Create a Set of Guiding Principles
We all face a lot of challenges in our business, and we all face a lot of choices in our business. Most of those challenges are choices. Should I do this, or this, or this? We all have so many options, right? That's been kind of a continuing theme. They're all the weeds, right? That's why we're in the weeds. We have all of these choices all around us. We have opportunities. We have challenges, and they're all decisions to be made about the direction that we go. Your guiding principles help you make those choices. And Seth Godin said it better than anyone could. He says, "The essential choice is this: "You have to describe and live the difficult choices." Because some of these, some of the choices you need to make are gonna be hard. There's gonna be trade offs. There's gonna be people that are disappointed. There's gonna be people who feel left behind. There are going to be people who don't fit in anymore as your business changes or evolves, as you get clearer on what you're doing for p...
eople and what your company is contributing to the common good. He says, "You have to figure out "who you will disappoint or offend. "Most of all, you have to be clear "about what's important and what you won't or can't do." Part of creating your set of guiding principles is actually saying we don't do that. That's not us. That is out of bounds. Doesn't mean they're bad things. It doesn't mean that businesses who do them are somehow wrong. It just means it's not for you, and it's part of what makes your business stand out. But it's also part of what makes your plans work, and it's a part of what makes decision making easier. Now, I wanna go back to that middle sentence there. He says, "You have to figure out "who you will disappoint or offend." Don't get me wrong. I am not asking you to be offensive or to be disappointing. I just wanna make that clear. (audience laughter) Because I could just see the tweets now. (laughs) That's not what I mean. But what I mean is, and what Seth Godin means is realizing that when you are clear on your values and how those values guide your decision making, there are going to be people who don't feel like they fit in, and that's okay. If everyone fits in, no one fits in. Right? If everyone could feel connected to your company, no one is going to feel connected to your company. So the clearer you are on your values, and on how they shape your guiding principles, and how that then shapes your action, and your planning, and your goal setting, the more likely it is that you will create a community of people who are closely tied to your business. And those people will be the people that your business not only survives on, but thrives on. Now as I said, guiding principles create a container for your action. They give you sort of a set of bounds that allows you to make decisions really easily. In fact, I have a graphic for that. Your guiding principles are gonna help you define what's in bounds for your plans, and your goals, and your projects. And they're gonna help you define what's out of bounds for your projects, and your goals, and your actions. My friend Randi Buckley, how many of you know Randi Buckley? A few of you do. Randi Buckley is an expert in helping kind people create boundaries. She has a class called Healthy Boundaries for Kind People. She is absolutely brilliant, and she talks about boundaries as being a way of tending your garden. And I think that this kind of metaphor applies here as well. She talks about your personal boundaries being a fence around your garden, so that you know what to cultivate, so you know what is yours to make beautiful and then what's not, what is everybody else's, what's out there, the world that exists for everyone else. And so that's really what guiding principles are for your business as well. Now in your workbook, let's see, what page are we on guys? We're on page seven. We need to start laying these guiding principles out. And it's really simple. It's very similar to what we were just doing with values. In fact, as you get started here, the very first step you need to take is to write down those three, even Megan, top three values that you listed. Now, you can do this exercise for more than just three values. I'm not suggesting that you need to limit yourself, but I do think you need to focus on a set of core values. And what happens when you start having five values, or ten values, or 20 values, is how much can you really value any of those one things? Any of those one things, yeah. (audience laughter) So, you really wanna focus on maybe three, might be two, might be three, might be four. But I really want you to settle in on a set of values. And so in the left-hand column of this chart on page seven of your book, just go down and write those values in one by one. And then as we fill this out, what you're going to do is create a single statement, for now at least, that defines what's in bounds for your company. In order words, it's gonna start off, my company will. And then you're going to list an action or a boundary that you're going to create based on that value. And then you're gonna look at what's out of bounds. My company will not. That's what those statements are gonna start off with. Now, don't panic. I have an example. So, we're gonna look at my guiding principles, my company's guiding principles. Remember, the values for my company are experimentation, agency, and community. And actually, before we get into me just telling you what the boundaries are, this is a really good opportunity to practice on somebody else. 'Cause it's always easier to practice on somebody else than yourself, right? (laughs) So, I would love someone to take a stab. You're not actually trying to guess what I have written for my guiding principles. But I'd love for you guys to take a stab at what you think an in bounds, my company will style, statement would be for experimentation. Leslie, you know my company pretty well. How would you describe what we will do in terms of experimentation?
Well, the growth paths are in some ways experimentation.
Because it's requiring people to really think about what they're doing, rather than just following a formula.
Great. So in terms of a guiding principle, it might be something like my company will provide prompts instead of formulas so people can experiment on their own.
