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Does your company have a clearly defined set of guiding principles?

On the heels of the Amazon “exposé,” I thought I’d tackle a slightly different angle of the story. I’m not going to weigh in on what’s happening there – I don’t work there, so I have no idea. Besides, there are always three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth, right? Somewhere in between all of it lies the truth about what’s really happening behind the scenes. The only thing I will say is this: the employee experience drives the customer experience; and we know their customer experience rocks.

OK, on to the subject at hand: guiding principles. What are they? Quite simply, they are beliefs or philosophies that guide the organization through everything it does. They help employees understand what’s right and what’s wrong. They outline how employees are expected to act and behave. They help employees make decisions and do the right thing; when faced with a challenge, they can first question, “Is my intended action in line with our guiding principles?”

The first article I read about issues at Amazon’s workplace called out the 14 principles that outline how their employees are expected to think and act. They’re called leadership principles, and they state that leaders…

  1. are customer obsessed
  2. take ownership and never say “that’s not my job”
  3. invent and simplify
  4. are right, a lot
  5. hire and develop the best
  6. insist on the highest standards
  7. think big
  8. have a bias for action
  9. are frugal
  10. learn and are curious
  11. earn trust
  12. dive deep; no task is beneath them
  13. have backbone, disagree and commit
  14. deliver results

I don’t know. Those sound like pretty solid principles to me. I’d work for a company with those principles. Before you accept employment from a company, be sure your principles align with theirs. My guess is, no one at Amazon had issues with those 14, nor should they.

But here’s the rub…

The interesting thing about guiding principles is just that … they are guiding, they guide. How they are communicated, interpreted, and executed seems to be the problem. Bruce Lee said: Obey the principles without being bound by them.

And perhaps that’s where Amazon ran/runs into issues, should the other side of the story contain some truth. Did someone get a bit overzealous? Are they being “enforced” in a way that’s unbecoming of the intended outcomes?

What do you think? How do your guiding principles affect employee behavior? Are they referred to often?

Everyday, you will make millions of choices – subconscious and conscious. Your choices will reflect who you are. Who you wish to become should affect nearly all of such choices — allow it to. -Unknown