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Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers has been a hit on the speaker circuit with the Cowboy Code of Ethics.
A few years ago, business schools at UNM and NMSU received grants from the Daniels Foundation to develop ethics programs. The challenge became how to convey ethical principles simply and effectively.
Carruthers, dean of NMSU’s business school, took his inspiration from the book “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West,” by James P. Owen, a former Wall Streeter grown weary of corporate scandals. The solution, Owens said, was not more laws and regulations but a return to basic values. From a lifelong interest in the West, Owen wrote Cowboy Ethics.
Closer to home, Hobbs native Bill Daniels, namesake of the granting organization and the father of cable TV, “was driven by principle-based ethics,” Carruthers said. And growing up in Aztec, Carruthers was familiar with that code. In his father’s papers, Carruthers found a promissory note written on the back of an envelope.
Carruthers also likes to watch old western movies (a man after my own heart). In a recent speech, he offered his take on Owens’ code:
1. Live each day with courage. “Cowboys always knew fear, but they were always able to set it aside and do what they needed to do,” Carruthers said. “It also means being willing to speak up when something isn’t right, even if it means going up against your partners, your colleagues or your superiors. Doug Brown (appointed to clean up corruption in the state Treasurer’s Office) found people who knew things were wrong but didn’t speak up.”
2. Take pride in your work. “Ever notice how straight the lines are in agriculture? The fences, the rows? Pecan orchards line up from several different directions,” he said.
3. Always finish what you start. “Cowboys don’t like whiners or quitters. When you’re riding through hell, you just keep on riding.”
4. Do what has to be done. “Do the right thing. It’s not easy to stand up for what’s right.”
5. Be tough but fair. “Always play fair. If you were going to get into a gunfight, it had to be a fair fight. The worst thing was to shoot somebody in the back.”
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
Says Carruthers, “We all need to be more careful about what we promise.”
7. Talk less and say more. “Cowboys believe the bigger the mouth, the better it looks shut. Cowboys were doers, not talkers. If a boss praises a cowboy, he says he’s a good hand. You still hear that. If a cowboy wants to praise the boss, he says, the boss sure can cowboy. Another expression Carruthers likes: Ya done good.
8. Remember that some things aren’t for sale. “How many CEOs are in jail because they started to take on baggage?” Carruthers asks.
9.Know where to draw the line. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said.
10. Ride for the brand.
Cowboys might be unhappy about something, but they were always loyal to the brand. You may not know a cowboy, but the code works well at work or at home.
New Mexico Progress