Yeah? Let's try one with community. Anyone wanna take a stab at that? Yeah? (woman mumbles)
Would always be thinking of the contribution to the community when you're working with a client, like how looking at the bigger picture?
Yes, I love it, I love it. And we can take that and use that internally as well. So when we're working with clients or with our members, asking them to always consider how their action impacts the greater community. And with team members, asking team members to always consider how their action impacts the greater community. Perfect. These are what I've actually come up with. So, my company will take the lead on trying new ideas or tactics and share the results with our customers. Because to me experimentation isn't just about trying things willy nilly. It's about having a plan. Right? I like to use, or at least use the idea of, the scientific method when it comes to experimenting with my business. It doesn't mean just trying things on a whim. It means actually having a plan, a hypothesis, an intention behind it. My company will encourage customers and ourselves to lead themselves and take decisive action. So, we don't want to allow people to kind of hem and haw about what action they're going to take. We're gonna challenge them to make a decision and take decisive action. And if they need to go back and change that later on, no problem. And we're gonna do that internally, and we're gonna do that externally with our customers as well. And then finally, my company will create ways to bring smart people together for bigger results. In other words, I wanna help people come together to set a bigger goal, to see a bigger vision of what they can create by the people that they're surrounded with. So, those are all the things that we will do. Who wants to take a stab at something we won't do? I've already given you a hint, if you wanna use that one. How 'bout for experimentation? What's something that you would not do if experimentation was your value? Patrice.
You don't give one-size-fits-all formulas.
Excellent one. What about for agency? What's something that we will not do? Or what's something you would not do if you had agency? Yeah.
[Female Audience Member] Tell people what to do.
Right. Tell people what to do. Perfect. Alright so, let me reveal what we have here. So, experimentation for me, at least one of them, is act without a clear hypothesis or intention. Right? I mentioned that we don't just go around trying things willy nilly. We've always got a hypothesis behind it. If I'm gonna try a new Facebook ad tactic, there's a specific reason why I'm trying that tactic. And when I try it, my goal is to decide, to figure out, whether that hypothesis was true or false, or whether I need more information. Out of bounds. I will not provide cookie cutter formulas or prescribed action plans or follow them myself. Because it doesn't really work if I'm doing it and then I'm telling you not to do it. And then for community, we will not encourage isolationism. In other words, we're not gonna provide channels for not creating growth within our community. Right? We don't have ways of, for instance, you can't work with me one-on-one. I don't do that. And the reason I don't do that is because I have seen way too many business owners isolate themselves through working one-on-one with people or through getting, you know, always demanding that kind of personal access. Not that I think those things are bad. But I'm making a choice that we don't do that, because I know that isolationism doesn't work, doesn't work for entrepreneurs. And at least for people like me, that's the default mode. (laughs) Again, you practice what you need. Right? And this is what I need. I need to ensure that my team isn't isolated, that I'm not isolated, and that my community isn't isolated. Because I know it doesn't work, and that's one of our values. So, who'd like to experiment with setting some guiding principles? Lookin' for a hot seat. Patrice, come on up. Actually, you know what? I don't think I'm gonna write this one down, because I need to take a sit down. (audience laughs) And also, it would be a lot to write. So, tell us what your three values are.
Creativity, collaboration, and hold on one second.
I love that you're taking notes on your tablet. This is so cool.
Thank you. And empowerment.
Okay. Creativity, collaboration, and empowerment.
And tell everybody who you are and what you do, 'cause we forgot to do that.
Okay, great. So, I'm Patrice, Founder of Creative Genius Law, which is a business and intellectual property law firm for creative entrepreneurs and innovative businesses.
Awesome. So, let's come up with a statement of what's in bounds. So, my company will, based on creativity.
My company will develop creative legal strategies to help our clients use their creativity to make more money.
Tell me what creative legal strategies means.
So, creative legal strategies is not just, let's say, reviewing the contract for a client to keep them out of trouble. But it's reviewing a contract for a client to identify where they may have new opportunities. So, if they are licensing content, then where can we create a new revenue opportunity from that content?
Great. Okay, so what if we made that positive guiding principle something more along the lines of we examine the whole picture to come up with creative opportunities, potential challenges. And do it a little bit, so make it a little bit more expansive that way.
Right, that makes sense.
So that instead of talking about your offering, which is what that first statement was kind of doing, you're creating a principle that both defines your offering and defines how you could approach a problem internally as well.
Okay, that makes sense.
So, you can say then, in my law firm, what we do anytime we run into a challenge personally, or with our team, is we take a look at the big picture. And we make sure that we're looking for the opportunities that exist, the potential pitfalls that are out there, so that we can have a really kind of holistic creative approach.
Does that make sense?
Yeah, that's perfect.
Cool. What's the out of bounds on that? My company will not.
So, my company will not take a solution for one client and retrofit it for another.
