4.3 Principles that Guide Our Actions

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational peak performance.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help us and our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplinesthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I was privileged to spend 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. Working with Bo revealed there is much more to long-term peak performance than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring peak performance possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo possessed, but Bo may be referenced more than others as he was the one I studied most.


Think of an individual you admire and respect, who had a significant impact on who you have become.  How did that person earn your respect?


At FS&A, when we ask this question of the leaders we are helping to develop a Foundation of Winning, respondents often name parents in their answers, with comments like the following:

“My mother – her love, caring, and compassion as she listened to me as I wrestled with my biggest life problems (so far!).  She was non-judgmental, and understanding.  I knew she really cared.”

 “My dad – his honesty, integrity, and trust as he challenged me on where I got the money to buy something, how much did it cost, and what lawns did I mow to earn the money?”


Why do wBlog4-3-Dad&Sone admire and respect those who have had the greatest impact on us? Is it because we share common guidelines for actions and decision-making? How they make decisions resonates with us; it feels right. These important influences helped us at critical times in our lives to be more, and we love it when others are there to help us on our journey.  How these individuals behave is a result of the principles that guide them, such as caring, trust, creativity, teamwork, and perseverance. And the exact boundaries each individual applies makes their set of principles unique.

Guiding Principles Complete Your Core Identity

In exploring the principles and disciplines of the Foundation of Winning in this blog, we recently covered Purpose and Vision, two of the components of your Core Identity.  A unique set of Guiding Principles—the third element of your Core Identity—provides an essential framework for sBlog4-3-Securityerving your Purpose and your Vision.

In blog post 3.0 Mankind’s Need for Boundaries, we touched on the genesis of the concept of Guiding Principles and Boundaries, and we will explore it more thoroughly in our upcoming book. In brief, humans have a lifelong psychological need for clear boundaries. And for each of us to achieve our respective peak performance, to serve our unique Purpose, we each need our own set of Guiding Principles.

Defining Guiding Principles – and Identifying Yours

Guiding Principles are synonymous with Core Values, Operating Principles, and Values. Guiding Principles are your essential and enduring tenets; it is best to stick with a small set of four or five.

This exercise will help you honor who you are when at your best more naturally. Review the words listed under Guiding Principles below, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Which of these principles have deep meaning for me, and touch my heart?
  2. If I think of some of the times when I have been at my best, which of these principles guided my actions and decisions?
  3. Of the principles I identified in questions #1 and #2, which four or five are the most important to me?
  4. Tell a story of each Guiding Principle guiding me when under pressure, that made me feel I responded in the proper manner.


Now that you have identified your set of Guiding Principles, reflect each day on how they inform your actions and decisions.


Leadership Challenge Questions

As a leader, ask yourself:

  • What common Guiding Principles do the people I admire and respect most possess?
  • What is my set of four-to-five Guiding Principles I can use to guide my actions and decisions in service of my Purpose and Vision?
    NOTE: It is important to review this list several times a year, and tweak the definitions of each as you achieve greater understanding of how you uniquely define them.
  • How do I inform others of my Guiding Principles? Am I consistent?

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