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Do The Right Thing

Tweet 62 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Your personal brand should be unique to you, but built on integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

I saw a great example of this the other day.  I was in Florida to visit my dad for his 88th birthday.  He and I had breakfast the last day I was there.  My nephew, Liam O’Reilly, was joining us.

We arrived first and were seated near the front of the restaurant.  I saw Liam coming across the parking lot.  Before he came into the restaurant, he stopped on the patio and set something on a table.  He saw me watching him.

When he got to the table he said, “I found a ten dollar bill in the parking lot.  I thought it was probably a tip that blew off a table that people had just left.  I put it on the table under a coffee cup to make sure it wouldn’t blow away again.”

Liam’s actions were exactly what I mean when I say that “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”  Liam found the bill in the parking lot.  He could have pocketed it and no one would have been the wiser.  In fact many people would have encouraged him to do so.

But Liam, like me, has worked for tips in his life.  He knows that servers rely on their tips to supplement their wages.  Besides that, he is a man of integrity.  So he did the right thing.

According to Wikipedia, “Integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles.”

Integrity and consistency are intertwined.  People who are consistent in their actions are seen as people with a high degree of integrity.

Oprah says, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”  This is true.  If you practice situational ethics – doing the right thing only when you’re in the public eye — you aren’t really a person of high integrity, you’re just pretending to be one.

Besides, it’s hard to act one way in public, and another in private.  So to be safe, resolve to act like Liam.  Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – not because you’ll get credit, or avoid getting into trouble.

John Maxwell is a well-known business author.  One of his books sends the same message.  It’s called, There’s No Such Thing As Business Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions.  According to John, that rule is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In other words, do the right thing.

There’s a practical side to this too.  Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”  In other words, if you’re always a person of high integrity, it’s easy to be a person of high integrity; there are no complicating factors – like remembering what you did or said in a given situation.

Polonius gave similar advice to Hamlet.  “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the day the night, thou canst be false to no man.”  Roy Blackman, my father in law, passed away several years ago.  This quote was his epitaph.  It was on the program handed out at his funeral.  Roy embodied it in how he lived his life.  It was the only piece of advice he gave his grandson, Matt, as he went off to college.

Oprah, John Maxwell, Mark Twain and Shakespeare are all in agreement on one common sense piece of career advice.  If you want to become known as a person of high integrity you need to act as a person of high integrity all the time – not just when it suits you, or when someone might notice.  Liam O’Reilly demonstrated this by his actions the other day.

Be like Liam.  Build your personal brand on integrity and you’ll succeed in your life and career.

You can download a free copy of Success Tweets at http://www.SuccessTweets.com.

Read more posts by Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., The Common Sense Guy, a career success coach, leadership consultant, motivational speaker, bestselling author and influential blogger for JenningsWire.