The Integrity Game: Redefining Accountability With Jeffrey Klubeck

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

Take Back Time | Jeffrey Klubeck | The Integrity Game



Are you ready to rethink accountability and transform your productivity? Join Penny Zenker as she sits down with Jeffrey Klubeck, the unretired professor, world-class coach, and author of The Integrity Game, a book that’s evolving into a comprehensive soft skills development company. In this episode, Jeffrey discusses how integrating accountability with integrity can revolutionize the way we work and live. He shares his powerful 10-point model, starting with purpose, gifts, and potential, to help us understand and embrace accountability in a non-threatening, actionable way. Listen in to discover how you can make accountability a positive, empowering force in your life and work.

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The Integrity Game: Redefining Accountability With Jeffrey Klubeck

I’m always looking for interesting people who are going to challenge you to think differently so that you can be more productive, so you can work smarter and not harder. I’m excited to have Jeffrey Klubeck with me. He’s going to do that. He’s going to challenge you and we’re going to talk about challenging the way that you think about and work around accountability.

Jeffrey Klubeck is now an unretired professor of communication and author of The Integrity Game, which we’re going to hear more about today, which is evolving into a comprehensive soft skills development company. He’s a world-class coach and he’s worked with entrepreneurs and high-performance teams in twelve countries across four continents. Without further ado, Jeffrey, welcome to the show. 

Thanks for having me, Penny. This is going to be fun. 

For sure. Can I call you Jeff?

Yes, whatever comes naturally. Just don’t call me late for dinner. That whole thing. I have three kids, so dad jokes. I got them all.


The Integrity Game

I was going to say, the dad jokes. I was going to say that. You’ve written this new book and that’s what we’re going to talk a little bit about. Accountability is a topic that is so important and so interesting. I have my views, but before I share my views, I want to hear why you wrote this book.

There are so many reasons. It’s multi-determined. There’s a lot of why. As a matter of fact, if there was only one reason, it would have never been written. 

There’s the whole thing about accountability right there, right? 

If you’ve got one reason for wanting something, you might get around to it but if you’ve got 6 or 7 reasons, it could be unstoppable. It’s important to know the why of it all and there’s as much why as possible because a lot of people die with books inside of them. There’s not enough why to get it out. There are so many other reasons. Part of it was a memoir, I had lost my parents. My parents died three weeks apart. 

It wasn’t COVID-related, but it was during COVID in the past three weeks apart. Thank you for the sorry, but it was like a blessing. It was romantic. Two for one. Bury One, Get One, BOGO, to be silly about it. Humor is a coping mechanism. The characters in the book are infused with the qualities of my children. It was like a memoir and therapeutic for me to work on this book, but it was also a full circle type of like when your parents passed, you’re entering into some different area of your life. I’m looking around professionally and what else is in step with this progression.

As a coach for 15 or 16 years, by the time I had started working on the book, accountability was a big part of my promise to the marketplace as a coach. I have a lot of thoughts about accountability, how to deliver it, why people are afraid of it, and how it shows up inside coaching sessions. I used to always say, “I want to deliver hardcore accountability but on a plate of I love you.” All these things came together. 

What ended up happening was that I was invited to do a keynote speech for the Specialty Advertising Association in California. I wanted to put something fresh and different on the list of topics beyond the usual suspects. I put The Integrity Game on there to make the list look colorful. They said, “Yes, let’s do The Integrity Game.” I said, “No, I got to come up with a keynote now.” 

Take Back Time | Jeffrey Klubeck | The Integrity Game

The Integrity Game: Motivation + Accountability = Results! –

All of a sudden, all my thoughts about accountability and integrity came to me and I came up with this 10-point model, developed the keynote, and delivered the keynote. I said, “This is 10 points on the model.” I needed one chapter and a closing chapter, twelve chapters, and this is a book. I started working on the book and now it’s evolving. As you said in the intro, it’s evolving into a comprehensive soft-skill delivery mechanism.

The book itself is a parable. It’s a made-up story and I consider it a Trojan horse. In other words, it’s a very soft, very easy, non-threatening read but what comes through is the 10-point model. What The Integrity Game is trying to do at a high level is make accountability non-threatening because, Penny, you probably know, can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this too, is that accountability will always feel like an attack when we’re not ready to be responsible for our behavior.

