At the start of this busy new year, you’re probably busy formulating a profitable business strategy, taking inventory, organizing your books and evaluating what you did right (and not so right.) Dave Anderson has a suggestion: Instead of focusing solely on financial matters, why not take a good hard look at the character of your company?

“When you really think about it, the Ponzi schemes and shady CEO scandals that made headlines throughout 2009 boil down to a lack of solid character,” says Dave Anderson, author of How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0470496428, $24.95). “Character does matter in business, and right now is a great time to sit down and define your goals for the character of your company with your employees.”

That’s right. Anderson is asking business leaders to get serious about defining what their company stands for—and share those values with employees.

“It’s amazing how few leaders take the time to do this,” says Anderson. “They may feel uncomfortable discussing character issues, or maybe they’ve never given a lot of thought to what they really stand for themselves; but just resolving to sit down and articulate your beliefs is a powerful exercise—and one that yields powerful results.”

Not exactly certain what constitutes good character? You’re in luck! Anderson says there are five simple rules that every employee, from the top of the corporate ladder on down should follow to ensure that they have a rock-solid character this year:

Don’t Tell White Lies. We’re all guilty of telling a white lie or two. In fact, most of us do it on a daily basis and hardly even notice anymore! While we may consider those little untruths to be harmless, consider that instructing your receptionist to tell a caller that you’re out of the office when you really aren’t is a reflection on your own character. White lies are still lies, after all. Think of all the business scandal stories from this past year and how many of them were the result of dishonesty—and how that dishonesty shattered the lives of so many people.

“White lies are like the gateway drug to bigger offenses,” says Anderson. “Even though telling the truth is often the hard and unpopular thing to do, honesty is rule number one to developing sound character. Tell the truth because it is the right thing to do, and encourage your employees to do the same. In the end it protects your personal integrity, and honors rather than diminishes everyone who hears what you have to say.”

Keep Your Commitments. Have you ever made a business promise that you didn’t keep? Perhaps you didn’t follow through with a promised promotion, or skipped out early on a day when you promised to work late. Given the past year’s turbulent economy, it’s even more likely that you found yourself in a situation where your mouth wrote checks in the good times that your bank account can no longer cash. Cutting expenses is necessary and understandable, but Anderson warns that breaking promises is not—even if it turns out to be more costly, inconvenient or time-consuming than you estimated.

“Don’t take your promises casually,” asserts Anderson, “and explain to your employees that they shouldn’t either. This is a real test of practice what you preach, as your employees will be less inclined to follow this guideline if they don’t see you doing the same. Before you commit to anything, make certain that you can live with the worst-case scenario resulting from what you’re agreeing to; and always, always follow through. Do what you said you’d do, regardless of the cost.”

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