In my last post on The Studio, I shared the way that Rio Grande had successfully built the foundation for an empowered workplace.
Once that foundation was in place, we had to ask: What would guide and drive our behavior within that environment? Obviously, telling folks they’re empowered and then limiting their power to create or burying them in endless rules and bureaucracy wasn’t going to work. To become a company of contributing partners we needed a set of shared values that would nurture and support that partnership; a collection of principles that every associate could believe in and live up to.
The Principles are Rio Grande’s common value system; the basis for our everyday behavior and decision-making. By using the Principles as our footing, we make the right decision far more consistently.
Many companies are structured so that higher levels of authority delegate work to lower levels of authority. Since there are generally strict rules governing behavior, employees aren’t expected (or even allowed) to use judgment; they’re expected to follow the rules. When situations occur that don’t fit the rules, employees have to go to their boss to get an OK or find out what to do. We all know the frustration of having to ask for a supervisor when we can’t get a common-sense solution that’s outside the scope of a “customer service” rep on the other end of the line.
At Rio we replaced a system of rules and hierarchy with principles that enable a broad workforce of participative managers to make good decisions for our customers and our company – and to do so consistently.
Our 15 Principles are:
- Do what you agree to do
- Do not encroach on other people or their property
- Create an environment of trust
- Be open and honest
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect
- Express and value all feelings, concerns and ideas equally
- Exchange your best effort for the best effort of others
- Develop long-term relationships of mutual benefit (Win/Win)
- Have fun
- Passionately develop and pursue shared and individual purposes and goals
- Strive to maintain a positive attitude at all times
- Maintain your power to succeed by choosing not to believe you are a victim
- Take responsibility for your part in each life experience and learn from it
- Be successful by helping others to be successful and accepting that help for yourself
- Lead by influence (using reason, benefits, and inspiration) rather than by coercion (using force, fear, and innuendo).
Of course, Principle #9 is the first one new associates memorize and it’s the easiest to live up to, but most folks find the Principles pretty easy to follow and they soon discover that they work just as well outside work as they do inside. We’ve got business cards printed with the Principles that make them easy to share; we’d be happy to see more businesses adopt a principled approach.
I’d love to know which of our Principles strike you (My favorite – after #9 – is #7). What principles do you live by? How do you ensure that your decision making is fair and consistent?