From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Core Values and the Golden Rule

In accord on what's important



Tonight while driving home from work, I heard Jim Bohannon visiting with David Armstrong, president and CEO of Armstrong International and a fifth-generation member of the family that owns the firm. His company specializes in steam, air, and hot water systems and has been doing business for over a century.

Armstrong credits the firm's success and longevity to a corporate culture of honesty, integrity and decency. When they hire an employee, he explained, they consider it more important to find someone who will fit well into their culture than to find someone who has a set of skills that exactly match the job description.

What is the culture of Armstrong International? The company's motto is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Every employee must share and live the company's core values; these include honesty, fairness, respect, trust, and faith in God, family, and job. See their website's statement of mission, core values, and guiding principles for more about what they consider important.

I suppose all this traditional morality could get a bit "preachy", but David Armstrong teaches by telling stories, not by lecturing. He believes stories (and their morals) can motivate, strengthen bonds, and convey principles so that a workplace culture is built over time, and its values are internalized and exemplified by every employee.

Armstrong is a motivational speaker, as well as a successful CEO and author. His latest book is Hanging by A Thread : The Erosion of the Golden Rule in America (available at Amazon, Abebooks, and dozens of other places).

The Armstrong International website has a free download (PDF) of a little book of Armstrong company proverbs. You can also read a sampling of David Armstrong's stories at his website and watch video clips from his talks.

For me, it was refreshing to learn about a company whose high standards of conduct have enabled it to persevere and prosper. What a contrast to the sad stories of slipshod, self-centered, reckless business mismanagement that I've heard too often recently.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.