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?

4.0 Your Core Identity – Overview

For those new to this series . . .

This blog journey is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational potential.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the system we have developed to help clients achieve flourishing success.  The FOW is composed of three Principles of Mankind and four Disciplines of Leadership.  Together, they are the pillars that support the development of talent, skills, and knowledge, and enable meaningful, enduring 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 every day revealed there is much more to long-term success than talent. Many of the concepts that comprise the Foundation of Winning developed from my experiences with Bo, who was a natural leader.

4.0 Your Core Identity – Overview

The individuals and organizations most often mentioned as having clear and admirable identities in our Foundation of Winning (FOW) seminars include our parents, grandparents, Apple, the New England Patriots, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. What individuals or organizations do you admire for what they stand for?  Are they consistent in the message they present? Does their consistent image instill trust, even when others may challenge them? What or who are the individuals or organizations you align yourself with because they reflect your own identity and values? What if you could be that consistent foundation—a rock solid, reliable force in service of something deeply meaningful?  Would people come into your life to help make your journey easier and even more meaningful?

In the next few blog posts, we will consider each of the three aspects of the Core Identity outlined below.  Consider this post a jump start for those discussions…

KEY IDEA: Understand Your Core Identity to Find Your Life’s Natural Path

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  – Steve Jobs

A primary goal on our journey through life is to understand and know our Core Identity, and then to honor it in our thoughts, behaviors, actions, and words.  Each of us is born with a unique set of natural talents.  It is through traveling life’s path that we gain insights into who we are when at our best, what we are naturally meant to do. We also learn what others can do better than us. We study and learn from our path as it reveals who we are, and has helped shape who we have become.

The Essential Components of Your Core Identity

These components build on the three Principles of Mankind discussed in our recent blog posts, and when honored they help us be our natural, flourishing best:

  1. Purpose – That which brings energy into your life, and serves others such they are willing to reward you for your efforts.  You look forward to getting out of bed to make a difference.  Purpose honors these FOW Principles:
    • Positive Vision: The more clearly we envision our role for the day, the more likely it is to happen.
    • Stage III Fulfillment: Contributing to the Benefit of Others: This stage is generative, whereas Stage II Fulfillment: Comparative Fulfillment in Service of Self is satisfying in the short term, but does not last.
    • Boundaries: They are necessary to clarify which actions best serve your purpose; they eliminate those actions that hinder you.
  2. Vision – The meaningful picture of a better tomorrow you; have faith it will be created as a result of a long term commitment to your Purpose. Vision honors these FOW Principles:
    • Positive Vision: The more vivid and deeply meaningful the legacy we desire to leave, the path to that vision shortens.
    • Stage IV Fulfillment: Legacy: This stage focuses on future benefits of your efforts today.
    • Boundaries: They clarify and define your Vision so that it is achievable.
  3. Guiding Principles – The beliefs and values that guide your actions and decisions in service of your Purpose, in route to your Vision. Guiding Principles honor this FOW Principle:
    • Boundaries: They help with focus as you move toward your vision, so that you are in alignment with your deeper inner self, and it feels right.

Discovering Your Natural Path

Your life journey has built or revealed who you are when at your best.  Moving forward in search of realizing personal potential requires reflection on past decision-making, and the resulting ramifications on your path through the jungle of life. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What went well, and why?
  • What did not go well, and why?
  • What was it you were we both passionate and successful?

Now, at this stage in your development . . . what Purpose are you prepared for, that you can address better than anyone else in the world?

Drawing A BridgeWhat is the purpose you feel a passion to serve, or to make the most meaningful difference?  It is through this study of our journey through the jungle of life that we can reveal our Core Identity.  This clarity permits a natural flow of life and honors who we are meant to be.  This clarity also permits us to say “no” when a proposed action feels wrong.

This applies to organizations as well.  As individuals who comprise an organization approach their individual potential, then, and only then, can the organization realize its potential.

Leadership Questions to Guide You to Greatness

  • Do you maintain a journal to capture your thoughts, and to discover where your energy is coming from?
  • What has your journey through the jungle of life shown you? What are you good at?  What should you let others do?
  • Who are the people you admire, respect, and relate to most?  What Principles, Purpose, or Vision is in them that may also be in you?
  • What can you do to help others see more clearly the path you are on so they may help you on your journey?