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Posted on Oct 7, 2016

5-Step Model to Close the Integrity Gap

5-Step Model to Close the Integrity Gap

When there’s a difference between what we say and what we do, there’s an Integrity Gap. If the gap is large, we’ll likely experience a lot of frustration and personal dissatisfaction. If the gap is small, these issues disappear.

So what contributes to this gap, and how can we close it?

businessman-swearing-oath-with-fingers-crossedFirst, let’s recognize that this issue is not limited to politicians and slick sales people. The Integrity Gap can occur to almost anyone in everyday life. For example:

  • We say that we always tell the truth. But then we tell a little “white lie” to protect our boss from getting into trouble.
  • We say to a co-worker that we trust them to look after an issue. But then we check up on the issue behind their back just to make sure it’s resolved properly.
  • We tell our spouse that we’re on our way home from work. But we don’t say anything about the quick stop we plan to make at our favorite store.
  • We apologize to our kids and tell them that we’re too busy today and have no time for them. But then we sit in our car in the driveway checking social media for almost an hour.

Is there a problem in these scenarios?

Some will see the problem like a bloodstain on a white shirt. Others will struggle to see any issues here, kind of like looking for the little guy in the red-and-white-striped shirt in a Where’s Waldo book.

For those that see the problem, read on. An Integrity Gap can only be closed if you recognize you have one.

Cause of the Integrity Gap

What exactly causes an Integrity Gap?

An Integrity Gap happens when we have competing commitments or desires. When the one that wins is at odds with our belief about ourselves, a serious gap occurs. For example:

  • You want to be known as someone who always tells the truth. But you also want to protect your boss, which is really about protecting your job.
  • You want others to believe that you trust them. But you also want to be sure everything is done right, which is really about making sure you don’t get blindsided with problems.
  • You want to be open and honest with your spouse. But you also have your own agenda, which is really about preserving your personal freedom.
  • You want your kids to always feel an open connection with you. But you also want to stay connected with everyone else, which is really about trying to manage all your relationships.

For some, these might feel easily justifiable. They would never claim to always tell the truth or tell people they trust their work. And they would be clear with their spouse that they don’t always tell them everything and be open with their kids that they have other priorities. They likely state “Get over it!

Remember, when our behavior matches what we say, there is very little Integrity Gap. In this case, no need to read any further.

The problem occurs for those who want to be perceived – and valued – one way, but actually behave differently. It is these folks that need help closing the Integrity Gap. If this includes you, read on.

5-Step Model to Close the Integrity Gap

A simple response to closing the Integrity Gap is this: Always do what’s right.

5-stairs-against-white-wallBut the truth is that life can be complicated and having additional tools to help close the gap when it occurs can be useful. So to help close the Integrity Gap, here is a 5-step model I recommend that follows the acronym START.

  1. Self-Reflection – conduct regular assessments (ideally daily) to determine any incongruences between your words and actions / behaviors.
  2. Truthful – look the facts in the eye and be truthful with yourself. Don’t sugarcoat the truth. Ponder over various motivations that caused your behavior to be misaligned with personal beliefs.
  3. Accountable – own up to the Integrity Gap and apologize to those who were impacted by it. Also engage accountability partners who will let you know when they see gaps in your life.
  4. Resolve – make a renewed decision to align your words (based on your beliefs) with your actions / behaviors, and to monitor your motivations to prevent misalignment.
  5. Transparent – be open about personal struggles and make communication a two-way street. Invite others to help you to stop gaps before they get too wide.

As an added bonus, it can be helpful to have a few role models to lead you through really difficult situations. Here are two:

  • Your hero. Think of someone you greatly admire and respect, and then consider what they would say and how they would behave in your specific situation.
  • Yourself. Consider how the best version of yourself would behave in your specific situation.

Lastly, if you’re wondering why you should put in the effort to close the Integrity Gap, consider this:

Integrity is a leadership issue, and leaders need to close the gap to ensure no one else falls through it.

In addition, integrity builds trust, commitment, and accountability with others. If you work alone, then integrity might not be a big issue for you. But if you work with and through others, Integrity is everything.


What other ways would you recommend to help close the Integrity Gap?



5 step model to close the inegrity gap