Archive for clarity

What else matters?

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. — Alan K. Simpson

Like you, I’ve read a lot of books on leadership, self-development, team building, relationships, success, and general happiness. Like you, I read a fair number of blogs, and follow a generous number of smart coaches and thinkers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. And I’d say this word integrity comes up frequently, whether in a question, as in: “What does integrity mean to you?” or “Is it important for leaders to have integrity and why?”, or in a list, as in: “Top 5 Success Criteria”, or in combination with other qualities or skills in a discussion such as: “How to Communicate More Effectively.”

What I don’t often see is a discussion of how to build and maintain integrity. So here’s my primer on how to begin.

Integrity is often confused with honesty. While these two concepts are very similar, there are some important differences. Let’s start by looking at the definitions of both integrity and honesty from

in·teg·ri·ty [in-teg-ri-tee] (noun)

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

hon·es·ty [on-uh-stee] (noun)

1. the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness
2. truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness
3. freedom from deceit or fraud

Notice that the emphasis in honesty is to be truthful and free from deceit. This is an important aspect of integrity (see the first definition of integrity). But it is only a part of the picture. The emphasis in integrity is on adherence to ethical principles (which includes honesty) and maintaining wholeness.

Notice that the definition of integrity doesn’t list which principles. This is why there can be discussions on LinkedIn that go on for weeks about the meaning of integrity. Not everyone agrees on which ethical principles are the ones that should be upheld without exception — or whether there should even be exceptions in certain cases. That decision of exceptions, in itself, is an ethical decision based on principles.

The adoption and commitment to ethical principles is a very personal decision. We’re talking about values. Some of those values we claim to share in the United States: freedom to pursue certain activities, or freedom from certain political oppressions, for example. And even those freedoms are hotly debated — how much freedom, for whom, under what circumstances, to what end, and so on. Many of those values we disagree on: Is happiness more important than wisdom? Authenticity? Family? Love? God? Kindness? Fairness?

If I asked you to name your top five values — the ones that guide your life, your decisions, that you do not compromise — could you list them right now, without hesitation? This is an important question to consider because without clarity in regard to our values, living with and in integrity is very difficult. How can you know you are adhering to moral and ethical principles if you don’t know what those principles are? How do you know your character is sound? You might say, “Well, I know I’m not going to go out and kill anyone.” Well, sure, but that situation is likely not causing you a lot of conflict on a daily basis either. It’s not very likely testing your integrity. You are much more likely in conflict about something like one of the below:

  • Are you justifying a small cheat on your taxes, counting on the odds to keep you from getting caught?
  • Are you engaging in a safe flirtation behind the back of your significant other, knowing that they would be very upset and/or hurt if they found out?
  • Are you spending way too much time surfing the internet at work, taking longer lunches than you should, coming in late, leaving early, using sick time instead of vacation, or in some other way cheating your employer of the time and attention they are paying you for?
  • Have you been putting off having a difficult conversation with an employee, child, significant other, friend, or other family member because you just don’t want to deal with the issue?
  • Are you eating, drinking, sleeping, spending, or smoking too much, and justifying it in some way because you don’t want to face some difficult reality in your life?
  • Have you been pushing that same pile of paper around your desk for weeks on end because you would rather do something other than sit down and deal with the filing, task, project, person, problem, decision, or question?

If you started feeling uncomfortable and answered “yes”, “maybe”, or even started justifying a “no” answer to any of the above, you might want to take an honest look at your actions in light of your values. If you easily and honestly answered “no” to every question, OR if you answered “yes” but honestly do not feel any conflict at all, you are likely not challenged by the examples above. No matter what your answers were, looking at your values can be a very empowering and enlightening exercise. Getting clarity about values ensures that we are living with integrity, regardless of how others define their values.Clarify your values by writing them down — no more than five for best results, because you can’t truly dedicate yourself to more than roughly five core principles at a time with great energy and purpose — and then consciously choose actions that align with those values. When you find yourself in conflict, consider your values — your ethical principles — and choose the option that keeps you whole in light of those principles.

