Everyday actions to promote integrity: Insight from YLAI Fellows

By Bryce Kelly

Fighting corruption may seem like a daunting task, but as we will learn from many of our YLAI Fellows, it is often the little things that are the most important. In recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, 2020, YLAI Network members joined nine YLAI Fellowship alumni from diverse industries and regions to discuss what leadership and integrity means to them. Below, we put together what they had to say about fighting corruption and other highlights from this chat on the YLAI Network Facebook page.

Integrity through ethical business partnerships

The YLAI Fellows discussed how they focus on practicing integrity at work. Jennifer Schell, Founder of Trabaja Mamá, spoke about how integrity is always part of how she runs her business.

Forming ethical partnerships and connections is crucial for lasting bonds. Every time I handle activities in my company, I look for partners who share the same values. [It] is important to know first what are your core values and what are your “no’s” regarding any situation. Having the table clean, you will get the chance to build a confident and lasting business relationship.

Jennifer explained in a later answer that we all can fight corruption “by preventing, by promoting, by engaging, [and] by doing. Every little step contributes to a better future.”

Christina Hunte, Founder of Kreativ Edge, points out that small acts of integrity are a good business move.

I think that in order to be reliable, it is essential to start small, with only a few products or services, and perfect a system of consistently delivering them at a high standard. Once you have perfected the system, then you can grow [and] expand your product or service offering. Start small and perfect a few things first.

She later added that “having a good support system is crucial. People whom you can vent to, and people who will keep you on the right track.”

Bibi la Luz Gonzalez, Founder of Eat Better Wa’ik, emphasized that it is important to surround yourself with people and businesses you trust.

Accountability, accountability, accountability. See who is behind the business/company, know their practices (labor conditions, reports), where they are sourcing their products from. Who are their customers? Are you one of them? Ask them, and press on. Make sure the legislation is clear and strict — for example, in the United States there are antitrust laws. Is that partnership done publicly?

Lead with transparency

Janeel Boon, Founder of Boon’s Computer Repairs, shared a powerful story about how even the smallest gestures make a difference over time:

For the last five years, I have been the lead tour guide and supervisor for a tour agency owned by a dear colleague of mine. Within the last year, he consistently gave more than the agreed payment. Upon every payment, I documented and indicated the difference. One day there was a financial demand [on the company]. Upon presenting a report I indicated a deduction, giving the accumulated consistent extra fund received on each payment. The owner was in awe that I took notes and didn’t put myself over the company at that time. Never assume or be deceptive of “unannounced” gratuity. I proved that I could be trusted financially and have since been tasked with greater demands. Final advice on leadership: Always lead by example. You may never know who is watching, testing or evaluating your character and ability.

For those looking to promote integrity within their own organization, Germán Santillán, Founder of Oaxacanita Chocolate, has key advice:

I recommend you establish transparency with open communication between all the members of the company. A horizontal communication system will allow you to hear all the opinions and concerns of your team, and also you can empower them to let you know all the activities the entire team is doing. You can direct this to the main purpose that all your team knows the importance of being honest. You can also take time to let your team know about the application of good values on business. They must be convinced that good decisions can make you all win more. Try to take the time to talk with your team.

Consider what small actions you can take during your day to promote integrity in your community. As the YLAI Fellows show, those acts can make a difference.

Continue the conversation at the YLAI Network Facebook page and check back for more resources regarding leadership and integrity best practices.