Late in the afternoon on 17 June 2013 I opened up a Google Doc and started typing. I can relay this precise date because that’s when the document was created. The version history tells me I did a couple of versions that afternoon. The date allows me to pinpoint where I was at.
I had reached a point in my career where I was wondering what I wanted to do next and what I could do next. Do I keep on with “official” leadership roles, being a director of a business with other people, being a manager? How much do I want management, coaching, practicing, as a mix or on their own? How do I set up and be focused on what I want to do next – and how I go about it? And then how could I do that?
A little brain dump later, I had the following guiding principles:
- I design, make, deliver, and manage things - ideas, products, systems, teams, whatever’s needed - that connect, engage, and tell stories, mostly with a digital slant but all rooted in the modern, everyday world.
- Solve real world problems by making real world things for clients.
- Put the client’s business, and the client business’s success, at the heart of everything.
- Think where is the client now, where will the client be next?
- Embrace research to produce remarkable insight.
- Be strategic, be a problem solver.
- Make people think afresh, to reset agendas.
- Experiment, challenge convention.
- Produce appropriate work, effective work, even brave work.
- Create things for clients that will be wanted and will be loved.
- Achieve through collaboration: with clients, with partners, together.
Looking back at those original principles some were grounded, some aspirational, but all fine. Out of my head and down. They’ve changed a little over the years (defluffed them), but the core of them remains and there are times they helped me make decisions.
Seven years on I was mulling these over during the summer just gone. I had a feeling the last several years I have just trundled along. I don’t think I have taken much satisfaction from the work I have done. I tried to be professional, turn up, do the work, but felt like an actor: I had turned up and performed the role.
I went back to my guiding principles – and started again. What do I want to do? What can I do? What do I not want to do? What does this make me as a working person? I mapped out a lot of this. And I tried to distill it into some revised principles.
I recently attended a session ran by Paper where they talked about publishing their business’s founding principles. As someone who works as a :business of one” it pushed me to hone my revised guiding principles so I can share them too. This is how I like to work, this is how I want to work. This is how I will hold myself to account, and this is how I will hold the work I am involved with to account.
So, now anyone can view my guiding principles for working.
They might change in the future. I might have missed something. Something might need refining, to be clearer. These are the latest version. But they are out there.