Skip to content

Teach Them Correct Principles And Let Them Govern Themselves

June 20, 2016

Did you see that? 

What do you mean, Rodney? 

Did you see what my boys just carried by?

Steve Young, a Hall of Fame NFL quaterback was recently asked on a national sports show to talk about what the locker rooms on championship teams were like, and how they were different than other teams. 

There’s a famous quote, ‘you teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.’ In governing themselves, the locker rooms take care of problems and the leadership of the team deals with it.” 

It might not be as famous a quote to people who didn’t attend Brigham Young University and aren’t members of the Mormon church. But, the concept is true in business as well as football.

I have always emphasized to my teams that I expect them to take the initiative. I describe it as “In the absence of order: attack!” But, the concept is the same. You should be empowering your teams to make decisions when you aren’t around. 

It’s one of the hardest lessons for new managers to learn: the necessity of backing off and letting your team manage itself. Often we think that the reason we are managers is that the company needs us to make decisions. And often that is true. But, it’s not always true. And I would suggest it is not true more often than it is true. While working for WordPerfect many years ago, my computer crashed. That wasn’t noteworthy. However, IT was slow in replacing it. 

What’s the holdup on my new computer?

Well, Pete’s been out of town. We are waiting on his approval. 

Pete who?


Isn’t he the Executive Vice President? 

Seriously, putting a new computer on my desk as a support operator had to be approved by the third ranking member of the company. Ultimately when Pete approved my computer it was the exact computer that everyone from the local IT desktop engineer to the Senior VP over technology recommended. It didn’t help the process at all to have the EVP personally signing off on new hardware purchase. 

In my current role I create requests for external vendors to have limited accounts on our system. Because the vendors will have access to a portion of one of our key systems, my request has to be approved by a Senior Vice President. However, the SVP never rejects my request. He understands that I wouldn’t send him a request that wasn’t needed and authorized. I talked to him once about the extra approval step. It slows down my ability to quickly grant access to our vendors. 

We have to go through and verify that the access we are granting won’t allow the vendor to get to any other client’s data on that server. 

I understand that. But, my client is big enough that they have exclusive access to their server. There are no other clients on that server.

The point of the review is to prevent multiple clients on the same server from being able to access each other’s data. In this case we add no additional security since my client is the only client on their server. In business, you should look for opportunities to push the decision making as far down the chain as possible and still maintain security. Train your people how to run the business and then trust them to do it. 

Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. 

This quote comes from Jospeh Smith, the controversial founder of the Mormon Church. He was asked one time how he managed to govern such a large group of people. His response was “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” 

It can apply in your personal life as well. I went camping with my boys on Friday. This was a church event called “Fathers and sons” campout. Four of my boys were with me, two sixteen year olds and two thirteen year olds. My responsibility Saturay morning was to help cook breakfast for the 50 people who were there. Of course, I got up early and fired up the grill before others, including my boys were up. 

I’ve had a rule since my boys first started camping: Pack all your gear before breakfast.

It helps make breaking camp go quicker, if the boys have to do the work before they can eat or go play with their friends. They don’t always remember. But, if you ask them, they can quote the rule. On Saturday morning, there were my boys carrying their gear to the van while I cooked bacon. Not just their gear, but the tent we had all slept in and the ground clothes and even some of the chairs. 

Teach them correct principles and they will govern themselves. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply