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Integrity — It’s more than just a word…

We were just assigned our seventh Team Lead since Catholic Healthcare West had outsourced me to PerotSystems. I’d been part of Perot’s Business Applications team for about sixteen months, and this seventh Team Lead was the first to come to Phoenix to look her team members into our eyes. She was brand new to the account and now had to give us our annual reviews, without the benefit of ever having viewed us. Like so many other corporations, Perot has the employee review herself, then during the annual review the employee and her direct supervisor compare reviews to come to an agreement. I’m often my own worst critic, so I was modest in ranking most of the achievements I was being measured on. But when I got to Client Satisfaction and Integrity, I gave myself the highest possible scores. Nina (pronounced Nine-ah), had seen a few of the accolades given me by clients who I supported, so she conceded the penultimate score on Client Satisfaction. But she had no way to assess my integrity. So she apologized, explained she was handling everyone on her new team the same, and gave me the average score, what would be a “C” on Cameron’s report card, for my Integrity. My reaction? This was the most honest evaluation that Nina could have given, given the circumstances. How can anyone judge another person’s integrity without evidence?

First of all, just what is integrity? I like Wikipedia’s definition:

Integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next are key determining factors. One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything one does on the same core set of values. While those values may change, it is their consistency with each other and with the person’s actions that determine the person’s integrity.
(Emphasis mine.)

Words have precise meanings, and it’s the imprecise use of words that causes so many problems.

(My Mom and I had this debate yesterday: She — “I heard it on TV today… we’re definitely in a recession.” Me — “Definitely, as in by definition?” She — “What does that mean? Brian Williams said we’re definitely in a recession. Why do you have to be so argumentative?” Me — “I mean, the definition of a recession is we’ve had a declining GDP for at least two consecutive quarters.” She — “Oh, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” Me — “Disagree about the definition of Recession?” She — “If you say so… it’s just a word.”)

Well, just like “Recession,” “Integrity” is a word that has a precise meaning. I wonder how many Realtors who use the word “Integrity” in their marketing think that it simply means “I’m a good person… really I am. People like me, and so will you!” I think of this whenever I see this word tossed around. Like this: There’s a local Realtor who I started noticing a while ago because she came up on my searches on Historic Phoenix. At first when I read her blog, I was impressed that she was such a fine writer, until Greg pointed out that most of her articles, maybe all, were plagiarized. This is easy enough to discover. Just ask Tim Goeglein, the President’s aide who resigned on February 29th because Nancy Nall Derringer accidently discovered that Goeglein had plagiarized a 1998 article by Jeffrey Hart. What gave Goeglein away is he so faithfully copied Hart’s article that he included the misspelled name of someone Nall Derringer decided to Google on.

Our local, plagiarizing Realtor, was just as faithful, without giving credit to the actual authors, or even linking out to their original columns… Greg once had to ask her to remove something of his she had used without credit. Eventually she caught on. And now, though her blog still consists of other people’s articles without using her own voice, she does give full credit to where the articles originated.

Yesterday I stumbled across her top ten reasons to list (key-word packed) houses with her. In contrast to the twenty-two specific tactics that uses when listing homes, this Realtor uses a countdown of ten reasons to list with her, which are all pretty well covered in the Realtor’s Code of Ethics. And — this is important — the Number One Reason You Should List Your Home With This Realtor is… She has Integrity!

I have no problem imagining that this woman is a very nice person who hadn’t fully understood that having inaugurated her blog with stolen content demonstrated an inconsistent “framework of principles.” There’s another local Realtor who I know for a fact is a really nice woman, who is listing a house that her sellers had bought a year and a half ago from my sellers. I wish her the best, and so I haven’t made a complaint that the pictures she’s using in her listing are all my photos, stolen from my listing of that same house. Had she called me to ask my permission, I would have readily given it. The house is listed for upwards from $100,000 less than her sellers paid, so I can imagine that the property doesn’t photograph as well as it did when I took those pictures. But even though she most likely took this shortcut to help her clients, I wonder whether she ever considered what this says — if only to herself — about her Integrity.

I respected the healthy skepticism that Nina displayed when she gave me my “C” in Integrity. And I could only wish that real estate buyers and sellers would develop this same skepticism. I think that if more of our clients required that we prove our claims it would help those in our profession who are willing to skate by with C’s to rise to the occasion and become “A” practitioners… that or leave the profession all together.

As for Nina from PerotSystems, she stuck around, and during the next twelve months made a point of working closely with her team. And the respect the two of us had for one another grew exponentially. Throughout the year — and to this day — she apologized again and again for having rated me as having merely average Integrity (whatever “average” means… you have Integrity — even when you’re in a tough situation — or you don’t). When my next annual review came around I received the best review given to any of the employees on that account… it included an A+ in Integrity.

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