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principles to work by
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There is no shortage of advice on principles to guide our adult lives – top traits of a supportive friend, most important behaviors of a loyal spouse, best practices for raising responsible children. It’s all out there, and for good reason.

But what about our work-life principles? After all, on five out of seven days, I see my coworkers more than I see my wife and three sons. On those five days, we work collaboratively, rely on each other, seek life-advice, offer accountability on group and individual goals, rally around the challenges, and celebrate accomplishments.

Our life principles don’t just impact our friends, spouses, and children … they also impact our coworkers, and they either connect us or divide us, move us forward or stall us.

Here are 13 principles I’ve seen our team demonstrate over the last 13 years.

#1: Skip the Shortcuts

There’s no replacement for hard work. Add in a little grit, persistence, and a refusal to take the shortcut, and you’ll become a dependable team member. Skipping the shortcuts means you do things the right way, whether someone is watching or not. You respect the process, value the end-product, and accept accountability for your role in the project.

#2: Prepare to Adapt

A few other ways of saying this: embrace change, look for the pivot, don’t get caught flat-footed, the only constant is change – you’ve heard them all. It has never been truer than it is today; in a post-pandemic world, you must be willing to adapt. Though challenging, it is one of the greatest proponents of growth; and as we all know, if we aren’t growing, we are dying.

#3: Set Goals & Measure Them

Individual and corporate goals move you forward, inch by inch; measuring those goals moves you forward, yard by yard. We call our goals “rocks,” and each week we’re held accountable by our team to push those heavy rocks a little further down the road toward the end-goal. Measurable goals are written down, given steps to complete, and shared with others for accountability.

#4: Lead by Example

Actions matter more than words 100% of the time, and it’s our actions that create our principles. Leading by example is the long-game; it’s the daily grind of striving to be the best version of yourself, regardless of the challenges you face, and being humble enough to admit when you fail. Leadership is not a singular initiative; it always requires a team, so you must be stripped of ego, surround yourself with the right people, and admit to not always being the smartest in the room.

#5: Be Coachable

Let’s be honest – no one wants to work with someone who already knows everything – or thinks they do. Being coachable allows real growth and gives you the foundation and respect to coach others. All good coaches and leaders were first led by someone else.

#6: Be You

There are thousands of articles on establishing a business’ core values, but what about creating your personal core values? What are the personal values that align your efforts, keep you authentic and transparent, and allow you to be vulnerable? Your personal values determine how you’ll act in the best and worst situations. They are your authentic self. Without knowing who you want to be and which values matter most to you, you’ll struggle to truly be authentic.

#7: Work Passionately

My first job out of college was just that – a job. It wasn’t a career. Though I learned a lot about marketing, client interaction, and working on a team, it didn’t excite me. It wasn’t until we founded M&R in 2008 that I realized what passionate work looks like. I quickly learned that what matters most is doing work that energizes, engages, and inspires you. Life is too short to do work you’re not passionate about.

#8: Maintain Integrity

Maintaining integrity means you do what’s right, even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it hurts, when no one’s looking, when it requires more work, and when it forces you to admit wrong. Doing what’s right is as much for you as it is for others – it builds character and makes you proud of who you are. Doing what’s right respects the intelligence of those around you, empowers others to do what’s right, breaks down walls, and reminds us that we all fail.

#9: Be Bold

Living boldly and confidently is a work in progress and it comes from experience and wisdom, so ease into it. Find your lane, master your craft, and boldly lead in that area. Don’t be afraid to fail, but rather embrace the process of becoming a confident leader for your team.

#10: Own It

If you work on a team, you have an important role that helps move everyone closer to the goal. Failing to own and take your role seriously stalls progress, disrupts unity, and unfairly burdens your team as they pick up the slack. When you own it, you understand the value of your role, you respect the team you’re working alongside, and you do the work for them as much as you do it for yourself.

#11: Offer Grace & Show Humility

If you’ve never made a mistake, you’re lying. If you’ve never made a big mistake that affected those around you, you’re also lying. When we realize and admit our own missteps, we find the ability to show grace and demonstrate humility. Showing respect for those around you creates inclusion, which creates a team that fights for each other and allows you to experience shared successes.

#12: Work as a Team

There’s a big difference in working beside each other, working with each other, and working for each other. The goal of every great team is to work for each other. Working beside or with isn’t enough to win in a competitive environment. When you work for the rest of the team, and a win for them is a win for you, you have a healthy team. I love this quote from Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.”

#13: Be Aware

Awareness is what ultimately unites us. It’s what allows us to see into the lives of others and discover their strengths and needs. Self-awareness also helps us look inside. Awareness provides the strength to demonstrate our other 12 principles.