Just like there are many different versions of a Purpose Statement, there are many different versions of Guiding Principles. They can go by How’s, Core Principles, Core Values or Guiding Principles. But, by any name, their main purpose is to start to establish what you stand for and what you believe in. They start to form the framework for how you will guide your company, how you will do business and how you will realize your Purpose Statement.
As with the purpose statement, it is always best to engage your workforce in the creation of your guiding principles. Have a few brainstorming sessions, have an idea box or e-mail address that suggestions can be submitted to, have a contest, anything that will start people talking and then thinking, and it usually does happen in that order, about how they are going to actively contribute to the Company’s Purpose Statement. Let people know up front that the management team appreciates all of their input, will take all of it into consideration, will summarize it and will come back to the group with 4-8 Guiding Principles. There is some debate to be had over the ideal number of principles. My preference is to have about six. You need enough to cover everything you need to, but not so many that no one can remember them all. Keep in mind that you will want them hanging or painted on a wall and you don’t want it to look like a long story that no one wants to take the time to read.
Some examples of Guiding Principles might be:
- Do what is right and not what is easy
- Be appreciative
- Have a positive impact with each encounter
- Be humble
- Focus on our customers
Once you have identified your core Guiding Principles, it’s time to announce them to the Company. Make sure this is accomplished with some fanfare and that, preferably, it is participatory. People remember how they feel and it is much easier to elicit a feeling if you are participating in something than it is if you are simply listening to something. One idea might be to break your team up into groups and to have each group take one of the Guiding Principles. Ask them to come up with a skit to depict the wrong way to portray and GP and then the right way. Be sure to end with the right way as that’s what you want people remembering. Teams can have a lot of fun with this exercise! Imagine a skit showing how NOT to be humble where someone is walking around boasting how great they are and taking all the credit for a goal that has been achieved and then showcasing what the same scenario would look like when someone was being humble, giving credit to the team in its entirety.
Guiding Principles should concisely convey how a company defines itself from a variety of different perspectives. Make sure that your Guiding Principles speak to your external customers, your internal employees (which can also be customers) and to what success means to you. Your Guiding principles should flesh out your purpose Statement, adding more specific information on how you plan to accomplish that on a daily basis. Ideally you become recognized by your Guiding Principles and stand out amidst your competition.