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Stories of principle

This small portrait of one of my English ancestors now hangs on the wall halfway up the stairs at my mother’s house. The formal clothes and the overall style place him around the 1830s or 1840s – a time when the excesses of the Regency were fading, and when public principles once again began to matter more than private profit.

I don’t know the full details of his story – my brother is the expert on our family’s history, not me – but he could well have been a banker. Which reminds me of a small incident in the current Parliamentary Enquiry into the various ongoing scandals at Barclays Bank – here, an interaction between MP John Mann and Barclays’ ex-CEO Bob Diamond:

Just when the Committee was getting bogged down in detail, John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, cut to the quick. “Can you remind me the three founding principles of the Quakers who founded Barclays [in the 1690s]?” he asked Bob Diamond.

As the deposed bank boss sat stoney-faced, Mann continued: “Honesty. Integrity. Plain dealing.”

It seemed that Diamond had no notion of his own bank’s history. As another report put it:

Mann offered to tattoo the words on Diamond’s knuckles – at which point, Diamond said: “Honesty, integrity, and plain dealing are the way I have behaved through out my entire career.”

Whatever the real rights or wrongs in that specific case, clearly principles do matter – not just in business, but in everything we do.

Yet how do we keep track of those principles, and express them in practice in everyday life? How we verify and ensure that we do keep to those principles? And how do we remember to remember them?

Mann’s suggestion of tattoos is one option, of course, but perhaps a better way is to keep telling stories:

  • stories about the principles themselves
  • stories about why those principles were chosen
  • stories about why those principles are important to us – whoever this ‘us’ may be
  • stories about how to use those principles in real everyday decisions
  • stories about what happens when we hold to those principles
  • stories about what happens when we don’t – the impacts on ourselves and others, often over the longer term

Many, many stories, told and retold, returning, reminding – stories, perhaps, like those of the austere old man in that portrait above. Stories everywhere, everywhen, combined with a ingrained, in-built habit of storytelling and storylistening throughout our shared enterprise.

Which is where a story-bank such as Zahmoo comes into the picture, to help you manage your stories:

Whatever you do – whether in your family, community or business – those principles do matter: spread the word with your Zahmoo story-bank.

July 10th, 2012 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community, For Family
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.