Clarifying values so we can live with integrity is certainly not magical and won’t resolve all conflicts or solve all problems — personal or interpersonal, but it is a great place to start. It is also a great starting place for resolving communication conflicts, teamwork issues, and leadership, relationship, and parenting challenges. When we understand others’ values, we can support them in living in integrity just as we ask for their support in helping us do the same.

There may be a lot of things that are important, and your list of core values may not include integrity. But if we stand back and take a global view, considering the overall impact of living in integrity, the quote above begins to beg the question: What else could matter more?

Your Leadership Power Charge

Are You Riding the Brakes?

You may have heard of Car Talk, a popular radio talk show about automobiles and their repairs hosted by brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, broadcast weekly on NPR. I happened to find a question from a fan about riding the brakes that Tom and Ray answered which provides some wonderful metaphors for life. Let’s take a look. I’ve edited a bit for brevity and highlighted the parts we’re going to focus on later.

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband…drives with one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. At a red light, the poor car is trying desperately to move forward, as told by the right foot, but is being held prisoner by the left foot. It’s a terrible thing to experience and takes every ounce of my being to stay silent. … I am just asking/begging you guys to declare that two-footed driving is bad. … Thanks for your time, guys. I do hope you have a lovely, one-footed day. — Nikki


TOM: If he’s “riding the brake” — that is, resting his left foot on the brake while he’s accelerating — he can easily overheat the brakes. And when brakes overheat, they stop working. That’s bad, right?

RAY: Even if he doesn’t overheat the brakes, he’ll surely wear them out faster. He’ll also be activating his brake lights when he’s not intending to stop. That tends to confuse and infuriate the drivers behind him.

TOM: It also “outs” him as a full-blown geezer.

RAY: On the other hand, if he uses two feet — one for the gas pedal and one for the brake — but only uses one pedal at a time, there’s nothing wrong with that.

TOM: It is, however, very difficult to avoid resting your left foot on the brake. Try it yourself. Your leg will be aching after about five minutes.

RAY: So make a deal with him, Nikki. If he’s willing to go to the gym and strengthen his gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris, tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and peroneus brevis muscles so he can keep his nonactive foot flexed and off the unused pedal, you’ll stop complaining about his driving.

TOM: But if he can’t — or won’t — stick to only one foot at a time, tell him…you’re buying him a car with a clutch. That’ll give his left foot something productive to do.

Credit: My SA: San Antonio’s Home Page

What’s your left foot doing?

You and I don’t have a gas pedal and a brake pedal. But we often set goals only to hold ourselves or our “passengers” back, so the car metaphor works really well to shed light on why we often find it far more difficult to achieve those goals than it could be. Perhaps we’re spending more personal energy than we need to — overheating our brakes and getting worn out too soon. Perhaps we’re using more external resources. Maybe we’re putting strain on our personal or professional relationships. Let’s take a look at the highlighted areas from the exchange above and see how they apply to real life.

