Principles, Why Principles?

“It’s more important to do big things well than to do the small things perfectly.”

~Ray Dalio

Think back to the first day of your first job. Not doing paid chores for your parents or a family member but the first day of the first time that you put yourself to work to earn a paycheck. For me, it was a family-owned restaurant chain. I had been excited to work there for years since my siblings started working there. I had watched my brother buy an extensive CD collection and had listened to my father talk about saving and retiring at 50 but none of that thrilled me. The prospect of $4.75/hour at 20 hours a week didn’t thrill me. The things I would buy didn’t thrill me. What thrilled me was the independence of making it on my own through my own efforts. To work, be paid, and excel.

The restaurant was only a few miles from my home. I had been there too many times to count. It was a very familiar place, that is, until the moment I showed up to clean tables, mop floors, scrub bathrooms, wash dishes, and take out trash. The moment I walked onto the “other side” of the booths it felt like I was doing something wrong. For a strong-willed young man of 14 I had nerves of steel and an overabundance of confidence but that moment rocked me. The man who had hired me, Jim, met me at the pre-assigned spot and walked me back to the internals of the restaurant. Jim was a broad shouldered man, probably in his mid-20s, and looked like he had played college football. He walked me through the building giving me an overview of what I would be doing and where things were but before handing me off to my trainer he said to me, “Look, this isn’t complicated work but its dirty and hard. Our job is all about the customer, just do what you think will make the customers want to come back”. Bam! And just like that, Jim had delivered to me the overriding principle that would shape every decision I made while working there. Even to a nervous 14 year old, that simple statement communicated more to me that any vision statement or training ever could. That statement defined the culture he wanted to promote. Jim’s comment set me on a path to know exactly what to do (or not to do) in every circumstance I would encounter, it gave me the general rule that I could apply to solve nearly any problem, and it gave me purpose and predictability.

Purpose and predictability was important. Purpose and predictability is important. That purpose and predictability is a big part of what allowed me to satisfy what excited me about this job in the first place. Remember, anyone can work and be paid but to truly excel isn’t just in the employees hands or the employers hands, it is a shared responsibility.

I share my story about Jim so that you can think about that same moment in your life. And that same moment at every subsequent job you’ve ever had or for all of the times you were Jim helping someone on their first day. In remembering your experiences, did you have or do you provide that same “Bam!” moment. If you did or do, its likely that your organization has at least one strong principle which drives company culture. If you did not or do not, its likely that your business could benefit from more clearly established principles. If you would like to discuss the principles in your organization or how you can use principles to change your company culture, Aurelius Consulting Company can help.

One thought on “Principles, Why Principles?

  1. 1. Integrity First
    2. Excellence in All We Do
    3. Service Before Self

    These are the core values instilled in every airman to guide decision making be they a new recruit or a general officer. Your actions may not be perfect or best, however, if they adhere to these principles they will not be wrong. Principles are important, principles provide stability and direction, and principles work.

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