Most companies have “values” posted on a wall somewhere. And most employees will tell you that those values have very little to do with the behavior they see on a daily basis inside the company. Instead of the traditional values, I use operating principles — the guidelines that mean something to me as an individual who works, as a business owner and manager, and as a consultant and coach looking for companies whose success I can eagerly invest my time in.

People work for People

The relationship between and employee and their boss is the #1 reason that people stay in jobs — or leave them. No amount of discussion about organizational culture will ever replace the very basic fact that your employees come to work everyday to work for someone. And how they feel that relationship meets their needs directly contributes to their engagement, their tenure and your bottom line.

Play from Strengths

Our natural strengths are often our most untapped resource. We tend to underestimate their value, because they come easily to us. We are taught that we should work hard, and that we should improve where we are weakest. But investing your energy in maximizing where you have natural talent gets you much farther, much faster with far less effort.

Building a Community

Human beings (even introverts!) are social animals. We all have a need to belong and feel connected to the people who matter to us. At work, at home, in our neighborhood — we build our own community based on shared values and the things that we passionate about. Work should contribute to that core need, not detract.

No Bullshit

Cruelty is never necessary, but candor is essential. You cannot have a healthy culture if secrets, gossip, passive-aggressive communications or codes of silence reign. Like everything else, this has to be modeled at every level of the organization, not just personally but in formal systems and processes the organization adopts.

Meaningful Work

Everyone has the right to feel that their day’s worth of work provided value – to them, their colleagues, their customers and their community. A job is a huge part of your daily life. Spending it doing something that doesn’t inspire you, challenge you, and foster the values you feel matter most is a tragic waste of human capital.

The Power of Humor

Laughter is often the best medicine, whether what ails you is truly serious or just feels overwhelming in the moment. Humor allows us to bond with each other, shift our perspective, change our energy level, and make other people feel better. It is often the most valuable tool in a person’s personal arsenal, though it is rarely given its due credit.