Integrity becomes a word that people only use when they’re accusing somebody else of not having it or somebody else of needing more. “Where’s the integrity? There’s no integrity. There needs to be more integrity.” “Okay, great.” If that person is right there that you’re talking about, never mind the fingers that are pointing back at yourself, but if that person right there that you’re talking about were to have more integrity, how would they go about getting it? How do we make improving integrity actionable? How do we make it tangible, actionable, strategic, stepwise, and systematic? 

I don’t know if there’s any answer to that. I’m trying. Here I am super vulnerable and I’m throwing it out there into the world saying, “I want to make accountability non-threatening and I believe I know how we can increase accountability for individuals, teams, and organizations.” Conceptually, a building, bridge, or tunnel will collapse under pressure tests without structural integrity. I believe that individuals, teams, and organizations will also.


Integrity And Accountability

Let me stop you for a second. Let’s come back to the word accountability. I also talk about accountability and I say that we should stop focusing on accountability because there’s different accountability. There’s personal accountability. There’s accountability within the organization for your role and your numbers. Accountability doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good, personally. It is a threatening word. Right there, we have to change our language. I love that you’re shifting the language. Telling us to look away because it immediately has this feeling inside that’s tight and, “I’m going to be accountable for that. It doesn’t feel good.

Yes, people want integrity. People associate themselves with integrity. 

They want to be seen with integrity. 

You got it. They want to shy away from accountability but that’s what’s interesting. As you said, he will challenge you. When I’m public speaking on this, I ask everybody, “How many of you believe you have integrity?” 100% of the room will raise their hand. Now I ask, “Please keep your hand up and repeat after me, “I do solemnly swear not to shoot the messenger.”

When we break it down, I have to find a soft, loving, and non-threatening way to hold up a mirror and say, “Look, you raised your hand, but you don’t have answers to a lot of these key questions.” You have integrity, but let’s talk about it a little bit. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, Penny, you want to start by shifting the vibration of the term and the concept to pave the runway for people to even get into the talk. 

I want to go into those elements and those questions that you ask people about integrity and how that’s a way to show how you get it, but before I do that, I want to throw in there. I change the language too and I say, “Stop talking about integrity and start inspiring ownership.” Look at ourselves. As you said, the why.

When we have such a compelling why, now we have an ownership where we’re super connected to it. To me, if we’re not accountable, we’re not connected to it. It’s an ownership issue. I think integrity comes along with that. When you have ownership, accountability is a byproduct. Don’t focus on the accountability. Focus on the ownership. The thing that drives the other thing that you want, right? 

Absolutely. Anything that feels pressed upon is going to press back somehow in some way equal and opposite reactions. That’s one of the reasons why I love The Integrity Game. By the way, when we ask people what does integrity mean? What do you think integrity is? I don’t want to offend any of my audience when I say, “Don’t shoot the messenger when I reveal that you don’t have as much integrity as you think you do. You won’t raise your hand as quickly but hang on.” What are we talking about? What are you thinking? Most people have a judgment-based understanding of what integrity is. When I ask people, “What is integrity?” I always get two answers. I’ve done this hundreds of times. 

Be word. 

That’s one pin on the board. You got it. The be word. That’s one answer I always get. 

What’s the other most common one? It’s do as you say. 

Be word. You’re there. I’ll help you if you need it. 

Do the right thing. 

You got it. Bingo. That’s the other. Do the same thing when nobody is watching as you would when somebody is watching. Guess what? The organization is going to tell me what the right thing is. You’re going to tell me what the right thing is? I’m going to resist. Anybody else who will be telling me what the right thing is, there’s going to be some resistance to that.

Maybe but not necessarily. Tell me more. 

Not necessarily but anything that feels pressed upon might press back. Sometimes people come to us with the thing that we want and we still resist a little bit. As you were saying, ownership. It’s one form. It’s still external that comes in, so it’s not organically starting with ownership. I can embrace it. I can accept it. If it’s not coming from within, it’s external and there’s going to be some degree of resistance to it. 

I think the resistance might come, for example, a good friend of mine says that everybody loves birthday cake until you shove it in their face. It’s the way it was delivered. There could be different reasons why resistance would be there if they’re not buying into the goals that are set.

Let’s put that on the board. Let’s come back to these two answers for a second. I’m going to tell you what I love about these two answers. I’m going to tell you what I don’t like about it. What I love about the two answers and I love getting them. First of all, it lets me interact with my audience from the left and right side of the room. You get your anchors and you get names of people and you get engagement. You mix it up a little bit. 

