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How the Container Store organizes

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

As the Container Store opened its first store in Houston, chief executive Kip Tindell realized he had a problem.

Until then, the company was small enough that “if you were managing someone and you were having trouble with them, you went out to eat a meal with them, and then you straightened it all out,” Tindell says.

That became more difficult with growth. It rushed to hire people, even those who weren’t a fit with the organizational culture. So Tindell asked the Houston store’s employees to meet at the manager’s home. “I wanted to communicate to them what we were lacking and how we could get it,” he says.

That’s where the company’s “Foundation Principles” were born. Tindell dipped into a file of “best thoughts” he’d been gathering for years, searching for the ones that best defined his ideal of doing business.

Tindell worried that he’d sound corny, but the crowd had an opposite response, he says: “All anybody wanted me to do for months was just go around and talk about the foundation principles and how we apply them to our company, and how that makes us cohesive and act as a team, act as a unit. And I began to see the incredible fierce pride that people had to work for a company that believed all these things.”

Today, employees and other stakeholders can find the Foundation Principles on the company’s website.

The principles have a “Golden Rule” quality. For example, among them is “Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.”

Tindell explains, “That’s something Andrew Carnegie said on his deathbed that he actually attributed all of his business success to. It’s the opposite of a zero-sum game, and it means creating a mutually beneficial relationship with everyone we work with.”

Bottom line: Lay down your own foundation principles to help employees act as a unit working toward the same ends.

— Adapted from “Three Good Hires? He’ll Pay More for One Who’s Great,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times.

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