It’s been a challenging year for most companies, even Apple Computer—the company that has topped Fortune magazine’s list of most admired companies for two years in a row. Not surprisingly, a lot has been written about Apple’s prodigious founder and CEO Steven Jobs, the company’s cutting edge devices, its “think different” culture, and whether or not the success machine will continue. But what really drives Apple’s superior performance, employee loyalty, customer satisfaction, and legendary work environment, even in difficult times? In a nutshell, they have developed a corporate culture where Organizational Integrity is a quality that is highly valued.
Organizational Integrity is the term we use to describe the foundational value that is the engine behind getting things done in the organization. It is the collective version of individual integrity where “I will do what I say I will do” becomes “We will do what we say we will do.” People in such organizations not only do what they say they will do, but they also get results, consistently superior results. When you can count on others to follow through on their commitments, including those made in behalf of the organization, the process of holding people accountable becomes much more positive and productive—Apple Computer is just one example.Three core values—Follow Through, Get Real, and Speak Up—comprise this notion of Organizational Integrity. Without them, Organizational Integrity is impossible to sustain. Incorporating and constantly stressing these three values will do more than anything else to make it possible for the people in your organization to take accountability, fulfill expectations, and deliver results. Take a moment to reflect on these values and your commitment to each:
Follow Through—do what you say you will do. When you make the decision to follow through on what you say you will do, you think differently about the commitments you make. You begin to create more meaningful and attainable “by-when’s,” and you make a consistent effort not to over-commit and under-deliver. Whenever you do make commitments, people accept them because they know you have thought long and hard about them and feel confident you can deliver the expected results. They begin to trust you.
Get Real—get to the truth. When you make the decision to get real and face the truth, you strengthen and spread positive accountability. Of course, it’s not always easy to get to the “truth,” and there’s the risk that doing so may make someone unhappy or look bad. But, getting real will do much more to move a project or an organization forward than any attempt to create a happy illusion, no matter how well intentioned. When you expect people to settle for nothing less than the truth, you enable them to see the reality of their situations and take accountability for delivering results.
Speak Up—say what needs to be said. When you make the decision to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, in a way that ensures others will hear it, you create respect, trust, and an accountable environment. For people to feel comfortable saying what needs to be said, they need an environment free from a fear of retaliation—such fear can be overpowering, causing even a normally assertive person to clam up. When you create environments where people feel free and encouraged to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, you unshackle them and empower them to do whatever is productively and ethically necessary to obtain results.
No one can expect true accountability for themselves, their people, or their organizations without these three values and the actions they drive. Establishing and promoting these values in your organization will increase accountability, promote trust, empower people, and create the sort of Organizational Integrity that has made Apple Computer one of our most consistently admired companies.