“Protect This House” by Melissa Farzin

Rules of engagement – we all have them, but we normally don’t take the time to write them down. As my sister was getting ready to graduate from college, I had accumulated almost five years of professional work experience, and was contemplating an appropriate graduation gift– something meaningful, useful, and personal. I thought back to my own transition from academia to what they call the “real world,” and quickly found myself thinking, “They just don’t teach you this stuff in school, do they?”

Navigating the windy roads in my career, I had stumbled across several  ”aha” moments, worthy of compiling into a meaningful, useful, and personal gift: a handmade book that I dedicated to my sibling in honor of her graduation. It was my version of the age-old “I’m going to tell you what they didn’t tell me” we often hear from our elders.

Fast forward three years, and it turns out I’m not the only one who has documented these gems about working in the “real” world. I find myself working as a consultant for M Powered Strategies in Washington, DC, with a CEO who, over many years of work experience, has also documented rules for personal effectiveness in a professional environment. I agree with them and find significant commonality between his rules and mine. There is one, however, that is missing from his list, and which I propose should be at the top of every serious consultant’s list!


No, this isn’t a commercial for Under Armour, but yes it has a familiar meaning. “Protect this house” is what I would like (keyword “like”) to call table stakes. In reality, not everyone has a Protect this House mentality, but if you do, you’re on the up and up. “Protect this House” means treat the company you work for as if it were your own company. You, yes, you reading this blog post right now, must imagine that you actually slogged through the blood, sweat, and tears involved in starting up the company you are now working for. Protect the company as if it’s your own. Your reputation is the company’s reputation, and your colleagues are your partners in defending the house.

This attitude will inspire everything you do. It’s the mantra that I’ve used as the impetus for my standards of excellence on a daily basis. I must always provide excellent delivery in the form of excellent products and excellent service.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work closely with the owner/founder/CEO of all the companies I have worked for, which I understand may make it easier for me to feel so passionate about this principle. But wherever you sit in your company’s org chart, it’s a worthwhile personal challenge to instill a “Protect this House” mentality within yourself and those around you.

How can you execute the “Protect this House” rule?

  • Consider how everything you do reflects on your own reputation, which in turn reflects on that of the company
  • See your colleagues as partners
  • Keep a continuous improvement mindset
  • Consider how your work and relationships might change if striving for excellence were innate in everything you do

So what started as a gift idea for my sister’s graduation became integral to my professional code of conduct. Everyone’s rules might look unique on the surface, but at the core I am sure there are more similarities than differences. The important thing is to write them down, and as Kendall says: Learn one, do one, teach one.