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The Golden Rule:
The World’s Most Simple and Greatest Management Principle


Reflecting on “The Golden Rule” might be an easy way to get to the essence of the second of The Seven Arts of Change —The Art of Compassion. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). This moral principle is not limited to Christianity; it is a universal theme in all of the world’s major religious and philosophical traditions. Confucius emphasized compassion for others with the “Silver Rule” from his book, The Analects. In passage XV.24, Tzu-kung asked, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” Confucius answered, “Is not reciprocity such a word? Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”

My Ki-Aikido teacher, Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei, included a similar guideline in his teaching called the “Five Principles to Lead Others.” He expresses this guideline in the fourth principle that says, “Put Yourself in the Place of Your Partner.” Practicing this principle is critically important when performing all Aikido arts used for self-defense. Aikido is really nothing other than practicing the Golden Rule, the Silver Rule, compassion, and non-dissension put in motion.

Why do I suggest that The Golden Rule is world’s greatest management principle? The answer is because it is an absolute game-changer when you actually practice it at work!

When you practice The Golden Rule you:

  1. Create more value for less because you reduce resource waste due to a lack of understanding, alignment, and shared interest.
  2. You break down barriers that promote functional separation and the illusion of self-sufficiency.
  3. You promote connection and cooperation.
  4. You stop judging and criticizing others, departments, and functions for their failures.
  5. Instead, you become a part of the solution by proactively helping others and asking for help from others, departments, and functions.
  6. You eliminate non-valued added layers, rules, KPIs, reporting lines, boxes, territories, and boundaries.
  7. You promote reciprocity by learning what other people actually do.
  8. You create feedback loops that promote an understanding of how actions taken today affect others (internal and external customers) tomorrow.
  9. You are transparent…instead of hiding behind functional bureaucracy that promotes separation and independence; you promote connection and cooperation by virtue of showing your weaknesses as a result of asking for help.
  10. You become co-dependent and work as a team.

If you think about the common denominator for all 10 points, it all comes down to doing things that promote human connection, cooperation, and understanding. When people actually like each other they are more productive AND the quality of life at work gets better.

In order to promote this kind of connection, I have always used “Target Behaviors” that would serve as the visible benchmark for “how” we want to work together. I focus on visible behaviors because that which ultimately drives behavior is the invisible MIND. (Short video clip on targeted behaviors to the left.)

Since the aim of organizations is to improve performance, it is easy to understand “what” we do. “What we do” everyday is use data (clear, measurable, visible, analytical tools) to improve all processes that deliver value (products and services) to the marketplace.

In contrast to the “what”, “how we work together” is driven by the invisible mind. Every employee has a mind that we cannot see and measure; it is invisible. Yet, everyone’s mind is driving the entire organization in ways that are either on-strategy (promoting cooperation) or off-strategy (promoting problems and wasteful distractions).

So how can we improve “the mind” of the organization? The key is visible BEHAVIOR that we can see, reward, encourage, and celebrate. By promoting Target Behaviors, we can make clear organizational values and priorities that codify/institutionalize the kind of behaviors we want to reward and celebrate. Simply put, we want to reward and celebrate behaviors that evidence The Golden Rule. If we encourage this kind of behavior, then “the mind” of the organization begins “to do” things (perform behaviors) that are consistent with the list of ten (above).

Here is a sample list of Target Behaviors we are using at a current client company. Think about each of these “behaviors” in terms of The Golden Rule and the ten organizational benefits.

  1. Embrace Change
  2. Think and Act Like An Owner
  3. We Are One Team
  4. Practice Respectful, Open and Honest Communication
  5. Meet Your Commitments: Do What You Say
  6. Take Responsible Risks

Let’s quickly review how encouraging and rewarding these Target Behaviors promote connection and cooperation (like practicing The Golden Rule).

  • Embrace Change (you are willing to get out of your box).
  • Think and Act Like An Owner (you see and understand what everyone must do working together).
  • We Are One Team (you are willing to practice reciprocity, help others, and ask for help).
  • Practice Respectful, Open and Honest Communication (you are willing to listen for understanding and speak to be understood).
  • Meet Your Commitments: Do What You Say (you are responsible as others are counting on you to deliver your part of the equation for enterprise-wide success).
  • Take Responsible Risks (you drive out the fear of failure and functional separation by institutionalizing cooperation through helping and asking for help).

The next time someone asks you, “What is the one key principle that, if practiced and institutionalized, would lead to organizational excellence and financial success?” you might consider answering the question like this: “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”. By practicing The Golden Rule at home and at work, you promote connection and cooperation. And besides, when people work on “liking each other” (The Art of Compassion), then dramatic change and transformation that lasts can occur at home and at work!

Final video clip (left) on the Seven Arts change process being based on The Golden Rule...


We invite you to contact CONNECT LLC for performance development services at: connect@davidshaner.com

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    © 2017 David E. Shaner