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Use an oath to gain compliance

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts take an oath. It’s a solemn promise to do their best, obey “Scout Law” and help others.

Such solemn oaths are no longer confined to childhood. In recent years, graduating business-school students are starting to recite their own kind of promise. It’s called the MBA Oath.

The 245-word oath evolved in part from a 2008 article that Nitin Nohria co-authored in Harvard Business Review that proposed a code of ethics for managers. A group of students and advisors liked the article and created a voluntary MBA Oath as a result. It’s now in use in more than 500 business schools worldwide.

Nohria, a longtime Harvard Business School professor and its new dean, is now working with a colleague to draft a business oath for managers. As he told The Wall Street Journal, “Business can be a wonderfully noble position.”

The attention to business oaths presents an opportunity for you to bring your employees together as a unified force with shared values. To gain compliance and direct their focus on your organizational mission, compose a formal promise that you want them to make.

Involve your team in reviewing your core values and integrating them into a short, formal oath that answers the question, “How do we want to treat people who do business with us?”

Consider specific rules that govern behavior. If you want employees to respect customers and act with integrity, have them promise to respond promptly to client calls and inquiries, give honest answers at all times and uphold all industry regulations.

As inspiration, you may want to use this part of the MBA Oath to craft your own version: “I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.”

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