By Rev. Tony Marciano
The Four Way Test has been a part of Rotary for over 70 years. The author is Herbert J. Taylor, who wrote the test, not for Rotary, but for a troubled business he had taken over.
In 1932, Herb took over a nearly bankrupt cookware manufacturer called Club Aluminum Company of Chicago. The company owed $400,000 more than its total assets and was barely afloat. He took an 80% pay-cut and invested thousands of dollars of much needed capital into the company to cover operating expenses. Looking for a way to turn around the culture of the company, Herb searched for a means to inspire his employees to build a better connection with customers. Herb first wrote a statement of the things employees “should think, say or do” in their business dealings.
The Four Way Test
Of the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and better friendships?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Many were skeptical of the Four Way Test. One colleague told Herb that if he followed the maxims, he would starve to death. Others dismissed the test as naïve and simplistic.
Nevertheless, Herb made the Four Way Test the basis for decisions large and small at Club Aluminum. He promoted it among all of his employees. From advertising, to production, to sales, all company actions were measured against the Four Way Test.
Just five years after Herb instituted the Test and still deep in the Great Depression, the company’s indebtedness was paid off. For many years into the future, the firm earned millions in profit.
In 1942, Rotary adopted it as part of its culture.
I’ve had a few instances where I’ve had to implement the Four Way Test. More recently was on a phone call with a colleague. He was talking about another organization that had two changes in leadership in a brief period.All he said was that the first leader only lasted a short time.
I wanted to correct him (note my personality in the DISC is High C – Correctness). While he was correct, it was a lack of information. I knew more of the background of the story and wanted to make myself feel important by pointing out the error of his ways (sounds like a page out of the Dale Carnegie book – “How to Win Friends and Influence People”). Let’s look at it through the eyes of the Four Way Test.
Is it the truth? Yes. I had information that was not being disclosed.
Is it Fair to all Concerned? I felt it was fair. He needed to know the full back story. I was sure about that.
Would it build goodwill and better friendships? No. I knew that.
Is it beneficial to all concerned? No. I would make myself feel superior and make him look inferior. I would not be building a bridge in our relationship. Instead, I would build walls with a moat filled with alligators.
I never said anything. I listened to his comments and we continued on with the conversation.
Point three of the Four Way Test has helped me pause and not give into the temptation of being right. It’s really asking you, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.