It’s hard for me to believe, but it was forty years ago this month that I received my Eagle Scout award. There were two of us, myself and a friend. Achieving this level within scouting was a significant amount of work, but it was also a lot of fun. What I didn’t understand at the time, as my friend Barry and I stood on the stage to receive our Eagle badges, was the lifelong lessons I had learned that would help me in various ways as I grow older.
There were, or course, the obvious lessons, such as knot making, which to this day helps me to properly tie things to the roof of my car in a way that they won’t fly off when driving on the highway. What I didn’t understand until much later in life, was that the principles I had learned in scouting as a young man, in my early and mid-teens, would help guide my personal and professional life.
In addition to learning how to pitch tents and safely start fires, I was also required to memorize a few short statements, such as the scout motto, scout pledge, and a few other short sayings designed to make me a better person and valued member of the community. One of these sayings in particular was the “Scout Law”:
“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
I’m no longer involved with scouting, so I don’t know if the Scout Law has been modified in the last forty years. Truth be told, I wrote this from memory as I had learned it so many years ago.
I’d like to describe each of these twelve listed items, not from their intended meaning as a Boy Scout, but how they transformed themselves into my professional life as a manager, business owner, and provider of service to my clients.
A scout is:
Trustworthy: Being professionally ethical when dealing with your boss, clients, peers, staff, vendors, and others.
Loyal: Doing the right thing for your company, your staff and others with whom you have business dealings. Regarding your company, make decisions strictly based on the fiduciary responsibility you agreed to when accepting their employment. Regarding your staff, as a manager, it’s your job to protect them, help them grow, and help them achieve their goals within ethical bounds. Regarding your clients and others who depend on your actions, treat them as you would have them treat you.
Helpful: Providing value in the tasks you are asked to perform and proactively offering assistance if it is within your means and authority to do so.
Friendly: Play well in the professional sandbox. You are in the presence of those you work with 40 to 60 hours per week, be welcoming and sociable. Life is too short to be otherwise.
Courteous: Be polite. Say please when delegating a task or asking for help. Say thank you after you have been provided assistance. These types of words and the thoughtfulness they convey are so easy to say, yet they mean so much.
Kind: Be fair to those who work for you. This doesn’t mean simply giving people everything they want or avoiding tough discussions. Sometimes the kindest things to do are the hardest things to say.
Obedient: Within ethical bounds, properly and effectively execute the task and responsibilities given to you by your manager. It’s his/her job to provide you with work direction and it’s your job to perform the task.
Cheerful: This doesn’t mean you should be skipping around the office singing. It means have a positive and “Can do” attitude toward your work. As the expression goes, “You get more bees with honey than with vinegar.”
Thrifty: Manage your budget effectively and spend company money like you spend your own.
Brave: Do the right thing, even if it’s not easy.
Clean: Yes it’s important to get things done efficiently, but don’t make a mess of peoples’ careers in the process. Leave your company, your department, your staff and others a little better off than they were before you arrived. Oh, one more thing, if you make a mess in the office kitchen, clean up after yourself.
Reverent: In the Boy Scout world of 1972, this meant being religiously faithful. In an office context, I believe it to mean being respectful of others, humble and thankful for your personal professional position.
In closing, I believe that what I learned as young scout helped me be a more trustworthy employee, a more loyal and kind manager, and a more courteous and helpful service provider to my clients and customers.
Until next time, lead well, always communicate, and think business first and technology second.