Principles Based Management

It seems the business world has gone mad.  Times are tough in every industry.  Employees fear losing their jobs, leaders fear losing contracts and market share, not to mention damage to their reputations.  It seems most of the business leaders I talk with are dealing with customers acting erratic and employees that are either too nervous to perform or are playing cat and mouse with their employment status.

In the last year, I have seen first-hand: corruption between government officials and contractors; bullying of small businesses; fraudulent proposals; and I think the spam mail is at an all-time high.  At MSI,, we’ve had our own dealings with corrupt behavior in the past year.  I recall going through some similar nutty behavior in the early 90′s as an engineer and manager in bio-tech.  Hillary health care had the industry in a panic and the recession of the time still lingered.

Then and now, I noticed two truths (1) the “schemers” made a lot of work for themselves and tore each other apart. (2) The “principles based managers” were calm, focused on a better future, and ultimately won in the end.  The phenomena is simple, the schemers are focused on the near term and change their schemes on a daily basis.  They see conspiracy in every email and hear it in every conversation.  In some cases, there is a conspiracy.  However, in those rare cases, the conspirators are usually too inept or too insecure to actually execute any meaningful conspiracy.  Hence, the schemers spend their time spinning like a feather in a whirl wind.  They make no progress toward a better future for themselves or their organizations.  Ultimately, they damage their reputations to the point that when times are good again, they are not able to reap the full benefits of a good economy.

On the other hand, principles based managers do not waste time with scheming and conspiracy.  Some realize the futility of scheming, others are just principled people that know no other way, and some realize the best scheme is to not scheme.  Principles Based Managers understand that the world around them is going to change in unpredictable ways, but human nature and the tenets of right and wrong will not.  Principles Based Managers believe things like:

  • Treat others as you wish them to treat you
  • Honor, respect, loyalty, professionalism, and ethics are not just words. They are the way to act.
  • Focusing on deliverables and customer value is more important than image and silly games
  • Slow business today means it is a great time to prepare for a better tomorrow
  • Cost cutting and performance improvement can be done to a large degree without laying off employees
  • Employees and contractors are people that need jobs and you should do what you can to keep them on the payroll rather than cutting them for personal gain.
  • Family time is important, even if business is down
  • Be loyal to those who are loyal to you
  • Lying to someone is not the same as outsmarting them.  Rather, it is the cowardly way of business.


When you are at work today or tomorrow, take note of how many conversations you have about how the boss, a co-worker, or a customer is scheming and how you are scheming to counter their schemes.  Do you respond to schemes with schemes of your own?  If so, maybe you have fallen into the trap of the schemer.  If so, just stop and ask yourself, what is the right thing to do?  Yes, the right thing may be painful at first.  It may even cost business in the short term.  However, if you step out of the scheming whirl wind, you will find clarity.  You will see the unethical and illegal things the schemers are doing to each other and maybe even to you.  This clarity will help you deal with issues directly, fairly, and firmly.  You will have the upper hand and you will develop the reputation of an ethical person to be respected, not open to silly games and schemes. Best of all, when the economy improves, you will be positioned to maximize your benefits. Being principles based, you will likely share these benefits with those who deserve them.

Give it a try this week, make your decisions based on right and wrong, be steadfast and confident.  You may even have to get tough, but the schemers will cower and you will obtain the upper hand.

%d bloggers like this: