And that auto guy was waiting for me at the auto stand even though I was almost 45 minutes late and he handed out Rs. 20/- towards me and said “Madam, yesterday’s change!” The day before I had a little quarrel with him over change and he offered to pay me the next day at the same time. I take the same route everyday so I told him that I would wait for him the next day at the same place. And later I totally forgot and came about 45 mins late. The auto guy was waiting for me to give me Rs. 20/- that he owed me. I never expected to see him again, I was pretty sure that he won’t show up – but he did.

In my eyes, that auto guy might have been an illiterate but definitely had high standards of integrity. He did what he promised, even though he had no stakes in the situation. How many of us really do that?

Integrity! How do I define it? It is very simple. “Do what you say and say what you do”

“I would complete the implementation of this web page by end of today”

“I will send you the report by Monday”

“I promise we will go for a picnic with kids this Saturday”

“We will go for a romantic date this weekend”

“We will catch up for coffee on coming Thursday”

“I will definitely go to the gym from Monday”

These are some of the examples we hear all the time and all of them (might have been said casually) do offer some amount of commitment to other person or to oneself. And mostly such commitments made casually are either forgotten or thrown off the priority list in no time. When we get into a habit of doing this over and over for years together, it becomes a habit. It becomes “Ok” to break promises and disappoint people. Even people around stop getting disappointed because they wouldn’t trust your promises anymore; we end up having a very loose relationship with our commitments.

“Humne aapko apni zubaan di hai” (I have given you my word) – This is a very common dialog of old Bollywood movies. In such a dialog, the promises are meant to be kept. Their word is their self-respect. If they do not fulfil their words (promises), they are considered less of a man (human-being). That is the kind of relationship that one should have with your word.

Your word defines you. If each one of us really take a pledge to strive to mean and fulfil every word that we say – we would end up watching our words a lot more. We would not make promises that we know are not meant to be kept. We would not say things casually. We would define our actions more appropriately.

I get utterly frustrated at work when people don’t turn up at the right time for the meetings. I get irritated to the core when somebody doesn’t respect my time. Punctuality is one of the key aspects of Integrity. It is not about just being punctual but it is about respecting time – your own and that of the others. Fortunately, our generation is blessed with super technology that lets us be connected 24/7 in a million different ways. It is not difficult to pass on information today, yet many of us just take it for granted. It is “chalta hai” to be 10 min late. It is “ok” to not deliver projects on time. It is “not a big deal” if I missed out gym for another month. It is “fine” to not spend time with your kids in spite of promising them.

I have been associated with 2 MNCs in my work life. One of them was an American company and other one is Dutch company. So, I have worked with Americans, Russians, Chinese, Europeans, British etc. And almost all of those people have a negative image of Indians with respect to integrity. They believe through their experience that Indians are not as professional. There are exceptions of course but a general perception of Indians is so.

What can we do to turn this perception around? What can we do to make sure that we are trusted and respected.  I would suggest – start small. Take baby steps. Start watching your words and commitments and make out plans to fulfil all of them. Some of the key steps that you can take today to ensure a step towards increasing your “Integrity”

  • Be on Time where ever you are supposed to be. This is not easy – in today’s tight schedule, even with the right intention we end up being late for something or the other.
  • If you cannot reach on time, make sure to inform the concerned person about it.
  • Hold others accountable if they do not respect your time
  • Do not make casual promises. Make sure of what you are saying in “friendly” note does not imply a commitment from your side.
  • If you feel that the person you are talking to has not understood you correctly, do not leave ground for misunderstandings to grow.
  • Keep your commitments whether it is a promise to yourself to hit gym daily or a project completion date to your boss. A promise is a promise and is never meant to be broken.
  • Learn to say “NO”, so that you keep your commitments to a realistic number which can be met.
  • If you could not keep your commitment, find the root cause behind it. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Fix it and learn from it.
  • Learn to apologise for not keeping your promise and mean that apology. If you do not improve next time – it would be a failure.

It is easy to write about being a person with high integrity but too difficult to follow. I struggle with it all the time, but I always strive to keep it high at all times. Sometimes, it is way too demanding for me to be my Word always – in such situations, I take a sabbatical for a day or two. I inform people around me about this and keep my commitments close to zero during this sabbatical. It is difficult and extremely strenuous at times. But the more you try, the better you get. And you gain much invaluable trust and respect from people around you which is the biggest reward for me. 

Who you are is your word and your word is your integrity. So, do not compromise on it!