Does that make sense?
Yes, so again, I think we could do the exact same thing, where we kind of expand it just a little bit, so that you can use it both externally and internally.
So, we don't retrofit solutions for problems, period.
I love that. That's so good. And I should say also that those out of bounds statements are really great for differentiating yourself from the rest of your industry. So would you say that other legal firms are, you know, they're developing one kind of solution, and they're going to apply it to a lot of different people?
Can I say that live?
Yeah, of course. (audience laughs) Yeah. Because it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Right? That's one way legal firms could keep their costs down. They way, you know, how they can make things really kind of dependable or like make it easy for people. It's not necessarily the best solution.
But if you value affordability and ease, then that might be something you actually wanna build into your business.
And that really gets to the point. Because people ask me all the time about the legal tech companies like LegalZoom.
Oh, yeah yeah yeah.
And so, that is actually a key differentiator. So, I like that you, that fits right within my guiding principle.
Yeah. So and that's gonna really resonate with your customers too.
It doesn't mean they're always going to choose you.
Right? Because they may say, you know what in this case, I personally need to value affordability and ease more right now, but I'm gonna come back to you in the future when I need a more creative approach.
But it does create this just very transparent, very honest environment where you can say, yeah, you can go with something like that. Here's what they do.
Here's how we're different.
And that's something that we do both with our customers and internally as well.
Okay. How 'bout one more. Let's do collaboration.
So, the collaboration piece is I collaborate with clients to help them make the best decisions. But I also collaborate with other attorneys to fill the gaps and provide clients with a full service experience.
Okay, great. So, what's the in bound statement? My company will.
My company will, my company will collaborate with clients to help them make the best legal decisions for their business.
Yeah. We're getting back into the offering piece again. Right?
So, let's look at the bigger, let's look at the bigger picture.
How 'bout we will. What if it was something like, and this might be one of several for this particular value. But what if it was something like, we will value finding different opinions? Or we will value finding a different approach, so that we can collaborate to get the best results?
Or, we invite, we actively look for other skillsets or other strengths and bring them into our firm and our solutions. And so again, that can be used internally and externally.
That's perfect, yep.
Excellent. And then what's the out of bounds?
The out of bounds is we, oh gosh. I don't know if I'm saying this in a proper out of bounds format.
Go for it.
But, we will not operate outside of our area of genius in order to best serve our clients.
Yes, right. Because collaboration is the value.
So, you're always going to be going out and finding those people to fit the holes, the gaps, in your knowledge, or your skillset, or your strengths.
I love it. That one, we don't have to do anything to. That was just, that is it.
Alright? Yeah, thank you Patrice.
You make it sound so easy. (laughs)
It is easy. (audience laughs) Buy the class. No. (laughs) What questions do you guys have about setting your guiding principles, creating guiding principles, naming the values for your company? You guys are the least questionful audience I think I've ever had. Yes, Jenny.
So, I have one that it seems like maybe the out of bounds statements could be a little bit at odds with each other.
So, one like similar to a lot of people in this room is creativity. We're a marketing firm. Creativity is important.
Wait, wait. Stop there. Let me challenge you on that.
What marketing firms is creativity not valuable to or a value for? Can you get more specific with creativity? I would think creativity is important to marketing period.
So, any marketing agency could say we highly value creativity.
So, could we get more creative with that so that it's a differentiator? (Jenny mumbles) Yeah, I know, sorry.
Whatever. We're always getting more, it's a creative life.
We have to get more creative.
Yeah, I'm with you there, 'cause I had creative and strategy, and I did feel like, I mean, we do brand strategy, so those can be generally generic terms. I think part of it like, sorta, the we will statement is basically looking to many places to gather inspiration to create the best end product for our clients. So, the don't statement for that specific idea around creativity was that we wouldn't take one solution and apply it to multiple strategies that we're making for people in a similar form of.
And I think part of that for me is we do these plans over and over and over again, and the process is always the same. But it feels like a new experience every single time we do it with every single client. Even though maybe the slides that we're presenting every time will have the same titles on the top, the experience that happens in that room is completely unique, because the people that we're working with bring in a really unique set of offerings, and ideas, and experiences to the table.
Alright. So, what if instead of creativity, the value was either open-mindedness or originality?
I like originality.
Okay. Because I think that to me, originality is different than creativity in that I see a lot of marketing agencies that are creative in their visual approach, but really what they're doing is following a process, which is great. And that's what some people want and need, and that works for them. But it sounds like that's not what you do. That you're focusing on each project and creating an original solution for it based on all of this outside inspiration.
Correct. I mean, we are in the way that the process is always exactly the same.
So we do still have a rigid process, a system in that form.
