Thousands of companies around the world just love hanging the word “integrity” on the walls of their hallowed hallways. You know…it looks good.
But in the past few years, we have seen some of most well respected companies do everything they can to grab onto the almighty dollar…anything…even if it means ripping off a client.
Today, 12-year top tier employee, Greg Smith, resigned from Goldman Sachs. You can read his full blog post on the New York Times Opinion Page: Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs. Smith is not a newbie. He has been with the company for 12 years and has been one of their most supportive raving fan employees. Yet today, he has had enough. To sum it up, here is a bit of what he mentions in his post:
“It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.”
So many people believe today that you can plop the word “integrity” on a piece of paper or on a wall in your company’s building and not live it…no one will ever know if you are not walking your talk, following through on your promises and looking out for the best interest of your clients and employees. But, the world has changed. We now have the 24/7 news cycle, forums and bloggers. And, people are just sick and tired of the greed and corruption we are seeing right and left. Here I am…a leadership coach, and I don’t know Greg Smith, yet I have heard a few things along the way the past two years about Goldman Sachs. While I would want to hear the other side of the story (there are always two sides to everything), Smith’s story lines up with what I have heard from some well respected national leaders.
In the United States, we wonder why we are in trouble. The blog post Smith wrote today answers that question in spades. Companies now think they can be greedy, rip people off, steal ideas from other companies and go after more and more money and just forget about their solid reputation. I wonder what the men and women who founded Goldman Sachs would think if they knew what was going on. The company was founded in 1869 on principles mentioned by Smith: teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. Apparently, GS has fallen off the tracks according to Smith.
This should be a wake up call to every organization out there. Not only will clients not want to do business with you when you are out of integrity, but your top talent will jump ship when they have had enough.
Just as a reminder: If your company is “living in integrity”, you should be able to:
- Be widely trusted by your clients and employees
- Present the unvarnished truth on each and every decision you make
- Walk your talk, even when no one is looking
- Take tough stands when you notice employees doing things you know will hurt your company
- Not misrepresent yourself for your own personal gain
- Keep confidences
- Under-promise and over-deliver
- Drop your own personal agenda to take care of your clients, employees and company
- Set personal friendships aside when making a decision (if you are making a decision that is out of integrity to protect or help a friend, you are out of integrity)
- Admit and own your mistakes publicly
- Address conflict in a direct manner and settle it in an equitable fashion
- Openly share information that other people need
Today, I encourage everyone reading this post to perform an integrity check by asking yourself this question:
Am I walking my talk, or are my words just empty words that look good on paper?
Thank you to Jeannette Paladino of Write, Speak, Sell for sending me this post. She is a long-time New York City gal (and amazing blogger), and she always is on the lookout for me. Thanks Jeannette for sending this along!
- Goldman Executive Resigns Via Public Letter (dealbook.nytimes.com)
- Top Goldman executive quits over culture of ‘toxic’ greed (oyiabrown.wordpress.com)
- Goldman Sachs insider slams firm for ripping off clients (business.financialpost.com)
- Top Goldman executive quits over culture of ‘toxic’ greed (telegraph.co.uk)