Why Integrity Matters

This week the National Speaker’s Association announced a new brand for their organization called “Platform”. That word sounds appropriate for a speaker’s organization, and we can all understand why the acronym for the NSA isn’t exactly held in high regard right now. However, there’s just one problem with this new brand. It’s uncannily close to Michael Hyatt’s.


Mike Kim wrote a blog post showing photographs of the two brands side by side, and there was no getting away from the fact that the NSA branding looked very close to Michael Hyatt’s.

Now I’m no marketing or branding expert, nor am I an attorney.  And I don’t know that many of you are concerned with an organization that has no bearing on your everyday lives. But what does matter to us all is INTEGRITY.

You see the NSA is still deciding how to respond. They have invested two years into developing this brand, and I’m sure it was expensive. They may be weighing the cost of rebranding versus the cost of damage control. But that isn’t really the question. The real question is – what is right?

Henry Cloud, in his book Integrity, talks about character as “the ability to meet the demands of reality”. Dr. Cloud indicates that our character leaves a wake behind us that tells a lot about the boat itself.

In his book, Dr. Cloud cites the example of Johnson & Johnson during the 1982 Tylenol crisis. Some bottles of Tylenol were tampered with by individuals and put back on pharmacy shelves. Seven people died from the cyanide added to the tablets. At the time, says Dr. Cloud, Tylenol represented a huge share of Johnson & Johnson’s profits. This crisis could have dealt a huge blow to the company.

They could have rationalized the situation, decided that it wasn’t their fault, and kept Tylenol on the shelves. But they did not. The company determined that protecting their customers was the highest priority. They pulled every bottle of Tylenol from the shelves in Chicago first, and then throughout the United States.

Henry Cloud states that this decision stemmed from their integrity, and not from the cost-benefit analysis of the situation. Their guiding principle was to save customers, rather than save themselves. And in the end, their move was a big win. They built trust with the public, who remained loyal. They were able to rebound their sales and not only recover from the situation, but thrive.

What can we learn from the Tylenol crisis and the current situation with the NSA?

  1. When difficulties arise, our character shows. How we respond right from the beginning determines the wake we will have.
  2. When you do the right thing, there is a cost. We do not always make up the loss, particularly in the short run. But we can live with ourselves. And in the end, that is more important than short-term financial gain.
  3. Living with integrity requires denying ourselves for the sake of the greater good. Doing so infuses our lives with a deep sense of meaning.
  4. Our first response is what people will remember. Taking a hit in order to do what is right pays huge dividends in building or restoring trust. Dragging our feet breeds suspicion and almost always backfires.
  5. Acting with integrity helps us sleep better at night. We really do want to do what is right. When we do not, there is a restlessness in our spirits that is not easily quieted.

What kind of character are you building? How have you responded in a difficult situation? To share with the community, click here to leave a comment.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Don Olund

    I agree, this is a matter of integrity for NSA. Michael Hyatt has amassed a large and expanding tribe with his brand. Many of his followers are professionals who also do public speaking. The tribe is responding to the “knock off” brand campaign from NSA. How they respond, like Tylenol, will have an impact on their future. May integrity, not $ be the compass that informs their next steps.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      You said it, Don.

  • Kathleen, thanks for bringing this to my/our attention. Too bad for the NSA, they blew it big time on this one. Very fine post.

  • Great post and insights.

    Greg, you can work on an employee’s quality, quantity, safety and attendance but YOU cannot instill honesty and integrity in a person. They either have it or they don’t.

    You will never be good enough nor lucky enough to catch a thief the first time they steal from you and until they change their heart, they will steal from you again.

    Jim McMains to new HR manager, Greg Gilbert in October 1989. I’ve never forgotten it and it was my first thought when I read what the NSA chose to do. Some members have tried to put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

    There is not one person in the NSA that wouldn’t feel stolen from if they were in Michael Hyatt’s position.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      Amen, Greg.

  • stumclaren

    Well said Kathleen. Many people are talking about the legal ramifications but at the end of the day, it’s less about that and more about “what’s right” from the integrity aspect (as you so accurately pointed out).

