How to Craft Your Company’s Leadership Principles and Make Them Real In Your Organization

By Drift

Getting close to customers takes more than just words — it requires leadership, action, and a willingness to let this customer-centric philosophy guide decision-making every single day.

If this sounds intense, that’s because it is.

But at Drift, we know that this kind of rigorous application of our beliefs will help us achieve our ultimate vision: to become the new way businesses buy from businesses.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Sounds great, Kari. But how do you actually make sure this happens every day?”

^ And I get it. It’s not easy to do. Especially when there are so many competing priorities for our time and resources these days.

But here’s the thing: Having clarity around the core tenets of our philosophy actually helps us prioritize better, use resources more efficiently, and lead more effectively. Which is why we recently decided to evolve our thinking into one clear document we call our “Drift Leadership Principles”.

A Toolbox For Life At Drift

Whether you’re in product or marketing, sales or customer success, you’re making difficult decisions every single day. Sometimes it’s easy to navigate, but more often than not, it’s hard. People are competing for resources and outcomes, sharing opinions and trying to build the best solution possible. If you’re not careful, you can easily go off-course.

And that’s where our Drift Leadership Principles come into play — they act as a sort of toolbox that helps us stay focused on solving for the customer, getting unstuck, and moving as fast as possible. They’re the guardrails that steer our actions every single day.

But the Leadership Principles didn’t materialize overnight.

At first, we had a few loosely connected ideas that were inspired by other companies and leaders we admire. We were okay with that — we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, and if anything, Drift Leadership Principles had to be understandable with minimal explanation. But we also wanted to introduce concepts that people could wrestle with a bit, and think about over time.

We struck a balance by listening to internal podcasts where our two founders discussed different elements of our culture and business. We wrote drafts, we edited them, and then we drafted some more. Ultimately, the Drift Leadership Principles were months in the making, with concentrated effort for over the last month to refine language and add polish. Then we put everything in writing so that the entire team could read them.

The evolution of these principles has been months in the making.

So, what are they? Without further ado, here’s where we landed.

Drift’s Leadership Principles

Putting the customer at the center of everything we do makes the customer our top priority.

Creating a culture of respect and trust allows us to maintain diverse viewpoints and avoid office politics.

Practicing extreme ownership enables us to move quickly and execute the mission.

Having a bias for action helps us ship daily.

Seeking feedback, not consensus, lets us champion big ideas.

Pushing for high standards creates a brand customers love.

Staying scrappy and frugal keeps us nimble.

Being curious learning machines builds growth into everything we do.

Now It’s Time to Put Them Into Practice

At Drift, our culture is defined by putting our principles into action every day.

Culture is also about our shared language and rituals. The Leadership Principles are one part of our shared language, and they come to life in our company rituals. A key part of developing these principles has been baking them into what we do in our day to day experiences.

Here are some really practical examples of how we’ve incorporated our Leadership Principles into Drift life:

  • We built them into how we onboard new hires, teaching people that these are how we set expectations for working at Drift.
  • We created development cards for everyone to use in conversations with their managers. Sorting the Leadership Principles — one per card — by strengths and areas for development.
  • We made them easy to use when acknowledging the right behavior. They are built into how we acknowledge work done each week, with virtual high fives, emojis, and shout-outs in Slack.

We’ve also built these into how we assess the performance of Drifters month over month.

Why Build A Similar Approach With Your Team

At high growth companies, there are so many things that compete for our attention and resources. And, as a result, it may feel a little unusual to spend time crafting leadership principles like the ones we did at Drift.

But that’s exactly why you should consider doing it.

When you take the time to identify what’s important to your people and to your company, it’s not only easier to make everyday decisions, but also, make progress towards your long-term company vision. Celebrating where the team is already doing these things is also key. The sooner you can get to real life recognition and application, the “stickier” your culture will be.

At Drift, we believe in putting the customer at the center of everything we do, and by making that a core part of our Leadership Principles, we ultimately achieve our big goal: to become the new way businesses buy from businesses.

Want to learn more about what drives us? Check out the Drift Leadership Principles in their entirety right here.