Here’s what I like, when we be our word, when we do what we said we’re going to do, we’re integrating our behavior with our word. There is a coming together of words with behavior. There’s an integration. When we do the right thing, there’s an integration of behavior with values, morals, or ethics. 

There is a coming together of two or more things, and in both answers, behavior is required. Behavior shows up in both equations. I’m integrating my behavior with my words, or I’m integrating my behavior with my values, morals, or ethics. In either case, there’s an integration. I’ve asked all over the country, all over the world, what is the definition of integrity, or what’s your definition of integrity? Not one person has ever used the word integration in their answer. 

When you talk about together or not together, there’s no judgment there. It’s objectively observable. Is that together or is it not together? Most people, you weren’t your word and you didn’t do the right thing. People are sitting and waiting, like spring-loaded like a mousetrap, ready to judge other people. That’s the vibration of judgment, even in those commonly understood and accepted definitions, be your word and do the right thing. 

First of all, I love that there’s an integration and we get to focus on the same six letters that they start with, integrity and integration. It’s right in front of our faces. I want a thought lead on this. I’ve asked hundreds, thousands of people, what the definition of, despite the fact they start with the same six letters, nobody uses the word integration. Nobody has that objective together or not together, integrated or not integrated. Just an objective evaluation of the situation. It’s always a judgment. 

The other thing in behavior is the evidence of our integrity. Penny, how many times in the workplace, in our families, in our communities, in recreation, or the neighborhoods, “I didn’t mean to. I was trying to. I was only going to. I was trying to help.” We judge ourselves by intention, but the rest of the world is judging our actions.

Right, I think Stephen Covey said that or somebody.

I come up with a lot of stuff, but I didn’t come up with that one, that’s for sure. 

No, and I’m not saying. I’m just trying to remember what it was. It was very clever, “We judge ourselves by intention, and we judge others by their actions.” 

Right, and vice versa is true. We judge others by their actions rather than their intentions and when we judge, we project what’s right for us onto them. We project our words or what we heard them say rather than what they felt that they said. There’s so much lost in the shuffle that it’s a moving target. It’s smoke and mirrors. 

It’s a lack of ownership and that’s why I come back to ownership. It’s integrity as well. If I said, “I meant well,” it doesn’t matter what you meant. It matters what the result was. It matters how it was interpreted. If you’re going to own communication, you’re going to own the result that you get, right? 

Yes, behavior is the evidence of our integrity, not even so much the result. The results are great and the results of the scoreboard are important for a lot of different things that we could talk about, but I’m not ready to even go there yet. I am in ownership of the action, not the intention. The behavior, the observable action. What did you do?

That’s why I like these two answers because one, it lets me talk about the first six letters and the objective perspective on integrated or not integrated and it lets me shine a light on behavior rather than intention. Here’s what I don’t like about those answers. Penny, if I told you or anybody else that I was going to drink eighteen beers before my podcast interview with you today and then I did what I said I was going to do and drank eighteen beers before this. 

Make sure that’s integrity. 

We all know the answers. No, I can’t claim integrity. There’s some smart aleck that’s going to say, “Unless your goal in life is to challenge your functional alcoholism.” No, we all know the answers. No. What I want to say is words and behavior aren’t enough because I could take the easy road out and say, I’m going to sleep on the couch 20 out of every 24 hours, and then sleep on the couch 20 out of every 24 hours. 

I will have been my word but I can’t claim integrity because there are other aspects. Other things aren’t being integrated with that integration. That’s where we’re going to talk about the 10-point model. I think there are 10 things. We need to bring together 10, word and behavior are in there but it’s not enough. 

Now the other one is to do the right thing. Isn’t it a moving target? Isn’t it context-specific? Sometimes, time is money. Other times, patience is a virtue. Sometimes we should never lie. Sometimes we have to put that off on a shelf for 26 days and guilt our kids into good behavior. Do you understand what I’m getting at? 

Yes. Absolutely. 

Sometimes if you never quit, you never lose and sometimes you better know when to cut your losses. I don’t know where you’re at in the country but assuming in the United States, we know that 30% of our country can’t even agree on who the president is or what’s true in this world. You want to tell me what’s right and wrong, good or bad, clean or dirty, civil or savage, and any of these adjectives that you want to project from your values, attitudes, and beliefs onto me? 

In an organization, it’s different because you’re an employer, you’re going to work somewhere and there’s a certain degree of ownership or buy-in to that culture, to that mission, to the vision, to those objectives that you’ve signed up for. That alone isn’t enough. We need to integrate the goals of the organization or the institution with our own. What people do, Penny, is they never decide. They never answer the tough questions for themselves. With that emptiness, they then want to complain about everything else.


