Do you wish there was a way to keep everyone on your team focused on the most important tasks, even when you aren’t in the room to remind them? Add these three guiding principles to your leadership practices and you’ll have a more engaged team in no time.
Why do teams need guiding principles?
According to a 2021 Gallup study, 51% of employees are disengaged at work. The same study also hints at the antidote to that disengagement: 81% of employees are most motivated when internal communication is clear.
It’s not that your team members don’t want to work hard. Sometimes, it’s just that they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing.
Guiding principles provide clear, open communication that outlines where the company is headed, each employee’s responsibility in helping the organization achieve that goal and exactly how they can foster professional success.
What are the guiding principles of business leadership?
The three guiding principles great leaders use are:
- A motivating mission statement
- Three critical actions
- Three key characteristics
We will go through the basics of each guiding principle in this article. However, if you want to learn more about the guiding principles and how good leadership can transform a business, go to Business Made Simple University or read Donald Miller’s book How to Grow Your Small Business for a deeper dive.
Guiding Principle #1: A Mission Statement
Almost all companies have mission statements. Yet, most use boring, ineffective mission statements that do nothing more than take up space on a piece of paper.
Instead of an ambiguous, complex mission statement, Donald Miller recommends following this formula: We will accomplish [the company’s goal] by [deadline] because of [the organization’s big why].
That one, simple sentence puts your company on a motivating mission that will enhance the work environment and help your business grow.
This formula works well because it paves a clear path for organizational success. It puts everyone on the same page about what the company wants to achieve. Setting a deadline also creates a sense of urgency, helping promote productivity. Lastly, by connecting the goal to the bigger picture- the reason why your company exists- you remind people why the work they do each day matters.
Successful leaders know that employees want to do important work. Job satisfaction increases when employees understand the importance of their role and how it contributes to not just business goals but something far bigger than themselves.
No matter what industry you look at, all successful companies are on a mission to make their industry, community, or the world around them better in some way. When your employees can see their job through that lens, going to work starts feeling like embarking on an important mission.
Guiding Principle #2: Critical Actions
The mission statement ensures that everyone in your company is working toward the same goal. This next step, defining three critical actions, outlines specific steps each team member should take to help the company achieve that goal.
Essentially, you want these critical actions to become habits that are embedded into your company culture and drive your organization forward. Choose three actions that are tangible, achievable, and directly aligned with the goal listed in your mission statement.
Ideally, these should be actions that all members of the organization can take. However, depending on the structure of your company, it may make more sense to have each team create a list of critical actions based on the specific skills required for their roles.
A critical action could be:
- Having a 5-minute check-in meeting each morning.
- Reviewing your goals daily.
- Answering all customer communication within 24 hours.
- Contacting 10 potential clients per day.
- Telling everyone about your signature product or service.
- Offering free samples or trials.
- Cleaning up your workspace every hour.
- Greeting everyone with a smile.
- Creating one new social media post per day.
- Writing for 30 minutes each morning.
To define your company’s critical actions, write a list of all the regular actions you’ll need to take to achieve your goal. Then, choose the three that you think would make the biggest impact.
After a few months of implementing these critical actions, review your guiding principles. If necessary, think up new ideas and update any elements of your guiding principles that don’t seem to be helping your business gain momentum.
Guiding Principle #3: Key Characteristics
You’ve got a goal, you know what actions to take to get there, now, who do you need to help you achieve success? What kind of people do you need on your team?
The three key characteristics are traits that each employee should embody in their work. These may be characteristics that you value in an employee, traits you know you’ll all need to reach your goal, or priorities needed to develop a positive company culture.
Granted, there are a lot of traits you could choose from. Don’t spend days agonizing over the “right three”. Just pick three that you want your team to focus on and start putting them into practice.
Remember, none of this is permanently tattooed into your company culture. You can always make edits if you realize something isn’t working.
Defining three key characteristics also doesn’t mean you forget about all the other important skills necessary for a productive work environment. Instead, it encourages employees and leadership alike to prioritize these three and demonstrate them as often as possible in their work.
Having three key characteristics will also help you pre-screen new hires to ensure you are adding people to your team that will maintain, or mesh well with, the current company culture.
Key characteristics can be things like:
- Stay calm under stress
- Meet deadlines
- Welcome change
- Learn something new each day
- Accept feedback with a smile
- Double-check the details
- Put the customer first
- Admit mistakes
- Lead by example
Again, these aren’t ambiguous, lofty aspirations like, “value learning” or “prioritize self-improvement”. They tell you exactly what actions to take. Each phrase paints a clear picture in your employee’s minds of what you want them to do.
Guiding Principle #4: Core Values (Optional)
Before you start thinking I don’t know how to count, or incorrectly named this blog post, stick with me for a second.
Most businesses list core values as a part of their guiding leadership principles. Although I don’t think there is anything wrong with defining core values, I also don’t think they are 100% necessary.
As Donald Miller says, most core values are basic moral behavior- core responsibilities that we all have as humans. If you can’t show honesty, integrity and a good work ethic, you’ll struggle, no matter where you work.
So, if you want to add core values to your business’s guiding principles, be my guest. Just know that I’ve never seen a list of core values that rocked my world or made me a more successful leader. They generally fit more in the “Duh, of course you should do that,” category.
Examples of core values are:
As you can see, they are pretty lofty and ambiguous values that are a little harder to translate into specific actions. If you are going to add core values to your guiding principles, don’t spend a ton of time agonizing over which ones to choose. Just pick three and move on.
How to Implement Guiding Principles for Leadership
Now that you’ve taken the time to define your business or department’s guiding principles, it is time to put them into action. Here’s how to take them off the sheet of paper and into real life:
Step 1: Present them to your team.
Start by scheduling a dedicated team meeting where you introduce and explain each principle. Use real-life examples and scenarios to show employees how they apply to everyday life.
Step 2: Provide consistent reminders.
To help your team remember these principles, find ways for them to show up in everyday life.
- Create a visually appealing poster or infographic that lists each guiding principle to hang in the break room. (Wait a few months to do this, just in case you need to make changes to your guiding principles.)
- Talk about them regularly in team meetings.
- Use them as criteria for performance reviews.
- Ask your employees what they think of the guiding principles. Be a good listener and use their feedback to make future changes.
- Lead by example. Let the guiding principles influence your decision-making, problem-solving, and daily operations.
By consistently reinforcing and referring to your guiding principles, they’ll become part of your team’s mindset, guiding their behavior and attitudes at work.
How Guiding Principles Make You A Better Leader
If you’re still on the fence, wondering how these leadership principles could make you a great leader, let’s circle back and put it all into perspective.
A good leader sets clear expectations. If you can communicate effectively with your team and other stakeholders, you’ll have mastered the bulk of effective leadership.
Essentially, your guiding principles are like your compass and map- they tell your team where to go and keep everyone moving in the right direction.
When your employees know what actions and values matter most, they know what to do and how to do it. They understand their purpose, responsibilities and role.
We all love to succeed. When we have a clear picture of the end goal and the rules of the game, we know how to win. Management and marketing professionals can leverage this clarity to foster a culture of accountability and maintain momentum toward the company goals.
Not sure where to start?
If you are a small business owner or marketing director who would like to apply guiding principles to your business or organization but you aren’t sure where to start, schedule a call with Guide MKTG.
Usually, if you aren’t sure where to start it is because you don’t have a clear idea of where you are headed. We will analyze your current marketing strategy and company messaging so that you know exactly where to focus your time and energy to keep the business moving forward.