Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

The REWARD. Stolen: Change Management. Reward offered. Post 4

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset.” ― John D. MacDonald, The Turquoise Lament

Zen skyscrapperChange Management is a still-young profession struggling to establish legitimacy in the arena of the wild web. The preceding three posts in this series looked at the problems of plagiarism and intellectual property (IP) theft in change management. This post looks at the incentives of operating with integrity and of requiring others to do likewise.                    

Professional Integrity

What I love about the MacDonald quote above is its raw honesty. There is no guarantee that integrity provides any advantage whatsoever. In fact, it might be a disadvantage.

However, for those with high ethical standards, that is irrelevant. It is an unwavering standard and that is all there is to it.

Living an authentic life, where one’s values and actions are aligned, is the objective. Integrity is its own reward.


I think it’s important (at least it’s important for me) to remember that standards are aspirational. The fact that we sometimes falter should not cause us to question the standard.

It might seem inconceivable that anyone could accidentally plagiarize or steal IP, but I think it might actually be common.

I have a friend who has been known to say, “I have never had an original idea.” Now, I consider this particular individual to be one of the most insightful and thoughtful people I know, so this immediately struck me as incongruous. Yet, as I reflected on my own writing, I realized that much of what emerges from my pen is actually a re-interpretation of one or more ideas from others.

Often, my blog posts are the output of processing everything I have studied, practiced, and experienced. It is a way of making sense of complexity. I share it with the hope that it might shorten others’ journeys.

In sharing my own thoughts and experiences I hope that I remember to cite sources and inspirations. The fact is, though, that once I have internalized an idea it feels like it’s “mine.” I have to acknowledge that, despite my best efforts, I may have in the past and likely will in the future accidently forget to cite a reference.

Believing this to be true, I have to remind myself to be tolerant, actually generous, with others.

Trusted Advisors

There is no question that trust is a critical element of change management. It plays out in a variety of ways.

Why choose to stand up for professional integrity around intellectual property? Why should this level of professional integrity matter to all of us? It matters because the caliber of our work from start to end matters:

  • “We live in an era where each of us copes with, modifies to, and has the opportunity to step up to tremendous amounts of change. The degree to which we are good at this affects our well-being, our personal lives, our families, our businesses, and our economies―our quality of life as communities.” The power of change management. Pay it forward.

When this matters, it then matters that we do it with the utmost commitment to quality and integrity. And when you demonstrate this, it reflects on you.

To be clear, the proper citation of all content (phrases, ideas, tools, training, methodologies, etc.) may narrow recognition down to the author that came up with the original concept, but it also speaks volumes about how trustworthy you are, about how much you know and are willing to share in service of the change.

It is important to take this position in the spirit of service. There is a high degree of diplomacy required to do the right things in ways that serve organizations and that foster and build community. This requires an investment of caring and nurturing, a mindset that says individuals will rise to the expectations of the group.

Extreme Trust

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published “Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage” [1] earlier this year. They make a compelling case that, in a transparent world, we don’t have a choice but to prove that we are looking out for the best interests of our clients, our organizations―our community. From their short video promotion:

  • “Improve the way that you look out for customers. Improve the way that you use honesty.”
  • “Consumer standards are increasing and they expect more from companies in terms of trust than they used to.”

When your clients (internal or external) see you looking out for their best interests, in diplomatic and meaningful ways, you have a unique opportunity to differentiate yourself.

When it is a reflection of what you believe, then it is an authentic representation of what you stand for.

The reward

The reward is an opportunity to align personal integrity with professional delivery.

It is an opportunity to deliver greater value in ways that truly impact the well-being of our communities.

It is an authentic life.


I am quite happy to be out on this limb by myself. But I am also very interested in knowing if any of this resonates with anyone else:

  • What do you think? Is this making a mountain out of a mole hill?
  • Do you see “stolen change management” in your travels?
  • Does it bother you? Is there a tipping point for you?
  • If you hesitate to call it out, why?
  • If you do call it out, how do you deal with it? What responses have you gotten?

This is the fourth and final post in this series.  Some of the previous posts addressed the issues above.


1. “Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage”, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Portfolio Hardcover, April 26, 2012.

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