10-Point Model

What are some of those questions? Let’s begin because unfortunately we only have a short amount of time. If you speak fast, we can get a lot in but let’s hear what some of those are. 

At the top question is purpose. The first rung on my ladder, if you will, the first pearl that I string in the 10-point model is purpose, and Simon Sinek’s starts with why, all the stuff, but what’s the meaning of life? Do you have any concept of the meaning of life? Do you value life and appreciate life? What’s the meaning of your life? People resist that because then they could be held accountable for pursuing their purpose if they declared what it is. There are more questions there, but that’s the first door to knock on. It’s purpose. 

The next point on the model is gifts. I did one-word gifts, anything different than the average, below or above. Sometimes a disability is a gift that we overcome and achieve great success. Failure is a gift but mindset around giving and receiving, are you willing to give, are you willing to receive? What are the sources of gifts? God-given, man-made, and self-generated. That translates on a tangible level to competitive advantage. Why did you choose me to be on the podcast versus any other potential guests? Why do you buy from me? Why do you work with me? Why do you want to hire me? What do I do better than anybody else? What do I do that nobody else does?

If I don’t own and invest in and celebrate my competitive advantage, then I might be out of integrity. If I know my purpose and my gifts, the third door that I’ll knock on, and they don’t have to go in this linear order. We could start anywhere in the model and go from there, but potential. If I know my purpose and gifts, now I can imagine potential, and I break that down into vision, mission, and objectives. Vision, farthest out I could see, describe that. Mission, what’s an accomplishment that proves I’m on my way to the vision. Now, what are my annual objectives? That’s a chronological timeframe that I walk people through when we’re working on potential, retreats, next year planning, and all of that stuff. 


If I know my purpose and gifts, now I can imagine potential. Share on X


I’m going to stop you there for a second. You’ve given us the top three. We don’t need to hear all ten because they need to go get your books. We’re not going to give them everything. We’re not going to do that. Also, it’s a timing issue, but these sound amazing. I love the way that you’re breaking them down and the depth that’s in every one of them. 

It also feels like I challenge people here too. It feels heavy. It feels like there’s a lot. I’m now going to go through this revolution of deep dive. It sounds like I’m going into therapy and I’m going to be spending a year. There are ten deep things to go through. How do you reconcile that? It feels like it’s a lot to identify. Is there a quick start? 

Yes, first of all, it’s a lot, but it’s always less than a life without integrity. In other words, playing The Integrity Game and answering questions that give me ownership over where I’m going in my life is heavy, for sure. There’s no way around that, but do you want to know what’s heavier? It is going through life without answers to these questions. 

Yes, I hear what you’re saying. I also know that if we can’t get people to do one thing, then how are you going to get them to do ten things? 

Things in motion stay in motion and that’s why it’s great. It’s a 10-point model. You can start with any point on the model. A very easy way that we encourage people to get started is we offer two complimentary coaching sessions with an Integrity Game certified coach to walk you through the overall model, understand the 10 questions, and say, “Which one can you answer? Which one can you answer first, and then let’s work on the others.” 

Here’s what stands out for me. In my first book, I talked about the productivity zone and there are 10 core drivers to get into the zone. I can relate and I did the same thing, 10 chapters, 1 intro. It was perfect, but what I do, and I could see this being relevant for people who are looking at your model is I say, “Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 on each of these areas, and then take the one where it’s going to be the biggest bang for your buck.” Start simple where you know you need the greatest level of improvement or it’s the easiest starting point because it’s going to make the biggest difference. 

Yes, and that’s great. There are multiple paths to similar destinations. I like that. We could do that with our model. What I’ve said to people is The Integrity Game is as easy to understand as it is difficult to play. I make no bones about the fact that it’s hard because accountability is threatening when we’re not ready to be responsible. 

We’re trying to make it easy and fun to look within to have answers to these 10 question sets, then we’ll run through a brick wall to find somebody accountable for what we want. It starts with understanding what the questions are. Start there. You don’t even have to answer them. Do you want something easy? Start with the questions. That’s why the book is a business parable. It’s a made-up story about a season ticket holder going to watch his son play baseball and meet an uninspired hot dog vendor. 