  1. Trying desperately to move forward, as told by the right foot, but is being held prisoner by the left foot. This is the definition of riding the brake: pushing on the gas while simultaneously pushing down on the brake. We are saying we want to move, but also saying we don’t want to move. It’s time to make up our minds. Commit to the action you really want to take and remove one of your feet! Take your foot off the brake if you truly want to move ahead with your goals and dreams. But if you have an excellent reason not to move forward, then make a commitment now to say “no” and remove your foot from the gas.
  2. Activating his brake lights when he’s not intending to stop. That tends to confuse and infuriate the drivers behind him. There are people around you who are ready to support you and may already have given you their support. If you’re noticing some conflict in your personal or professional relationships, no wonder! When you stop sending mixed signals, the people around you will no longer be confused and exasperated. Get clear with yourself, and then broadcast a clear message with your actions.
  3. Very difficult to avoid resting your left foot on the brake. Your leg will be aching after about five minutes. Some of us are rationalizing our “riding the brake” approach by saying that we aren’t actually touching the brake with the left foot. We are holding the left foot above the brake pedal in READINESS for stopping. This Car Talk response shows that, even if that is true, it is a waste of physical effort and energy. It is exausting to actually keep one’s foot hovering in the air for very long. It is time to get honest with yourself. Keeping one foot on both pedals may not actually help you be any more ready to stop than another, simpler approach. It may be you’re a victim of habit — a behavior you’ve simply become very accustomed to. Time to break that mindless attachment and mindfully choose a behavior that supports your growth.
  4. If he’s willing to go to the gym and strengthen his gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris, tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and peroneus brevis muscles so he can keep his nonactive foot flexed and off the unused pedal… As a follow up to number 3, if you really do want to keep your habitual behavior, here is what is required to do it well (in this case, keep your foot hovering in the air above the pedal). Are you that committed to your approach? Often, when we discover what is required to continue with our current methods effectively, we realize it is just not worth it and we are more wiling to abandon them for something that will more easily produce the results we really want. Why not evaluate your current technique and see whether you’d like to make it work better, or give it up for something that will help you move forward more easily?
  5. Give his left foot something productive to do. Instead of working hard to hold on to your current method, you may be surprised to find that putting your energy into a new approach actually does produce better results. This means being willing to learn and then actually DO something new. Often we go as far as learning the new method, but we keep it in the theoretical realm, never applying what we’ve learned. The key here is to put your new learning into practical action as soon as you possibly can. Identify the new behavior you’d like to adopt, and then take action! There will never be a better time than now.

Whether you need to commit to full forward momentum or a complete stop, finding clarity and making the commitment frees up energy and communicates intention. Your level of satisfaction will naturally increase with your ability to make greater use of your resources, increased mental clarity, and less conflict in your relationships. Take your foot off one of the pedals, and stop riding the brake!

If you would like assistance on which course of action to take, contact us. Coaching can help you gain clarity.

Next newsletter, I’ll follow up with this article. I wonder what action you will have taken by then? Write to me and let me know about your results. I love hearing from you.



Think Big Manifesto

What I’m reading now

The Think Big Manifesto: Think You Can’t Change Your Life (and the World)? Think Again. (Michael Port): Michael Port has written several successful business books, but this one took him out of his comfort zone. He talks straight about his own fears and excuses and then openly moves beyond them to show you how to do the same thing. Ready to think big? Bigger? It’s not a big book, but don’t judge it’s impact by it’s size.



Michelle Kunz: Life Coach, Career Coach, Executive Coach

About Michelle Kunz

Michelle earned her Certified Professional Coach (CPC) certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), an International Coach Federation (ICF) – accredited coach training program. She has also earned the ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential and is qualified to administer, interpret and debrief the Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, and Energy Leadership assessments. She is currently accepting a limited number of new clients interested in life coaching, career coaching, executive coaching, or leadership training and development.




Follow Up

What new technique did you try? Last month we talked about how to listen better to others so they would be more open to listening to your ideas. Specifically, I encouraged you to try active listening and changing your physical position while remaining silent to expand your listening skills. How did you do? Miss the last issue? Click here to read it.




Living Fearlessly Coaching Program!

Begins June 13: Register now for this fun, interacitve coaching program! Learn how to move past the fear that stops you dead in your tracks or keeps you repeating undesirable patterns of behavior. Includes live webinars, personal assessment and debrief, and more. To register now click here. Seats are limited and early registration discounts apply.




From the PEL Blog

Intensity: Your personal accelerator: “It really doesn’t matter if you are driving a Lamborghini and have a long stretch of empty road ahead of you if you are barely touch the accelerator pedal. If you don’t crank up the engine and take advantage of everything that car was built to do, you may as well be driving a Hyundai.” To read more about this topic, check out the blog!



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