    Unfortunately, this just doesn’t look good for the NSA on all angles because either they did their research, saw the potential conflict and proceeded anyway. Or, they didn’t do their research (as they claimed) which is pretty sad given the magnitude of this kind of rebrand.

  • Thanks, Kathleen. You have nailed the fundamental issue that underlies this entire controversy. Well done.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      You are a man of great integrity, Michael. It is my privilege to learn from you every day.

  • epicprgroup

    Where’s the balance? The NSA staff just got back from convention, it’s a holiday weekend and they responded with asking for member feedback. That shows that they are listening. As a member, I am offended with this accusatory blog post and tweets. More importantly, people need to stop trying to benefit from it — seems very opportunistic.

    • Howard Robson

      I think that the importance of this issue should transcend the fact that it’s a holiday weekend. Quite clearly, the level of response that this decision has elicited on the internet and in the blogosphere should indicate to the NSA staff that they need to practice something that is at the core of Michael Hyatt’s philosophy, and that is Intentional Leadership. Stand up, acknowledge the issue, engage in the debate, show a public face. Instead, all that seems to have happened is the publication of a slightly vaguely-worded release that doesn’t acknowledge that there is an issue, and asks the membership what they think. If someone was really smart at the NSA, *they* would see this as an opportunity – to grasp the nettle and actually show some leadership.

      I don’t see this as opportunistic from Michael’s perspective at all – I think he has remained consummately professional and dignified in what he has written. In fact, I think his tribe have been considerably more vociferous than he has. And, interestingly enough (and I have read quite a bit on the subject), I don’t see anyone trying to or actually insinuating that this was done deliberately. Mistakes get made. Sometimes they’re pretty big ones. But respect is gained from dealing with them head-on, acknowledging that someone has been wronged, and integrity shown by agreeing to put it right. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

    • Curious how others are trying to benefit from it? When NSA unveiled it on July 2, the issue became apparent almost immediately (just look back at Twitter, Instagram or Facebook). Holiday or not, the NSA has had plenty of time to issue a response that specifically addresses the issue vs skirting it. Their response could have been something as simple as “We have been made aware of a potential conflict with our new brand and that of Michael Hyatt’s. We are currently investigating the matter for indepth and will respond with an official statement and course of action as soon as possible.”

      • Kathleen Thompson

        I agree, Daniel. The NSA didn’t have to decide on a course of action right away. Your recommended response would have bought them some time to develop an appropriate course of action.

  • Paul Potter

    Kathleen, I don’t know if I build my character or not. I can cultivate practices that build my character over time. It seems to me that my character is reveled in two main ways. First, what I do on a daily basis when no one is watching that is consistent with my moral principles.

    Second, is how I respond when the heat and pressure is on. Or the opposite when the success and pubic recognition is turned up. My character is built and revealed through either tempation.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      It’s kind of like building our muscles. As we work them, we tear them down just a bit to build them further. These practices you aptly describe seem to do just that with our character, both revealing and developing it.

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  • Kathleen,
    What an insightful and comparative posting. Integrity is the cornerstone of protecting your audience, those that look to you for guidance.

  • RandyPennington

    Kathleen, congratulations on a well-written piece.

