Yesterday I wrote about the importance of choosing a mentor who shared your core values and several people commented on their ongoing quest to define their own core values. It’s an important quest, because our values are our true brand. This is true for companies as well as individuals. My quest took many years and I thought it might be helpful to share the outcome. So, I went into my archives and pulled out the documents that were part of the corporate transformation that resulted from the personal mentoring.
One of the most powerful aspects of the mentoring process for me was the gradual acceptance of what my core values really were. It’s painfully obvious now, but at the time it wasn’t. The goal of identifying the core values was to align my words with my behavior authentically. It was NOT about changing my behavior. It was being honest about what my real values were based on my behavior. What I was telling myself didn’t matter. My behavior told the real story.
The Journey To Values Based Management
What came from that process was a blueprint for using values as a way to run and grow my company. I thought I would share with you the document that became our “bible” for how we made decisions and the blueprint for how to communicate with each other. The results were revolutionary. I have never been a part of anything as meaningful.
Nine core values were identified.
Some of the values I identified at the beginning were thrown out, because my behavior contradicted them. The key to everything that follows is that I had to be sure I could live each one without compromise. This couldn’t be a wish list! It’s better to not state your values, than to state them and not live them. I had to be willing to make myself accountable to my employees for living the values, just as I was going to hold them accountable for living the values. It always starts at the top.
I presented the values to our employees directly and committed to living the values. I gave each employee the authority to hold me accountable when they felt I wasn’t living the values. (And they did) I wanted to assure them that nobody was above the values. We instituted a values training program that focused solely on those values to insure there was no confusion about what those values meant. Several hours per week, per employee were spent in values training. We were explicit. The values were front and center in everything we did.
(It’s important to remember, this was not about religion in the workplace. The values were designed to respect the religious difference in our workplace, not enforce one religion’s precepts over another’s.)
An amazing thing happened. Our work environment became more vibrant, our productivity improved and our profits soared.
The First Four Values.
I’m going to share the detail on the first four today and the last five tomorrow. Each value is explained and then an example is given for how to live the value.
The following is the unedited version of what each employee was expected to commit themselves to living in the workplace.
What do we mean when we talk about our values? What is the purpose and importance of values? Why even state them? What’s the point?
Values are the moral and ethical rules we all live by. They serve to guide our actions, our behavior and the decisions we make in operating every aspect of our business everyday.
They define what is most important to us in the quality of our dealings and our relationships with every human being with whom we interact.
They are the standards by which we will be judged and by which we will attain credibility.
Values are the way we behave when no one is looking. Living our values is the path where we walk our talk.
If we likened a company to a person, we might say that: if strategy is our brain, and performance is our body – then values is our soul!
By stating them, we are declaring:
· These are the rules of human conduct to which we commit.
· These are the qualitative standards by which we want to be judged.
· We want all of our people to know them, understand them, commit to them, live them and, in so doing, become accountable.
Here they are.
We value ideas:
We place great value on ideas – all ideas from any and all people and sources. We respect ALL ideas-and the people who express them. We believe that there are NO BAD IDEAS. All ideas are valuable to our process of learning and growing. We encourage people to speak out, to give a voice and a life to their ideas. We know that not every idea will be implemented or acted upon. Some may prove unworkable; others may not be used for any number of reasons. Some may not be put into action as given, but might serve to spark other ideas. That is the value of every idea.
Living Our Value: The most effective way to encourage and foster the continuous flow of ideas is to value and honor their source, i.e. the people who provide them. We are committed to accepting ideas without judging them based on whether or not we agree with them. That does not mean that one must agree with every idea. But we can suspend our judgment for a brief time in the process of embracing and valuing another person’s perspective. We can and must do this with sincerity and respect. That is how to live the value. That is what we are committed to do. We will not tolerate the dismissal of ideas.
We value mutual respect:
What we mean by mutual respect is learning to value each and every person for whom they are and not for what you would like them to be. It means seeing and respecting what is different and unique about every individual. It means finding positive value in our diversity and not just our sameness. It means learning from those differences for there is so much more to learn from people who are different from us than from those who are very much like us. It means respecting everyone’s perspective and point of view, especially when it is different from your own. Keep in mind that respecting is not the same as agreeing. You can hold on to your own views while still respecting those of others. Mutual respect means that we treat everyone with dignity – all the time – not just when we are in a good mood, or when things are going our way, or when we agree with them. All the time means all the time – no matter what!
Living Our Value: Funny thing about respect: the best way to get it is to give it! Actually, the only way to get it is to give it – freely, willingly, unconditionally, non-judgmentally, naturally, meaningfully and openly. If you respect everyone all the time, you become a person who is easy to respect. You become someone whom others want to respect.One example of behavior that illustrates respect involves gossip. Gossip is inherently disrespectful. Think about it. Where is there any respect in gossip about another person or a group of people? There is none. Yet, most of us have participated in gossip in the workplace at some time. It has no place in a mutually respectful culture. It has no place in our culture.
Another example relates how we hear another person’s ideas, especially if we don’t agree with them. It is possible to listen with respect and still hold on to your own point of view. It is possible to listen and say, “Oh, that is how you see it. I see it differently, and I still hear what you are saying.” That is one illustration of mutual respect. It is the way we are committed to being.
We value excellence and quality:
We place high value on excellence and quality in everything we do – the products of our work, relationships, service – everything. It both defines and differentiates us in the marketplace. Good enough isn’t good enough! Excellence means we are constantly striving to be the very best we can be. It means reaching deep down inside ourselves and finding a level of desire and performance we didn’t even know was there. It means never being complacent. It means always looking for the next improvement, the next better way of doing something. We value people who take pride in their work and the products they produce. That holds true for employees, business partners, everyone with whom we interact.
Living Our Value: Excellence is an attitude, a state of mind. It is a place in your head and your heart where anything less than your very best is simply not acceptable. And everyone knows whether they are truly there or whether they are faking it. You cannot lie to yourself about excellence and quality. You cannot tell yourself that you are doing your very best when, in fact, you’re not. What we ask of everyone is to always tell the truth – first to yourself and then to your team. If you find that you have gotten off the excellence and quality track – admit it – tell the truth about it – and get back on track.
Excellence and quality is an inherent part of our product and service. Without it, we are lost. You must be in touch with your own and your team’s attention and commitment to it constantly.
We value productivity and profitability:
We place high value on producing quality work in the most efficient, cost effective way possible. We diligently and continuously look for ways to eliminate waste, improve our productivity and our bottom line. Wasted motion, needless re-work, high error rates and inefficient processes are money down the drain. They sap the resources we need to reinvest in developing our opportunities, expanding our relationships and securing our future.
Living Our Value: Our products and our people need to be responsively creative. In other words our creative approaches must be commercially successful with our customers and their customers. At the same time, everyone must be aware of and focused on producing quality products in the shortest time and in the most productive way possible. This requires a continuous state of awareness – of time, efficiency, quality and output. Be aware. Stay aware. Do not allow yourself to get lulled into a state of robotic repetition that has you lose focus on your own and your team’s productivity. Look for more efficient ways to perform. Express your ideas. Become a voice for continuously improving productivity. It’s how we can win together.
Values 5-9 will be presented tomorrow… think about how bringing values to the forefront of your business might change the way people work and communicate on a daily basis.
(This was originally published on 12/9/2008 on ActiveRain)