By Bruce BurkeIntegrity is everything. Lie one time and you’re a liar. The lumps you take for making a mistake are nothing compared to losing respect and trust by trying to cover up that mistake.

In another life, honesty was not tops on my priority list. My philosophy was, if you could get away with it, it was OK. It didn’t take long for me to crash and burn. Not only was I not succeeding in the material world, I was totally empty inside. I am fortunate to have crashed, burned, and come out the other side considerably stronger.

Today, being honest is as easy as I want it to be. As long as I don’t behave in a way that is shameful or that I simply know is wrong, honesty is a snap. What’s to lie about?

This lesson was not only beneficial to me personally, but has helped us define our corporate culture…one of high integrity and honor. It has clearly helped our bottom line. In addition to reviewing all of our Cultural Principles with new team members, we remind them:

-Their slate is clean. They are people of high integrity unless they prove otherwise.

-All it takes is one lie to become a liar and betray our trust. We can (and will) forgive, but won’t forget.

-Simply take ownership of your mistakes. You are going to make them, as are we. Just take your lumps. Trying to deceive us turns a garden-variety misdemeanor into a serious felony.

I finish this conversation by telling them that, should they ever catch us not being completely honest or keeping up our end of the bargain, let me know right away. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. As I mentioned, it isn’t hard when you walk the walk of integrity.

It is amazing how powerful addressing this issue is from the get go. The people that make it through our interview process are typically people that really want to do the right thing. Putting the issue squarely in front of them gives it added importance. They really don’t want to let you down, and most often don’t.

Create this foundation from the beginning. You will be glad you did.

Bruce Burke is the founder of One on One, Fitness Consultants Inc., in State College, PA.

This article appeared in the “Good for Business” Blog on the Centre Daily Times website on September 13, 2007.