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12 Scout Laws for Today’s Business


"On my honor" taken from the BSA Scout Oath.

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

For years at weekly Scout meetings, I robotically repeated these words without ever really understanding the commitment I was actually undertaking. I agree that a book could be written on each one of the 12 Laws, but for the purpose of expedience, what follows is my general thoughts on the 12 Scout Laws and how each relates to conducting business in today’s marketplace.

A Scout is Trustworthy.

A manager often has the confidence of coworkers, direct reports, team members and upper management. Being a mid-management corporate liaison often carries the burden of disseminating executive decisions and also bubbling up any news from the trenches. An affective manager knows how to restructure the message so that it is understandable. It’s an art in itself. A lack of trust disrupts this information channel.

A Scout is Loyal.

The concept of loyalty has taken a step backwards in recent years. I blame the trend on professional sports’ free agency rules. Yes, loyalty is a two-way street. A company must be faithful to its employees, but it is difficult to be loyal to an employee who looks elsewhere for employment. Conversely, an employee who doesn’t have job security isn’t likely to be loyal to that company. Again, this responsibility falls on management. Training a new employee is expensive and mostly avoidable. Similarly, cola, telecommunications, cigarette and beer companies excel at creating brand loyalty within their respective markets. Spending billions of dollars on customer loyalty programs is directly related to research that suggests it is 5 times more costly to gain a new customer than it is to keep a customer. Valuing and keeping an employee is always cheaper than hiring and training his replacement.

A Scout is Helpful.

Scout is trained to be prepared as an assistant in all situations. There is more to management than delegation of authority. A successful manager also shares ultimate responsibility through the cooperation of the individual team members. Shared accountability is underrated in most sales environments, but I’ve learned that beside healthy competition between individuals, an “all boats rise” approach seems to work better. Corporate goals are more important than individual accomplishments. It is the ultimate responsibility of the manager to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his team members, to increase the likelihood of that team’s success.

A Scout is Friendly.

I was taught to look a person in the eye and shake his hand when greeting them. I’m constantly amazed that this simple skill that is often overlooked in the workplace. I don’t mean to imply that everyone needs to have an A-Type personality, but “you only get one chance to make the first impression.” Believe that. Not all of us have a background in corporate sales, but we sell ourselves on a daily basis. While punching code in a darkened closet might appeal to some developers, there is still no place, in any environment, for snobbery and condescension. It has been said that you can tell the true nature of a person by the way they treat their waiter. I believe this. Oh, I don’t mean flirting with the waitress, but being genuinely pleasant to friends and strangers alike.

A Scout is Courteous.

My father would slap me in the back of the head if I didn’t hold the door for someone or if I started eating before my mother sat. While manners are taught at an early age, they rely upon a lifetime of reinforcement. Remind yourself of your surroundings, create a chivalrous aura around yourself. Help the little people. Don’t ask, just do it. There are still men that push their way through the staff buffet line to get their second helping before some women haven’t even had time to get their first plate. I despise these guys and will never promote them. Good manners, while sometimes overlooked, will never be overrated.

A Scout is Kind.

Kindness is not the same as being a pacifist. A person can still have a will without being pushy. A person can disagree without being argumentative. Be gentle and nice to everyone. Kindness goes beyond just gentility. It also means to treat your coworkers with the same respect regardless if they are your superior or intern. There’s nothing worse than working with someone whose inner struggles are apparent to those around him. Nobody likes to work with the grumpy guy at the office.

A Scout is Obedient.

While it is the responsibility of the employee to seek methods of process improvement, it is the manager’s responsibility to recognize that process improvement. Obedience has nothing to do with suppressing creativity, but more about working a plan that is in place. Companies spend countless hours developing marketing and sales plans. Without obedience, there is failure. Without order, there is chaos. There are thousands of quotes available online describing the relationship between order and chaos. I’ll spare you the details of an extensive search and just tell you “keep your head down, your mouth shut, and do what you’re told.” But, I will also tell you that progress is the direct result of questioning the very processes we are told to obey. Keep in mind that if “pro” and “con” are opposites, then the opposite of progress is congress. More later.

A Scout is Cheerful.

In most cases, the termination of an employee is not due to poor job performance but because of a cancerous attitude in the office. Spewing negativity not only disrupts the workflow of coworkers, it also creates dissension among employees. A happy employee is a productive employee, but, unless you work with 7 dwarves in a diamond mine, do NOT whistle while you work!

A Scout is Thrifty.

Frugality goes beyond your own piggybank. It is the employee’s duty to contribute to the profitability of the company. Saving money is just as important as making money. Wasting company resources can be just as damaging as losing a huge contract. The bottom line is profit. I’ve seen enough wasted copy paper and bloated expense reports to ruin most companies. As much as we might hate to admit it, money makes the world go around. Corporate greed has been the topic of many recent protests, but there is nothing wrong with a company making a profit.

A Scout is Brave.

With great risk comes great reward. Yes, but also there is nothing gained through reckless abandonment. Daring is different than bravery. Daring is dangerous. Countless technological advancements are the direct result of brave leaders who took chances. Each of these individuals didn’t just act on a whim. Detailed research, due diligence and careful consideration went into each decision. That is the difference between bravery and daring. Bravery trickles down through the ranks of the company. Of course, it’s always easier to be brave when the company supports the decisions being contemplated.

A Scout is Clean.

Aside from personal appearance, an employee has the responsibility of maintaining an orderly workspace. Keeping files organized and easily accessible will increase productivity and profitability. More so than just the physical appearance of the office or employee, a good employee also conducts himself with professionalism that would make his HR department proud. Yep.

A Scout is Reverent. 

This is a tough one in today’s business world. Without getting into religion or personal beliefs, I feel that every employee should be thankful for what he has. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side; It’s greener where it is watered most and gets good sunlight. Water your own grass and quit worrying about the neighbors’ yards. Be thankful that you have a job, a house, a great spouse, family, pets, etc. Be thankful. Thank whomever you want, just be thankful. Beyond any of the other Scout Laws, this is the most important and serves as the “golden rule” of business. And with this being said, I would like to thank you for allowing me to ramble on.