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Black Connect
by on September 3, 2019

In last week's blog, we asked: "Are We Past Integrity?" We posed this question, in part, because of Jay-Z's announcement of a partnership with the NFL and the ensuing backlash. 

Previously, Jay-Z declined to perform at the Super Bowl and encouraged other entertainers to do the same after the NFL's mistreatment of Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick protested police brutality against African-Americans by kneeling on the football field during the national anthem.

When asked about his abrupt change in position in an interview, Jay-Z said that we are "past kneeling" and that we need to take action. However, many believe this move lacked integrity and was more motivated by money.

It turns out the skeptics were on point.  Jay-Z's company, Roc Nation, announced in a recent press release its new apparel line and music project will support programs under the league's social justice initiative called Inspire Change.  

Roc Nation said proceeds from the Inspire Change apparel line would support organizations that are focused on the league's efforts to address social justice issues.  

People were swift to condemn this disingenuous and self-serving business maneuver on the part of Jay-Z.

While Jay-Z might be able to one day redeem himself in the public eye, as an entrepreneur, you may not be afforded such luxury.   

Success in business doesn't happen overnight, but in today's cancel culture,  it can disappear in an instant. To be successful, you have to be able to go the distance. Each time you act with integrity, you build credibility that will benefit you and your business now and in the future.


Tips on How Entrepreneurs Can Demonstrate Integrity in Business

#1.  Don't Partner with the NFL

The key takeaway in Jay-Z's partnership with the NFL is the importance of consistency.  Jay-Z initially took a hard and vocal stance against the NFL in support of Kaepernick and the principles upon which Kaepernick's protest was based.  

To the public, it appears that Jay-Z quickly abandoned his principles and alliance with Kaepernick for money.  This type of "sell-out" behavior demonstrates a lack of consistency that has damaged Jay-Z's credibility within the Black community. It's caused a disconnection between him and the fans who largely contributed to his success.

In business, lack of consistency in the quality of your product, service, relationships, attitudes, and behaviors directly correlates to a decrease in profit.
As an entrepreneur, you must have the courage of your convictions and understand that there are consequences to greed, betrayal, or deception.

No, Mr. Carter, we are not past kneeling.


#2. Clearly Define Your Morals and Principles

Understand that ethical dilemmas in business, as in life, are inevitable. From the outset, you have to be clear on what matters most to you - in business and life.  

Once you establish your moral and ethical boundaries, be mentally and emotionally prepared to handle situations that test your level of integrity.

Seek out at least one person whose judgment you trust and opinion you value who can serve as your mentor and provide you with sound advice.  You can also ask questions and seek help in Black Connect's Business Forum or Community Share group.


#3. Evaluate Your Actions

As part of your evaluation of your business, include self-evaluations.  In the same way that you monitor and evaluate sales, expenses, and your team's productivity, you should also assess your actions and responses to the challenges you have faced.   

Ask yourself if you are living up to your moral principles in all your business dealings. Have you comprised your integrity?  If you aren't meeting your expectations, try to identify the problem. You might be easy to allow stronger personalities to influence you, or easy money attracts you, or you feel pressured to act contrary to your principles.   

If you take time to reflect, and you will understand the areas that need improvement, you will grow in your emotional intelligence.


#4. Treat Everyone Equally

Look at your business as separate groups of individuals - employees, partners, suppliers, contractors, customers/clients, etc.  Each group contributes, in some way, to the success of your business.  The person familiar to each group is you.  As an entrepreneur, you are your business, and your business is you.  

The level of professionalism and ethics that you display should be consistent across all groups of people who keep your business running. It doesn't matter that some groups of people will never interact. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, "real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not."


#5. Understand the Other Side of the Table

While all business arrangements are mutually beneficial, the benefit to each party may not be the same in each transaction. Money is not always the motivating factor in every business arrangement.  A person may enter into a business arrangement for charitable reasons, to gain experience, to make connections, or other non-monetary benefits. 

You build your internal company culture and external relationships by actually talking to people, one on one, and understanding what they care about.   
Do not treat people as instruments of personal gain. It's a sign of true integrity when you demonstrate that you are capable of putting other people's interests ahead of your own.


#6. Encourage Others to Behave Ethically

Rewarding honesty and moral actions will spread the integrity culture among your team.  Do not remain silent or otherwise condone attitudes and behaviors that do not align with the values and image that you want your company to represent. 

Address any undesirable behavior early on before seemingly benign issues snowball into a cancerous company culture.


 #7. Check Yourself

In the words of Ice Cube, "check yo self before you wreck yo self." 
Even with your best intentions, you will make a mistake or wish you had handled a situation differently.  So don't think that the other person didn't notice your transgression just because she or he chose to remain silent on the issue. Instead of confronting you, the person may opt to not work with you again, or they may ghost your team.  

When mistakes happen, be quick to take responsibility for your actions and communicate directly with the person involved.  In business, remember that you aim to build bridges, not walls. 


 #8. Give Others the Benefit Of The Doubt

People of integrity don't jump to conclusions. Learn to give other people the benefit of the doubt. See tip #7.  If you want others to accept your sincere apologies, you must be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and offer forgiveness.  At least give others the chance to explain themselves.


Final Words

Integrity is holistic; it encompasses every aspect of your business. Researchers at Harvard Business School studied data on more than 50,000 people and found that those who carry "toxic" traits can cause significant damage to a company. The damage can include the loss of customers, employee morale, and legitimacy among relevant external stakeholders.  As an entrepreneur, make sure that the toxic member of your team is not you.

Posted in: Business