“Integrity is what we do, what we say and what we say we do.”– Don Galer
Integrity is one of the most important qualities a riding instructor can have. But it’s the quality that will be most often challenged and needs the most protection.
What Is It?
Adherence to moral and ethical principals; soundness of moral character; honesty (courtesy of www.dictionary.com) Integrity says a lot about who you are and whether or not a client should do business with you.
A person who has integrity is honest with customers. They don’t over charge. They don’t charge for services that they have not given.
Do What You Say–
Riding instructors with integrity don’t make promises that they can’t deliver on. A person with integrity does what he or she says they will do. If you say you will give a lesson on Tuesday at 5 pm- then be there! Just do it. And do it on time.
A person with integrity treats all clients the same. In other words, they don’t favor and do a better job for the slender girl with the lovely horse, than they do for the chubby girl with the ancient horse. They don’t favor the wealthy client over the good middle class client. They don’t treat the warmblood better than the grade horse. The give everyone their money’s worth equally. If Susie pays $40 for a lesson but can only afford rubber boots, her lesson should be the same quality as Jane’s who also pays $40 and shows up in Dehner’s.
A person with integrity is incorruptible. In other words, Susie, with the rubber boots, gets the same quality $40 lesson as Jane, even if Jane offers to buy YOU a pair of Dehners!!!
A person with integrity has principles. A person who has strong principles doesn’t compromise in order to keep business. Compromising is not the same thing as adapting. If, for instance, I strongly believe that my barn will not allow stallions because I believe they are unsafe around children, and then I allow a client to bring a stallion in, I have compromised. It doesn’t matter if the client owns 6 of the horses in my barn, it’s still a compromise. if I agree to go teach her on her stallion at a barn that allows stallions, that’s adapting.
A person who has integrity is trustworthy. If I leave my horses with you for training and I go out of town, you’ll train my horses when I’m gone because you’re trustworthy. If you missed some days because you had the stomach flu, you’ll be truthful and tell me when I return.
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. ” – Mark Twain
When Integrity is Challenged.
Your integrity will be challenged constantly, all through your life.
The need for money is the biggest corrupter of a person’s integrity. The need to pay your bills will tempt you to be less than truthful. Even after the bills are paid the love of the things money can buy will tempt you again. For instance, a huge commission under the table on the sale of a horse might help purchase those gorgeous tack trunks you’ve been wanting. The temptation to want more is always there.
Sometimes a horseman’s integrity is challenged when they want to get rid of a horse. The temptation may come in the form of just omitting something about the horse that might ruin the sale. Or maybe you’d be tempted to knock a few years off of the horse’s age. And maybe it won’t be because of money. Maybe you’ll have an animal that you just want to get out of your barn.
When Accidents Happen–
Integrity is challenged when something happens that you really don’t want to admit. Sometimes it can be very hard to face the music.
When You Want to Be Nice-
Sometimes your integrity will be challenged when a client asks your opinion of how far they could go in their riding. You don’t want to say something hurtful, so what do you do?
It Never Ends-
The challenges to your integrity never end. And the ways in which you’ll be challenged are limitless. Everyone is challenged. It’s how you handle the challenges that will determine whether or not you have integrity.
How to Protect Your Integrity.
The bad news is that we are the ones who damage our own integrity. It’s not the trainer down the road or the guys at the feed store, it’s you. You make the choices and the decisions for your own life. But the good news is that since we are in control of our own integrity, we can choose to protect it.
Start out by developing a clear set of principles for yourself. You’ll need a clear set of standards or beliefs for how you will conduct your personal life and your business life. You’ll do this by assessing your abilities and by assessing your personality. For instance, will you only teach beginner riders? Or are you qualified to teach the Grand Prix level?Trying to teach above your ability is one place that you can swiftly compromise your integrity. Do you plan on allowing your clients to become involved in your personal life- or are you more of a private person?
Make decisions ahead of time. For instance, how will you handle the perpetually late riding student.? Or will you accept students who have fear issues? Will you expect your clients to pay at each lesson or will you charge them each month? If you have principles and standards and you make decisions ahead of time, you’ll be ready for a lot of the things that “come at you”.
Do Your Best-
Do your best work all of the time.
“Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence.” author unknown
Don’t Make Snap Decisions–
Reserve the right to say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” This is the best way not to become involved in things that you’ll regret later. If someone proposes a plan to you and it is out of the norm, a wise person will give themselves time to think the situation through. Say “I’ll get back to you in 2 days on this.” And then do it. Follow through.
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it’s right. These are the magic keys of living your life with integrity.” -W. Clement Stone
Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid to turn a client down if you know that the relationship will not be good for either of you. Saying no up front is easier than saying no later on.
Do Something Else–
Don’t be afraid to take a job at the grocery store or Wal-Mart to supplement you’re income while your business grows. Concentrate on doing things correctly instead of having to make all the money with horses.
“To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.” -Will Durant
Don’t gossip. Don’t verbally run down the barn that is your competition, or someone’s horse or their teaching style. Don’t badmouth your client’s previous instructor. Don’t badmouth shows or judges or Vets or farriers, even if you know that what you would say is true. Bad mouthing and gossiping make you appear very untrustworthy to your clients and others. Gossip undermines your integrity.
Will You Succeed?-Protecting your integrity takes perseverance and diligence. It also requires a certain amount of maturity. But if you know what you stand for and you’re willing to stick to your guns, you can be successful.
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” – Alan Simpson
Reprinted from a 3/09 blog post by Barbara Fox for The Riding Instructor – all rights reserved