[Excerpt from Chapter 5]

Principled Practices

In most cases, the core values that you choose will be aspirational and will call forth a certain amount of “stretch” in you and in your people. That being the case, some of the ways of acting, communicating, managing and so forth that express the new core-values will seem unnatural. It is just the same as any major change in an individual’s lifestyle. Imagine the number of personal behaviors that smokers have as part and parcel of their habit. I remember my own experience in quitting smoking. Merely eliminating the smoking didn’t yield the “non-smoking” lifestyle I wanted. It was instantly clear to me that just taking cigarettes out of the equation would be futile, and would have me smoking again in short order. Instead, I needed to invent new ways of conducting many areas of my life—to change practices, habits and behaviors that would, taken together, provide the experience and texture of this new, non-smoking lifestyle.

Some of the changes were environmental, such as removing all ashtrays, lighters, and other smoking paraphernalia from my home, car and workspace. I also took a hiatus from spending time with my smoking friends. Finally, I started a new exercise activity, running, knowing that my lungs would be so taxed from this unfamiliar new sport that smoking would be deeply incompatible with it. Taken individually, they were all small changes. But as a web of practices they brought forth a very different experience within my life. I am convinced that the combination of them was largely responsible for my success in quitting.

Changing our personal lifestyles is hard. Everyone who has ever tried to lose weight, begin exercising, start a family, become religious or quit smoking knows how hard it can be. We lead complex lives and have multiple structural and behavioral phenomena in our lives that prop up the very lifestyles we mean to transform. The challenge is even greater for an organization. Organizations are, like the word sounds, organic. They involve the habits and customs of many people and the complexity of the interrelationships between those people with each other in all of their many combinations. So changing the behaviors and practices at an organization-wide level is vital to succeeding in building a Principle-Powered organization.

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