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Posted: September 22, 2009

Rules to work—and live—by

Truth-telling is fundamental to our success

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, "Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance."

 1 - Follow the Golden Rule. 

Back in the day, I had the privilege of working with a truly outstanding CEO, and perhaps the best business leader I have known: King David Shwayder, Chief Executive Officer of Samsonite Corporation in Denver. King really was his first name and he practiced the Golden Rule every day.

The Golden Rule says: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This sensible, elegantly simple rule provides the basis for wonderful relationships between and among people, businesses, and countries. The fact that not all those around me follow the Golden Rule in no way excuses me from adhering to it completely.

Early on in our relationship, King gave me a marble around the circumference of which was a gold band inscribed with the Golden Rule. I was given that marble in 1967, and still treasure it some 40 years later. More importantly I treasure and remember how he put that rule into his life and his actions.

Not only was King a great leader and businessman, but he was a man of tremendous courage, unshakable integrity, and extraordinary kindness. He modeled behavior every day which set the standard to which I still hold myself accountable.

I am grateful to him to this day.

2 - To thine own self be true.

"This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
- Hamlet, William Shakespeare

The basis of all my life rules begins with knowing who I am, my strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limitations.
When I begin to know myself with some degree of accuracy, then I can begin the process of accepting who I am. Only as I begin that acceptance can I build a foundation for relationships with others that have the potential for value and contribution.

If I understand my weaknesses without condemnation and embrace my strengths without giving in to egotism, I have begun my journey to truth. The best gift I can give those around me is to live a life of truth telling, to myself first and then to all those with whom I live and work.

If I have qualities that I need to amend (bad habits, inappropriate relationships, dishonesty, poor attitudes), I must change (the beginning of truth). If I have violated such core values, I have tolerated falseness in myself and toward others which means I have work to do before I can be true to myself.

When I look at my reflection in the mirror of truth, I shouldn't see perfection, but who and what I am, my strengths which I must utilize and my weaknesses which I must remedy.

3 - The truth is so absolutely good it never hurts the teller.

Truth telling is fundamental to success in all aspects of our lives. Telling the truth is often difficult; failure to do so is personally expensive.

When are we most tempted to lie? When a deliverable is late, our efforts have been unsuccessful or lying serves a selfish purpose. By hiding the truth and covering up failures, we only deceive ourselves. The truth always becomes known, and then the anguish begins.

"I put off doing the work because I thought I could get away with moving the due date. I was wrong and I regret not completing the work on time. It won't happen again."

"I lied when I told you I had not had an increase in 18 months. In fact, I have been given two increases, one at six months and one at 12 months. I thought because you were my new boss, I could get away with this pretense. I am sorry for misleading you."

Others will always respect honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. A reputation as a truth teller is the foundation for both self respect and winning the admiration of others.

"Truth is always the strongest argument."
-- Sophocles

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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

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Readers Respond

Thank you so much for the article. Our company philsophy incorporates 5 principles: Growth, Ethics, Empowerment, Profit and Fun. The 3 rules you talk about are right in line and are great reminders I'll share with my staff. Thanks again. By Lynda Tarufelli on 2009 09 30

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