One of the best jobs I ever had was with a jewelry supply company called Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was first hired as a sales and customer service representative for their call center and later transferred into one of the accounting offices. The business has a basic company philosophy that is stated like this:

“Our Principles have guided our decisions and interactions for decades. Following our Principles rather than hard-and-fast rules allows us to be flexible and creative, free to apply our experience and knowledge in meeting each customer’s specific needs within a thoughtful, consistent framework.”

Rio Grande was (and is) a unique company, in that the very foundation and culture of the business was built solidly on what they referred to as their company “principles.” These principles were similar to the “Ten Commandments” and were woven into the fabric of everything that was done. As a Christian who had been striving to live by God’s Word for many years, I was drawn to this culture and found myself thriving in the environment. Although not presented in a Christian context directly, I found these principles to be based firmly on the teachings of the Bible. Take a look, then, at the list of these principles:

  1. Do what you agree to do.
  2. Do not encroach on other people or their property.
  3. Create an environment of trust.
  4. Be open and honest.
  5. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  6. Express and value all feelings, concerns and ideas equally.
  7. Exchange your best effort for the best effort of others.
  8. Develop long-term relationships of mutual benefit (WIN/WIN).
  9. Have fun!
  10. Passionately develop and pursue shared and individual purposes and goals.
  11. Strive to maintain a positive attitude at all times.
  12. Maintain your power to succeed by choosing not to believe you are a victim.
  13. Take responsibility for your part in each life experience, and learn from it.
  14. Be successful by helping others to be successful, and accepting that help for yourself.
  15. Lead by influence (using reason, benefits and inspiration) rather than by coercion (using force, fear and innuendo).

As you ponder the ramifications of these principles, it should be easy to see the impact they could have, not only on a business but also on our personal lives and in our churches.

The leadership of the Rio Grande was a council of seasoned, mature people who actually practiced what they preached. They guided the company together as a group, always careful to follow these principles. To give you another example, the department leaders were called “coaches” and they were considered to be more like facilitators than top-down managers. This leadership approach was flat, not hierarchical, meaning there were not multiple layers of management one had to wade through to be heard or to get things done.

The company also believed and practiced a unique style of “participative management,” meaning that every team member was highly valued and encouraged to actively contribute to the success of their team and the company. Each team was a tightly knit group of people who respected one another and worked together for the good of the group. Decisions and procedures were made at the team level by the people who best understood the problems or challenges of their tasks.

In a world where management is most often authoritative, detached, and impersonal, this was like a breath of fresh air to me! Even my experiences for years in the church had often followed the same pattern, although I had seen something quite different in the New Testament.

Having said all this, no human organization is ever perfect—because people are involved! Occasionally there were problems, disputes, and challenges. Yet these principles were adhered to consistently and helped guide and protect the business through it all. Eventually, my employment ended because of the first-ever company layoff, which took place because of a national recession. Yet even though there were personal hardships that followed, I was never bitter or resentful, but only grateful that I had been blessed to have this experience.

Today I would encourage you to consider applying these principles to your personal life. I would even recommend that you print out these principles and display them as a daily reminder. The results of living by these guidelines will be tremendous and will help you to not only become a better person but also happier and more productive. Your outlook on life will become different and your relationships with others will be transformed. The best way to change your life and the world around you is always to start with yourself!

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