Wednesday, April 24, 2024

MACKAY: The importance of integrity

| November 7, 2021 1:00 AM

A butcher, who had a particularly good day, proudly put his last chicken on a scale and weighed it for a customer.

"Almost 6 pounds," he said.

"That's a little too small," the woman said. "Don't you have anything larger?"

Hesitating, but thinking fast, the butcher returned the chicken to the refrigerator, paused a moment, then took out the same chicken and brought it out to the woman and said, "This one is 6.3 pounds."

The woman paused for a moment and then declared, "You know what, I'll take both of them."

Business ethics, like chickens, come home to roost. Lying to customers, or anyone, for that matter, will destroy all trust that you have worked to establish.

I once again had the opportunity to speak at the 10th annual Integrity Summit last month in Phoenix, the brainchild of co-founders Gregg Ostro, CEO of Go Media Companies, and Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Colangelo, who headed up USA Basketball for 14 years, said: "For us, the 'I' in winning is integrity. If you conduct yourself with integrity and your business with integrity, it will lead to very positive results."

Integrity Summit is a half-day event chock-full of inspiration, education and real-life stories from leaders of business, government and nonprofit. It's like getting a Ph.D. in integrity decision-making to give you competitive advantages and rewards.

Each year, Integrity Tiger awards are presented to distinguished leaders for operating consistently with integrity in business, education, government, sports and philanthropy. I was fortunate to be recognized one year as an Integrity Tiger.

Larry Fitzgerald, the former superstar wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and a previous Integrity Tiger Award winner, said: "Integrity is really the biggest thing in our lives. It's who we are and what we want our kids to live by. It defines us in one direction or another."

Integrity is not something you show others. It is how you behave behind their back.

I learned integrity from my father at an early age. He was looking at my report card and said, "One thing in your favor son — with these grades, you couldn't possibly be cheating."

Speaking of students cheating, the following story is based on a real incident, though the late professor James Bonk of Duke University has said that it has been much embellished over the years. The weekend before the final exam, a few of Bonk's students decided to party with some friends out of town. Due to bad hangovers, they overslept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final exam then, they explained to professor Bonk that they had planned to return in time to study but had gotten a flat tire on the way back and didn't have a spare.

Professor Bonk considered this and then said that they could make up the final the following day. The students were elated and relieved. They hit the books that night and went in the next day. Professor Bonk placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet, looked at his watch and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, which was something simple worth 5 points.

But the next question caught them off guard. It read: "Which tire? (95 points)"

Mackay's Moral: If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.