By the end of the book, the guy is not selling dogs anymore. I’m making it easy to get started. The first step is to read a 136-page business parable, understand the 10 questions, and then draft your answers to the questions. See if your answers go together or dilute each other. See if they enrich each other or disempower. Be willing to talk to somebody about it and share your answers with somebody because that’s when you could be held accountable. 



I’m going to ask you a couple of quick questions and then we’ll bring it to a close and you tell people where they can get the book and hear more about you. I ask most guests this question, how do you define productivity and why? 

I don’t know if I have a definition of it. It’s like a feel. Do I feel like I’ve been in action? Do I feel like I’ve made a difference, and advanced my goals? I don’t know about a definition, but it’s a feel that I search for. I have a daily win practice where I write an email to myself and I’ll see my coach and I’ll say, “Tomorrow is Friday, February 23rd, and I’ll win the day when I.” 

For me, when I could stop working guilt-free. It doesn’t mean I’ve done everything because there’s never enough time in the day to do everything, but there’s always enough time in the day to do the most important things. If you lean on David Allen and Getting Things Done. To me, if I say to myself, “I’m not working anymore today.” I want to be able to say that guilt-free and I can only do that if I’ve been productive. 

When I go to bed at night and say, “I’m going to go to bed right now. I’m going to go to sleep.” When I make that decision that I’m going to go to sleep, I want to be able to make that decision guilt-free. I know that there’s stuff going on. I know there are things I need to work on tomorrow. I know I didn’t get to everything, but can I rest peacefully? I don’t want to go to sleep, I want to rest. I don’t want to stop working, I want to recreate. To me, it’s the degree to which I can unplug from work or the day, stop working, or go to sleep with a sense of guilt-free. Do I feel complete? For me, that’s the measure. 

Take Back Time | Jeffrey Klubeck | The Integrity Game

The Integrity Game: Productivity is the degree to which you can unplug from work with a sense of guilt-free.


Everybody has a different definition. That’s why I ask because it’s fun. Nobody answers the same thing. 

It is a lot of fun. I appreciate the question. I love it. You see in my face how much I love it. 


More Of Jeff

Tell us where people can get your book and find out more about you. 

The Integrity Game is easy to find. It is on Amazon. Search The Integrity Game on Amazon. If you want to get the book, I would invite any of your listeners to send an email to if they want a free PDF copy of it. I’m happy to share the PDF copy for free if they want that and to make things easy as a gift for your listeners. I’ll even include a picture, the front and back cover, in addition to the PDF version, because they’re two separate documents in the file, self-published. 

I’m easy to find. I respond to all my social media. Jeff Klubeck on LinkedIn. I will ultimately see that email at some point, but if anybody wants a free copy of The Integrity Game, email us. If you want to buy it, thank you in advance, on If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn or any other social media platform, I’m very easy to get ahold of. I’m grateful to hear from you.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate it. 

Thank you, Penny. 

Thank you all for being here. I know that you’re thinking, “I do struggle with this accountability thing.” I told you we were going to think a little bit differently. I want you to challenge yourself to see how you can own the results, your vision, and those things that are important to you. The goals at work, whatever it is, and check out The Integrity Game. It sounds like a great way to dig a little deeper and see what is this challenge and why we have this resistance towards holding ourselves accountable or holding others accountable. That’s where we are today. Thank you so much for being here. My name is Penny Zenker and this is Take Back Time. We’ll see you in the next episode.


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About Jeff Klubeck:

Take Back Time | Jeffrey Klubeck | The Integrity GameAt the intersection of academia and business, Jeffrey Klubeck has applied his master’s degree in Communication to over 20 years of experience in Organizational Development and Transformational Business Coaching. A coach before it was the trend, Jeffrey has had the opportunity to create performance management and talent recruitment frameworks with organizations such as United Health Care, JP Morgan Chase, State Farm, DOW Pharmaceutical,
Altera Corporation, Tanner EDA, Aztec Shops, Ltd., Higgs Fletcher and Mack, LLP, Radiant Technologies, Chef Works, Inc., TGB Architects, Education Services District 105 and more!
With more than 3,000 learners and clients who have actively packed his courses in Public Speaking, Interpersonal, and Group Communication, Jeff’s experience as a retired Professor of Communication has created a following of students and coaches who have been able to apply strategic critical thinking and paradigm shifts in their organizations.
Jeffrey has had the pleasure of Speaking, Training and Coaching on 4 continents to audiences from over 40 countries. Jeffrey’s teaching, training, and coaching programs have been game-changing in helping executives, entrepreneurs, and business teams increase their motivation, accountability, and results!