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A fond farewell Featured

9:40am EDT July 22, 2002

For nearly three years, it has been my pleasure to write this column and share a few pearls from my experiences. But life is full of surprises, and later this month, my wife, Margaret Tyndall, and I will be moving to the Big Apple.

So, I've been thinking about what I could say as an appropriate farewell to the city I have called home for 35 years. Certainly, regular readers will know how I feel about the importance of the special relationship between a manager and his or her people. It may sound a bit old-fashioned in today's business environment, but your people are still your greatest resource. Investments in developing your people will continue to pay dividends.

In several columns, I wrote about the importance of having a clearly defined vision or mission statement that can provide direction to people, one that creates a sense of community which allows your workers an opportunity to enjoy a sense of participation and personal growth from their working experiences.

I also have written about the importance of creating a working environment based on mutual trust, and how an organization can save money by establishing an atmosphere founded on values and principles rather than relying on rules and regulations. In his book "Trust," Francis Fukuyama points out that systems of formal rules and regulations have to be negotiated, agreed to, litigated and enforced. Monitoring rules and regulations can be costly and disruptive, while a sense of trust can add value to an organization.

Without a doubt, the column that resulted in the greatest number of phone calls and e-mail -- and speaking opportunities -- was the one entitled "Workplace Spirituality" (August 1999). It was gratifying to know that so many people recognize that there is a place for the Golden Rule in the workplace. I'm talking about spirituality, not religion, per se. People have a right to believe, or not to believe. They have a right to work without feeling compelled to accept another person's belief system.

But, in today's environment, with all the mistrust, anger and violence, an ever-increasing number of people are looking for a sense of purpose for their lives. It's apparent to me from my interactions in workshops and following speeches that people are looking for a way to make their lives more meaningful.

Since most people spend the majority of their time working, having a strong sense of purpose in their work can readily transfer to their personal lives. One way to help people grow through their work is to encourage a sense of commitment. I realize that, today, it's not uncommon for people to change jobs and even make complete career changes with alarming regularity. But where a strong sense of commitment to the job and to the organization exists, so does a greater sense of purpose.

W. H. Murray wrote: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy ... the moment one commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred ... "

The commitment that builds within each organization ultimately will expand to the community at large. And the result will be a stronger and more viable Pittsburgh.Best wishes to you all. William Armstrong, a management consultant for 30 years, is president of Pittsburgh-based management consulting firm Armstrong/Associates. Until he leaves for New York City, he can be reached at (412) 276-7396.