Navigating Integrity: Transforming Business as Usual into Business at its Best – Book Review

by Al Watts. (2010). Minneapolis, MN: BRIO Press. 170 pages.

Reviewed by Diane Byington, Ph.D.

navigateReading this small book is like snuggling up with a friend next to a fire on a winter evening, sipping a glass of your favorite wine, and listening to him tell you the accumulated wisdom of his life. Al Watts is a veteran consultant who focuses on organizational integrity and also provides dynamite team-building lessons on board his sailboat. He combines these two passions in his new book.

Watts’ thesis is that organizations, leaders, and teams need to balance four aspects of integrity if they are to be ethical, engaging, and effective. The model of integrity he has developed combines identity, authenticity, alignment, and accountability. Organizations that master the integrity challenge know who they are, where they are going, and what they value. Mastering the authenticity challenge involves modeling trueness to the mission and values, truth-telling, and transparency. To be in alignment means being congruent with what matters most, crafting unity from diversity, and continually adapting and growing. Organizations that are accountable are responsible, deliver on their promises, and exercise sound stewardship.

He includes chapters on each of these aspects of integrity. Each chapter includes a discussion of the concept, along with numerous quotes by wise people through the ages, and questions to guide your thinking around that aspect of integrity. He also freely draws from his own experiences and those of his clients with these concepts, and frequently uses sailing metaphors to make his points.

He frequently lightens up the serious nature of the concept with funny asides. I particularly liked his pointing out mistakes that leaders made in predicting the future. For example, Thomas J. Watson, Board Chairman of IBM, in 1943 said that “there is a world market for only about five computers.” And Decca Recording Company in 1962 turned away the Beatles, saying: “We don’t like that sound, and groups of guitars are on their way out.” In 1968 Business Week declared: “With over fifty foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.”

After reading the book I took his “Leadership Integrity Survey,” and was notably impressed. The survey, scored through The Booth Company, is a self assessment of how you do in each of the four areas of integrity, and is offered for free to buyers of the book. My strongest score was in Identity, and my lowest was in Alignment. I wasn’t surprised by these results, but it was fun to see them in print, and to see how the survey supports the message of the book.

Watts has a rather conversational writing style that is more like listening to a private talk, so this is a book for sipping, rather than gulping, as you reflect on integrity along with the author.

— Diane Byington is a writer and coach who consults with The Booth Company.

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