Survey of Senior Leadership is complete, and the summary results are available for download:

Triangle Performance LLC's 2010 Survey of Senior Leadership.

I'll discuss the results in more detail in future newsletters; suffice to say for now that your major concerns include

Revenue /Earnings Enhancement, and

Management Development, Performance, and Motivation.

More surveys... Just completed our Fourth Annual Survey of Compensation Trends.

Feel free to download, and use as needed in your budgeting and plans. If you'd like to discuss some of the detail, give me a call or drop me an email and I'll do my best.

Further, I have more specific data for the following geographic locations:



Baltimore/Washington D.C.

New England

Again, contact me if you'd like to see the geographic-specific data. To my clients: no need to ask, it's coming your way.

Some newsworthy mentions:

The Houston Business Journal featured my firm (and a large, multi-year client) for an article on team-centric executive development. Appeared on page 5B of the April 24th print edition of the HBJ.

He speaks...

I spoke in June at the 2010 Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) national conference in San Diego. It was billed as a MEGA SESSION -- just me and 800 or so of my closest friends; have received tons of positive comments, most around the "No Whining" rule, and my version of Larry, Curly, and Moe: The Three Stupids.

I also spoke recently to an annual gathering of Project Managers on the topic If it Hurts, Stop Doing it; I'm confirmed to speak in December to an HR Chapter in Idaho on Leadership is Easy... until it isn't, and finalizing a similar engagement in Louisville for early 2011.

Speaking of speaking... I continue to present two favorite topics:

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Color! Breaking through employee entitlement...and

Leadership is Easy... until it isn't. Successful leadership in challenging times... .

If you have a corporate, trade, or association event, I'd certainly enjoy speaking to your group. You can see more information regarding topics and details on my website.

Further, feel free to download and read a few articles that may be relevant today:

Compensation Trends, Circa 2011,

Applied Strategic Planning: The Corporate Reality Show,

ROI -- 6 Steps for Human Capital Strategies, and

Executive Compensation... What's up with that??

...and don't forget to check out my blog; some interesting (I think) posts like when the talent pool is too shallow to swim, and Obama, Hayward & Limbaugh -- strange bedfellows... please comment, complain, or scream at me if you agree, disagree, or just want your opinion read, seen, and heard.

Berchelmann's Blog

If you'd like to know how I can assist you, your organization, or a colleague of yours, please fill out this form and I'll send you some specific information, articles, engagement results, and so forth.

As always, I hope this finds you well, personally and professionally; please give me a call if I can ever help in any way, and feel free to forward this to anyone you feel may be interested. (Really!) I appreciate your referrals.

Warm Regards,

D. Kevin Berchelmann


Triangle Performance, LLC




Strategy & Leadership

Leadership Integrity

-- Obligation, Obfuscation, or Oxymoron?

Integrity: Following our internal moral compass or "inner sense of rightness." Doing what's right. Following that little voice in our head that tells us instantaneously what we should do when relevant a situation presents itself. Frequently, though, translating that little voice into demonstrable action can be difficult.

To complicate it even further, doing what's "right," and "doing good" are not always the same thing, and though a leader must be honest to act with integrity, not all honesty demonstrates acting with integrity.


Some examples:

Slowing down to a near-stop crawl at a stop sign is "good," and probably safe. It's not "right," though, and you know it. "Right," in this case, is "stop." Like the sign says. That would be acting with integrity. But then, you knew that, right?

Telling a stranger in Wal-Mart "hey you're fat and ugly," is another example. People frequently hide behind "I'm just being honest" like it's a shield from impropriety. It's not. In this instance, there was no attempt at doing "right" (demonstrating integrity), it was unsolicited feedback solely for the sender's benefit. Maybe honest, but clearly not acting with integrity

In our workplace, my examples above turn into doing almost the best or "right" thing, but stopping short. Ignoring a problem employee instead of dealing with the behavior now. Putting a band-aid on something instead of a real fix. Engaging in workplace gossip or rumors. Not answering an obvious "question behind the question," and hiding behind the "well, I didn't lie" excuse.

One of my favorites (and one of the most insidious): apologizing, but doing so with a qualification (saying "I'm sorry," then adding "however," or "but," or some other lead-in to rationale on why you weren't really wrong.

All of these, even if superficially somewhat good, or at least not bad, are examples of not demonstrating high integrity.

Not doing wrong, of course, is simply not the same thing as doing right.

So, here's where I combine Mahatma Gandhi, General Robert E. Lee, and Bobby Jones in one discussion to make a point...

A woman once trekked to see Gandhi, taking along her young daughter. After a day of travel, and waiting in line for almost ten hours, she was in front of the great man. "Gandhi," she began, "Please tell my daughter that she should stop eating sugar. That it's bad for her, does not honor her body, and is against my wishes as a parent. Gandhi smiled, and told the woman to come back in a month.

Well, there was no appeals process, so she did an about face, went home, and came back the following month. Another day of travel, another ten hours in line. This time, Gandhi was clear. "Young lady," he said to the woman's daughter, "you must stop eating sugar. It's bad for you and against your mother's wishes. The daughter reluctantly agreed.

The mother had to ask... "Gandhi, why would you not tell her last month, making me repeat this trip again?" To which he replied, "Because a month ago, I was still eating sugar."

That's integrity.

General Robert E. Lee, after the civil war, was offered a job as President of a New England insurance company, with no -- read "zero" -- subsequent responsibilities, doing nothing at all, for the princely sum of $12,500 per year. They just wanted his "name."

He told them "I must refuse -- I cannot in good conscience accept money for work I did not perform."

That's integrity.