    There are some critical differences between the Tylenol case and this one. First, J&J had a very strong reason to believe that the poisoning was limited in its geographic area. Their action was absolutely driven by commitment to their corporate values as you suggest, but they also didn’t make that decision in a single day after the first death. They cooperated with law enforcement in a planned, intentional manner so they would not alert the perpetrator. How do I know this? I wrote about this in a book in the early 1990’s. J&J was very gracious to share information with us. This, to me, simply reinforces the company’s commitment to its values. And, it also demonstrates that sometimes there are discussions taking place that are not appropriate for public consumption.
    One other key difference is that no one has died here. This is an important issue for both Michael Hyatt and the association formerly known as NSA. The digital world affords us the ability to interact 24 x 7. The non-digital world – which is where this will be resolved between Hyatt and the association – operates at a slower pace with discussion and resolution.
    Let’s give this a little time and then people can decide for themselves if there is an appropriate remedial action or explanation. It could be a breach of integrity as you suggest, or it could be a stupid mistake that was exaggerated by the immediacy of social media. I was in the presentation where the new NSA brand was revealed, and I was surprised by the colors used on the sign in the hallway. The red background was in no part of the official presentation.
    Sometimes a stupid mistake is just that. It doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t cost people their lives. And, it is not something that absolutely must be resolved in the time frame that we have come to expect in a digital world.
    I would hate to think what would happen today if J&J experienced a crisis similar to the Tylenol scare. Would the digital world allow them to make a thoughtful, reasoned response? Or, would it demand immediacy over effectiveness?
    And to those who will respond that NSA should be more forthcoming with communicating their process for addressing this problem – I’m not saying that they couldn’t do a much better job. I have shared my concerns with the NSA leadership. At this point, there is no value to be added by repeating them here.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      Thank you for your insights, Randy. You’re right – no one has died here. And using J&J’s response to the Tylenol crisis as an example of integrity wasn’t an attempt to make this situation seem as grave as one in which people died. It was to point out that integrity matters in everything we do. And it is tested most when something happens that we didn’t expect.
      If the NSA had responded right away with something along the lines of Daniel Decker’s recommendation below, and/or had contacted Michael Hyatt to initiate a conversation, that would have given them time to think through their plan and work it out in the background as you so aptly state.
      In the end what this post was really about was a reminder to us all that our behavior should line up with our stated values. That is the hallmark of integrity.

      • RandyPennington

        As I mentioned, Kathleen. I’m not defending NSA’s response or lack of it.
        Integrity is the basis of trust, and trust is everything in leadership. There is a “watch out” that we must all keep in mind: We judge ourselves by our intentions. Others, not knowing those intentions, judge us by their perceptions of our behavior.
        I can see how you, Michael, and other followers see this as a pure and simple lack of integrity. I have felt the same way when others have done things that I felt infringed on my brand – like the Big 4 firm who used my trademark “Integrity-Driven” and claimed that we are not in a competing market space.
        But, a mishandled response doesn’t always equate to a lack of integrity. Sometimes it is simply a mishandled act.. And, contrary to one of the comments below, there are those who have assumed intent on NSA’s part. Not on this blog, but in other places.
        NSA has work to do. There is no doubt about that. I have seen indication that they will do so. Michael has maintained an exceptional degree of professionalism on the issue, and my respect for him has increased through this process.
        I am merely suggesting that sometimes what we perceive as an integrity issue could be a disagreement, or a mistake, or yes, a lapse of integrity. It is too early to tell on this one.

  • Kathleen, what a wonderfully thoughtful post. It’s important to bring up the idea of integrity although it may be a stretch to use the fatal Tylenol case as an example. The NSA hasn’t killed anyone by encroaching on Michael Hyatt’s brand.

    Even so, I’m very annoyed with the National Speakers Association leadership. More like I’m appalled by this name change, which clearly steps on the toes of Michael Hyatt, who has branded Platform in a big way.

    I was at the NSA convention earlier this week, and I was simply astounded by the announcement and the look-alike logo and colors!

    See my blog posts (in which I mentioned you). http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2014/07/the-platform-debate-authorspeaker-michael-hyatt-and-the-nsa.html and http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2014/07/did-nsa-leaders-forget-to-google-platform-before-stomping-on-michael-hyatts-brand.html – Look forward to reading more from you.

  • RandyPennington

    Kathleen, I’m not sure if you saw this.

    It is not an answer, but there appears to be a pathway to reach one.

    #platform #progress


    • Kathleen Thompson

      Thanks for sharing this, Randy.

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  • Kathleen,

    I just wanted to make sure you saw that I mentioned you.



    • Kathleen Thompson

      Thanks, Connie.

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  • Kathleen Thompson

    Update as of 7/14/14: The NSA informed Michael Hyatt and the public that they are canceling their Platform re-brand and going back to the drawing board. I have written an update to this post at http://kathleenannthompson.com/personal-development/why-integrity-…a-hyatt-update. I have also sent an e-mail to the NSA to thank and commend them for their integrity. Please join me in doing the same.