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Learn how to define yours

Read on to learn…

  • How a set of Operating Principles can serve in your success
  • What a set of Operating Principles can look like
  • How you can develop your own set…for yourself or for your team!

“Operating principles.” Sounds wonky and amorphous. But hang with me. Because simple and powerful, a set of 3-5 Operating Principles (OP) can have a huge impact – whether they’re serving a team or an individual.

So…what are they? Candidly – they can be whatever you need them to be. They tend to share some traits with core values – but the kicker is that, stated effectively, these OP’s are tactical, behavior, tangible. You’re either doing them or you’re not.

A value of yours, for example, might be “curiosity.” But an operating principle would be something like “Always ask a question before stating an opinion.” You either get a check or you don’t.

They become relevant and powerful when you’re striving toward something, and you need a sense of direction. They’re meant to be enabling and supportive.

OP’s are top of mind right now as I recently facilitated an executive offsite from which a powerful set of OP’s emerged.

This leadership team was coming off a difficult 2019. 2020 must be a success. So, when the CEO called, he asked for my partnership in enhancing the team’s collective ability to:

  • Effectively resolve conflict
  • Collaborate across the matrix
  • Identify and solve business problems

I had the privilege of spending an entire day with this team. And in our 9 hours together (not a typo. The team slept well that night!) we delivered a number of outcomes – but we began by brainstorming and codifying a set of OP’s that guided the rest of the day’s discussion… AND that have been put into use by the team since the day’s session.

Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day. The team still has work to do and progress to make. But we did establish a strong foundation for the future – a foundation upon which additional work will be built.

For today, I wanted to share the five OP’s this team developed in service of its goals… and to invite you to do the same with your team – or even with yourself.

Here’s what they came up with in service of their goals (conflict resolution, collaboration and problem-solving):

  1. Use monthly team meetings to actively identify synergy points between teams
  2. Proactively pose questions that tap our colleagues’ expertise
  3. Raise – don’t bury – problems through [an internal process]
  4. Communicate with simplicity and clear purpose
  5. When we see someone missing a risk – we call it out

This set of OP’s is not right/wrong or good/bad. It’s a set of commitments that resonated for this team based on what they do well, where they have opportunity, and what they need to achieve in the next 12 months.

So now I ask you – whether your task is to lead a team or just yourself to a specific outcome…

What are your greatest strengths/points of leverage?What tends to trip you up?What actions and behaviors are most likely to push you in the right direction? What is the minimum viable commitment you can make to these?How will you hold yourself accountable? What would the impact be if you were able to put these into practice?

I hope these questions offer you a sense of direction. If you do indeed capture some OP’s I would love to hear them! And if you’re looking for some counsel or partnership – give us a shout. We’d love to help!