Bobby Jones, the uber-talented amateur golfer, is the only golfer to win golf's grand slam: winning all the major tournaments in one year. Once during a tournament, he hooked his drive into the trees. Leaving his caddy on the fairway to mark his direction, Bobby went into the woods alone. Shortly, the ball pops out onto the fairway.

Jones emerges from the trees, and beckoned for a tournament official. His ball, it seemed, had moved while he was addressing it deep in those trees. He incurred a one-stroke penalty, and lost the tournament by that same margin.

The press loved the obvious act of integrity. They held him up as an example of something good and just, and an example for all. When asked about his seemingly selfless act of honesty, Jones simply replied, "It's like patting a guy on the back for not robbing a bank." To him, there simply wasn't another choice.

That's integrity.

Do right. Not "good," and not "not wrong." That's leading with integrity.

And you've got to admit, including Gandhi, Lee, and Jones in one story is at least a little impressive...


Leading Leaders: 6 Steps to Successful Executive Leadership

-- Herding cats would be easier...

Excerpted from a previous article I wrote; was time to bring back to the forefront)

The most important thing we do -- defined by significance, impact, and long-term results -- is leading leaders.

I was recently at a board function for a local not-for-profit, and the chair took a few minutes to recognize one of the directors. Instead of typical platitudes and nameless accolades, this chairman instead described this person in the highest possible manner.

Taking some time to address the difficulties of leadership, the challenges we face today, and the issues confronting us as we lead our organizations, he finished with the ultimate compliment:

"Linda excels at the most difficult -- she's a leader of leaders.

And it isn't easy. Leaders -- we know this, since "we are one" -- by their very nature tend to "lead;" that doesn't mean we can't, or don't, "follow," but it does mean that leading that bunch can be a lot like herding cats. They aren't ignoring to be malicious, it's simply who they are.

So, here are some suggestions. Many of these will resonate with you, knowing intuitively they are correct, since you've already recognized the need. Others may be a new learning, and that's always good. It helps with perspective knowing that I spent most of my corporate life in senior leadership roles. What's the phrase? Oh yeah, "I can empathize with you."

Anyway, the 6 steps:

1. Command can be lonely. As an armed forces veteran, I am often amazed at the similarities between corporate and military leadership. This step is direct from General Omar Bradley: Command can be lonely.

You weren't given the role to be friends with all, or to win a popularity contest. People are depending on you for successful decision-making; their livelihoods are at stake, and they know it.

You need to make hard decisions; to do that, you'll need to maintain a degree of distance; it's not being aloof, it's ensuring success for all, and that you'll have both the ability and mental willingness to make some of those hard decisions when the need arises.

2. Exemplify positive leadership -- always. Like it or not, a position of executive leadership is under a microscope 24x7. You are always the example; those in your charge will certainly emulate your actions, behavior, maybe even your way of thinking.

The question becomes, of course, are you a good example or... "not so much?"

Be the right example. All the time.

3. Leadership is situational. Unique is "ok." Consistent treatment doesn't mean "identical" treatment; realize there's room for the managers working for you to express themselves, have their own style, to "do things a bit differently."

And that's ok.

It doesn't mean they aren't party-liners, and it certainly doesn't mean they get to do "whatever they want, whenever they want," but it does mean that you hired or assigned them to do a job. Don't make someone accountable for something and then put your structural or functional handcuffs on their wrists.

It's "ok" to be different; however...

4. Do not tolerate prima donnas. No, I'm not contradicting myself from #3 above. Allowing individual differences is one thing; accepting and condoning actions from one that would be intolerable elsewhere is something altogether different.

A manager behaving this way usually has a reason; generally, they hold some exalted numbers within the company, or they are sacred due to some (usually) client relationship, or maybe they have pictures of the Chairman.

It doesn't matter. There is no single, bigger detriment to the success and synergy of a senior team than to allow a single "prima donna" to behave as if they are somehow excluded from the norms and expectations of the rest.

Trust me, this is direct experience talking.

It took this particular CEO over three years to finally whack the guy, and a collective sigh went out across the rest of the team. And you know what? Our performance -- financial results -- didn't change one iota.

5. Measure by a consistent yardstick. Now, again, consistent doesn't necessarily mean "identical," but organizational targets are hard enough to hit without you moving them after a shot's been fired.

This doesn't mean you cannot change a focus or direction mid-course. Of course you can -- and should -- if required or really necessary. Just make sure that the new direction or focus doesn't entirely ignore the results of the old.

And if EBITDA is the metric, don't blindside at the end of the year (you know, around bonus time) with some red herring like, "Yeah, your numbers were ok, but you've had a lot of turnover recently."

Tell 'em what the rules are, explain your expectations, then "set it" in stone as much as possible. Set expectations, measure, provide feedback. Rinse and repeat as much as necessary.

Leading an organization can be nearly thankless and fraught with issue -- some trivial, some extreme. The most important thing we do isn't managing earnings, driving new products/services to market, or even finding and developing "A" players.

It's leading leaders.

We set the stage, we act as the example, and we provide resources and break down obstacles. Then we get out of their way and let them lead. There is no higher purpose in leading an organization than ensuring your leaders can lead. Help them, nurture them, even get out of their way at times... but lead your leaders. That's how we get where we're going.

But, that's just me...
News Media Interview Contact
Name: D. Kevin Berchelmann
Title: President & Founder
Group: Triangle Performance, LLC
Dateline: Spring, TX United States
Direct Phone: 281-257-4442
Jump To D. Kevin Berchelmann - Executive Coach -- Speaker -- Strategist -- Leadership Facilitator Jump To D. Kevin Berchelmann - Executive Coach -- Speaker -- Strategist -- Leadership Facilitator
Contact Click to Contact