Expressing faith at work takes many forms. After witnessing the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the AIG bailout, and the Bernie Madoff scandal, Max Anderson ’01 — then approaching his graduation from Harvard Business School — enlisted 30 classmates to develop the M.B.A. Oath, which emphasizes long-term values over mere monetary gain. The oath has been endorsed by more than 300 schools around the world. (Read the oath on page 35.)
At Toro, Melrose allowed his faith to shape his decisions: He kept a Bible on his desk and believes to this day that God meant for him to take over leadership of the company, which he did when it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. He guided it to solvency, using methods that to his fellow CEOs seemed risky and unorthodox. “I hated the idea that if we didn’t meet the analysts’ number, our stock was going to go down,” he says. “That’s not how I ran Toro. It was employees first, customers second, and stockholders third. That didn’t sit so well with Wall Street, but we got past that, and after a period of turnover to a more long-term shareholder base, we did fine.”
Melrose promoted the slogan “Genuinely Valuing Others,” which got shortened to GVO. “We used the concept that we were our brothers’ keepers,” he says. In practice, this meant that instead of battling customers who were suing the company because they had been injured, Toro would send out a team of representatives to express the company’s sympathy for what had happened. Before this program began in 1991, virtually all such cases went to court. But “when we started doing this,” says Melrose, “virtually every one was settled right there in the home. And we developed customers for life.” Toro’s costs from injury litigation went from $17.3 million per year in the 1970s and ’80s to $4.3 million a year from 1991 to 2006. “A lot of the things that I think are faith-based are just common sense or the right thing to do,” says Melrose.
Most companies require employees to go through some form of ethics training. But, says Miller, there’s a wide range in how seriously they take these efforts. In preparation for a recent visit to Miller’s class, Craig Philip ’75, CEO of the marine-transport company Ingram Barge, took the time to read his own company’s ethics handbook, and was surprised to see how legalistic it was. “It didn’t help very much,” he says, noting that three visits to Miller’s class have forced him to think hard about how these guidelines might be improved.
Ingram Barge also has established a network of chaplains to visit its employees whose work, by its nature, can be remote and lonely. Philip regards such measures as an extension of the support the company has been trying to give its employees: “Providing support in the spiritual dimension is, to me, a natural progression of that,” he says. “We try to present it not as something new, but as the natural evolution of dealing with our associates in a holistic way.”
Signs are that Miller, Philip, and their co-believers are onto something. Miller’s e-news list has grown to 8,500 recipients. Last summer he joined 11 distinguished representatives of the three Abrahamic religions at the Caux Mountain House in Switzerland to discuss the recent recession and the role faith might play in averting another one. He was invited to China to speak about Christianity to officials trying to figure out how Confucianism might help curb rampant corruption. In June he’s hosting on campus about 30 human-resource officers from major companies.This is all gratifying, but it’s the smaller satisfactions that he’s most proud of. After he gave a recent presentation to a conference of institutional investors, 50 people lined up to thank him. One, a longtime churchgoing Presbyterian, stood out, saying, “Never once did I realize that my work could be a calling. I thought for it to be a calling, I had to sell everything and go be a missionary in Africa. You presented a theology to me that suggested I can still be a money manager, but how I do it and how I treat my people in the process can be a noble calling.”
As a business leader I recognize my role in society.
• My purpose is to lead people and manage resources to create value that no single individual can create alone.
• My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow.
Therefore, I promise that:
• I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
• I will understand and uphold, in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my conduct and that of my enterprise.
• I will refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society.
• I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.
• I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
• I will report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
• I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.
In exercising my professional duties according to these principles, I recognize that my behavior must set an example of integrity, eliciting trust and esteem from those I serve. I will remain accountable to my peers and to society for my actions and for upholding these standards.
This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.