The Golden Rule
My wife is in a wheelchair and she can’t walk. When my family travels, I push her wheelchair up to the entrance of the airplane and then the flight crew transfers her to a smaller wheelchair so they can back down the narrow aisles of the plane. The airlines consistently take such good care of her. They board her first. They rearrange her seat and move her near the front so she doesn’t have to travel far. If our family isn’t seated together, they rearrange our seats so we can sit together. They treat my wife and our family the way that they would want to be treated.
That is the golden rule. The golden rule states that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. We should practice thoughtfulness and empathy towards everyone we can.
Shortly before Stephen Covey tragically passed away, I was blessed to hear him speak for an afternoon. One of the concepts he talked about was this principle of the golden rule. He brought up a series of slides in which he showed us that the golden rule is consistent across every major world religion.
- Buddhism teaches, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga 5:18).
- Christianity teaches, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, King James Version).
- Confucianism teaches, “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence” (Mencius VII.A.4).
- Hinduism teaches, “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you” (Mahabharata 5:1517).
- Islam teaches, “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths”).
- Judaism teaches, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a.).
The golden rule is a consistent and timeless principle. When we implement this rule in our lives, we strengthen our relationships with others and increase our capacity to love.
I’ll give you another example of the golden rule in practice. We recently published a couple of articles that should not have been published. There were some people who were quite upset by those articles and I was feeling pretty down. As all of this was happening, I visited this company. A man who works in maintenance for that company saw me as I was getting into the elevator and he rode the elevator up with me so he could share an uplifting message. He really cared about what I was feeling and what I was going through; he truly treated me with the golden rule.
Applying the Golden Rule in Business
Orison Swett Marden adapted the golden rule for business: “The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place.” I like to say that we should treat our customers the way we want someone to treat our moms. If our mom was in this situation, how would we want someone to treat her? This should be the standard.
My wife and I were staying at the Gaylord hotel in Orlando, Florida for a conference and while we were there, the Gaylord hotel would deliver bottles of water to our room. In most cases, hotels want to charge you $5 for a bottle of water, but at this Gaylord hotel, when we were thirsty, they just sent up four free bottles of water to us. That is the golden rule. They treat their customers like they would want to be treated.
Another example of the golden rule is in our consulting and advertising contracts. We have a philosophy that we don’t do any long-term consulting or advertising contracts, everything is month-to-month. This requires us to keep the customer happy every month so they want to stay with us. We do that because we hate being locked into long term contracts and being forced to pay for something we don’t want, so we don’t require that of our customers. We are forced to keep them happy every month and as a result, we find that in many cases, it keeps our clients with us much longer than if they were forced into a long term contract they didn’t want to be in.
Following the golden rule in business can be extremely beneficial to both us and the customer. I believe it shows customers that we value them and care about their needs. I believe it increases customer trust and loyalty. I believe it increases our positive reviews and recommendations. I believe it makes us more memorable, and I believe it helps us have a more satisfied workforce and team.
Fred Reichheld wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Each time you live up to the golden rule, your reputation is enhanced; each time you fail, it is diminished.” He continued, “When customers feel mistreated or misled, they give what they got. They leave – if they can – and complain if they can’t. They demoralize your employees. And they badmouth your company, alienating your prospects. They’re costly.”
Many great businesses use this golden rule as the foundation of their business. I think JC Penney did a really good job of ingraining this golden rule as one of their core foundational business principles.
JCPenney was founded in Wyoming in 1902 by James Cash Penney. He named the first store, The Golden Rule. He chose this to help his team remember their standard they knew they would choose to follow over the years – to treat others as we would like to be treated (Source: JCPenny Newsroom).
On their website they say, “Today, we operate more than 650 locations across the United States and Puerto Rico – and while fashion and shopping patterns have evolved, our focus on putting customers at the heart of what we do remains unchanged.”
Penney was once quoted as having said, “I cannot remember a time when the Golden Rule was not my motto and precept, the torch that guided my footsteps.” The concept is to consider others first. The wise business leader and business will always treat others as they would like to be treated.
According to DL Money Matters, the golden rule’s financial impact on businesses is simple. When we treat our employees as we want to be treated, they will work harder, be more enthusiastic, be better problem solvers, be better with customers, and they will stick around longer. When we treat our customers as we want to be treated, they will be loyal to us and your company, be more willing to pay a fair price for our products and services, refer us to friends and colleagues, buy more frequently, and spread the word far and wide that our company, our people, and our products or service are outstanding.
5 Ways to Implement The Golden Rule in Business:
- We can train employees and other team members to focus on putting the customer first.
- We should train our teams how to effectively solve problems.
- We should try to hire those who have empathy.
- We should take the time to listen to our customers so we can really understand their wants and needs.
- We should make The Golden Rule a core part of our brand. We can put it in our mission statement, in our marketing messages, etc.
Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- The golden rule states that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. In our businesses, this means we should treat customers as we want to be treated as well.
- Following the golden rule in business can show customers that we value them and care about their needs, inspire customer trust and loyalty, increase our positive reviews and recommendations, and make us more memorable.