Yeah. I like, what do you call it? I like the tension there actually. So being able to say that we use a process to create an original approach to every project. To me that's really interesting. Like, that makes me wanna lean in a little bit more. And I think again, you can use that internally, and you can use that externally. So, you use a process with your clients to create an original approach. What about internally? Do you have internal systems and internal processes that allow you to create an original approach to challenges or problems you face in your business?
Absolutely, completely. Well, part of what I wanna sort of throw in is not necessarily between originality and process, but looking at empowerment is something that's really sort of coming up for us this year, and like in the places that we're looking to go. And one of the questions that I was sort of asking myself was, if we're sort of delivering this like, okay here's your strategy. I guess what I'm admiring in the way you've set up your business is people sort of have to take agency and ownership over those solutions.
And is that at odds with us finding an original approach and saying here's something that we're handing over to you?
I think that it's at odds. I think there's an opportunity there though. I think there's potentially a way for you to say, we create the strategy, and then we teach you how to implement it. Or we create the original approach, and then we give you the tools that you need to continue to innovate on it. Right? It feels like there's another few steps that you could take that to. Like in one of my earlier questions to amplify your values in your business so that it's not just on the surface, but it really goes really deep.
Does that make sense?
Any other? Oh, we have three online questions. Goodness. Alright, let's dive in. Oh, redscorpio. Hey Rochelle. She says, "One of my words is expression, "because my jewelry helps people express their personality, "but expressing your personality is just a tool to connect "with like-minded individuals. "So not sure how to distill into three words. "Should we be using these words "that help outsiders understand our message? "Or are these only words for us to understand our value?" Ideally, they're both. They are, as hopefully you've seen Rochelle, with some of these examples here is that your values should work externally to help you communicate value, to help you provide your message to the people who need it most. And they should help you internally to help you make decisions, and create plans, and get creative about how you're going to approach certain problems. So just looking at what you've got here though, to me expression is a starting place. And I think that you've actually named a better value in here for you, which is connection. Yeah, do you guys agree? I'm seeing a lot of head nodding. They're all like yes, connection. 'Cause again, all jewelry helps express who we are. Right? That's one of those givens, I think, in that industry. But using jewelry to help people connect with others, with like-minded people, that's a little bit different. That's a nuanced way of looking at that. It's a more specific way of looking at that. And so, I would bring that to the table, and think about then how you can use connection internally as well, and how you might develop products, or how you might develop processes or systems in your business that help you personally create connection in your company too. What are you doing on a daily basis to create connection for yourself and for others? Next. "Could sense of humor be a value? "I'm an illustrator and feel like it's sometimes easier "to connect with customers or followers "through relatable humor, "but I'm not sure if this would be a value or more "of like a secondary part of my personality." Good news, it's absolutely a value. And second of all, if that's what's helping you connect, I wouldn't make that secondary at all. Lift that right on up. I mean, there is some great examples of businesses out there that use humor as a primary value. MailChimp immediately comes to mind. Right? You know, when that sweaty little chimp finger's over the big red button right before you hit send on an email. They're using sense of humor to connect with customers, but they do it internally as well. You can see pictures of their offices and the people that work there, and it's a fun place. Right? So if humor is important to you, if it's one of your top values, bring it out in your business and make it part of who you are as a company as well. And use it to make decisions and create plans. Alright, last one. Oh, it's Aili. She says, "Do you have any advice on how to figure out "if there's a value that we're missing "that we need to be honoring in our business?" That is such a good question, which you're not supposed to say, I learned this week, because it means that the other questions aren't good. They were all good, but that one's making me really think. "Do you have any advice on how to figure out "if there's a value that we're missing that we need "to be honoring in our business?" To me on that one, I would go back to those past successes and past failures and think about the whys behind those things. Why did they work? Why did you get that win, or why did you fail? And then look and see if those whys are represented in your business right now. If those whys are represented in your values, great, you've got it. If they're not, then that's something that you need to incorporate. You either need to think about it on the side of we're not gonna do that, or you need to think about it on the side of I'm going to choose to amplify that on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Alright? That's, I think, how I would approach that. Excellent question. Yes.
[Female Audience Member] So around that, 'cause I'm struggling a little with the out of bounds.
So can you use that to think about your out of bounds?
Like especially if something failed and it didn't work?
Yes, yes. Definitely use your failures to decide what you won't do again in the future. (laughs) That might sound kind of obvious, but I don't think that it is. I think a lot of people are just like, oh God, I hope that never happens again. Right? And we don't spend the time to really analyze why it didn't work, or why it succeeded, or why it felt weird, or why we just don't ever wanna do it again. And asking yourself why, constantly analyzing what's working, what's not working, is a really really important part of making forward progress and making future plans. If you don't do that, you end up staying in the weeds, and you can't kinda take control and get to that mountain top. Okay? Yeah.