One of my very favorite Mary Kay stories was passed along to me by one of the company’s first lawyers who years later became the General Counsel of Mary Kay Inc. He shared that his final interview before being hired by the company was with Mary Kay Ash herself. During her interview with the young lawyer, Mary Kay looked him in the eye and said, “I assume that you have the legal skills to do the job or you wouldn’t have made it to me. So here is all I ask of you, promise me that as you do your job, you won’t just tell us what the law says we can do, but that you will always advise us on the right thing to do.”
I find that story such a powerful embodiment of what kind of person Mary Kay Ash was, and what kind of people she wanted associated with her dream company. Every employee at Mary Kay learns that “doing the right thing” is one of the fundamental principles on which our company was founded. To put it simply, Mary Kay Ash expected everyone associated with her company to act with integrity.
Integrity is defined as a firm adherence to a code of moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty; incorruptibility. Renowned author, C.S. Lewis famously said, “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is watching.” And author Mark Twain noted, “It's never wrong to do the right thing.”
Make no mistake, it is not always easy to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard because the “right” thing is not clearly defined. Answers are rarely “black and white” and there is far too often a grey area that we must work our way through. This is where laws, rules, policies, guidelines and processes become important – they help define what will be considered right and wrong. But in the end, it is often our gut that gives us the best guidance. Mary Kay Ash was one of the first business leaders to realize that intuition is a powerful business tool. When something doesn’t feel right, it is probably worth raising up to determine whether there is a better answer. Intuition can be a useful tool in guiding us toward doing the right thing.
I am honored to be the 5th General Counsel in the 55-year history of Mary Kay Inc. I know it is my duty to continue to pass along the request Mary Kay Ash made to my predecessor so many years ago - that we seek to do what is right, honorable and ethical. That we act with integrity.