Leadership Toolkit: How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?

Camille Monce —  January 25, 2021 — Leave a comment

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?

Never underestimate the power of simple words, and simple ideas

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I don’t believe in business partnerships but I do believe in business values. When I first took over a family business at the age of 25, my father’s advice to me were these three ideas: (1) honesty; (2) hard work; and (3) integrity. These 3 values were so simple, and at that time, I considered them “not profound” due to their simplicity.

However, I find myself referring to, and using, them when I conduct staff interviews as they encapsulate the qualities we look for in our team members. Those who don’t conform to these values aren’t a natural fit, and leave accordingly. These values are our guiding principles and I discovered that as time progressed, they become embodied in our mission statement.

Never underestimate the power of simple words and simple ideas.

Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

At the end of the day, values are what I refer too whenever I have a question in need of an answer (whether for personal or for business). Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction.

When I first learned about the importance of values in the workplace, and how to use them, I often thought that it was OK if a decision ticked 3 out of the 5 values boxes. It did not take me long to learn that if something does not get all 5 boxes ticked (assuming that one has 5 values), then the answer is no; no matter how attractive it may seem and/or how many people try to convince me otherwise.

Every now and then, my team pass by my office and ask for my opinion on a decision. Now I simply look up from my desk and raise my eyebrows in the direction of our values poster (which are on every office wall). My team know how to move forward from there.

The importance of values is a lesson for which I will be forever grateful.

Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

Outside of people, the number one asset to any business are the company values. Flowing from this is the way in which values are upheld, displayed, lived and breathed so that they are naturally and authentically part of the everyday business.

Rather than create values and force already-existing people to conform, I believe we need to recruit: (1) people who believe in what we believe in; (2) people who want to join in on the journey of achieving the vision of the business; and (3) people who are genuinely enthusiastic.

Values should not just be 3 to 5 words, they should also be underlying beliefs, behaviors, and attributes/markers that make it specific to your business. This is important so that people feel and understand how those values are interpreted and adopted within the business.

Hire based on the values. Fire based on a misalignment of values. And most importantly, progress with business relationships that have a values alignment with your business. These clients will understand and believe what you believe in. If a relationship is hard at the start because you don’t see “eye-to-eye” this usually means that all parties concerned are on separate pages when it comes to values. These relationships typically end in disaster.

As leaders, we need to interlace values in our people plan, and in our one-to-three-year vision that we share with our team. Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Making sure values are lived and breathed is one of the most difficult things to consistently deliver on as one needs to be unwaveringly dedicated to the commitment of living and breathing the values in each and every aspect of the business. It needs to start at the top and it needs to be felt on every level throughout the business with both staff and your customers.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

I’ve found that in all businesses I’ve been involved in, from startup to blue chip, that the best way to ensure that a company’s values do not wane is to embed them in the company’s messaging at every opportunity, from staff handbooks to investor reports.

Reminders about who we are and why we do what we do must be at the core of how we talk about what we do. It’s all too easy for a company’s catalyzing values to fall by the wayside as business-as-usual takes over.

Like an airliner in constant operation, without regular preservative oiling, the very pieces that keep it flying will corrode.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

Keith Roberts. Founder, Author and Speaker at OAKJournal, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, President at Entrepreneur’s Organization, Founder and Creative Director at Zenman. Denver, Colorado.

Knowledge of “core values”, “authenticity”, and “being impeccable with your word” are the three most important traits I look for in business and personal relationships.

Values need to be known and embraced by everyone within the business. A great litmus test is to call the business reception and see if the person answering the phone can share what the values are, and what they mean.

At Zenman, we use our core values as a filter when hiring new team members, and as a reference when conducting quarterly reviews.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

One cannot build a castle with a weak foundation and weak scaffolding

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I consider values to be the foundation in business and in life, and when one has lack of clarity or a lack of awareness in their values (a weak foundation), one cannot build a castle.

Pinpointing what my values are was a process that took many years and in my experience, I found that I gravitated towards positive-sounding words that although sounded great, never really quite hit the mark. It wasn’t until my 5th attempt at discovering my values that I stumbled upon a framework that worked: Reflect back on all the times you have been incredibly incensed or infuriated, and consider why you felt this way. It will hint at a core value that was infringed.

Where values can be considered the foundation on which one builds their castle, ensuring that values are lived and breathed can be considered the scaffolding on which one builds their castle. In other words, , knowing what one’s values are is only 50% of the equation. Ensuring that they are alive is the other 50% and requires continuous effort and intention.

I ensure values are alive by employing them in the following scenarios:

  1. Hiring employees, Does the candidate share the same values?
  2. Decision-making, What decision-path do our values hint at?
  3. Performance reviews, Are the wins and behaviors linked to our values?
  4. Coaching, Are we teaching values-based decision-making?
  5. Firing employees, What value did the employee infringe? Do we communicate this with the team so that others are aware?
  6. Recognizing when someone lives and breathes a value, Are we shouting these stories at the top of our lungs? Are we circulating them? Are we compiling them into our own book as our own legends?
  7. Rewards programs, Are we sharing and rewarding the behaviors that align with our values?
  8. Communications, Do we include our values in our internal and external comms across all channels?

Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It was 2012, I had hired a COO for the business. Mark (named changed to protect the identity) had the drive, the qualification, and the history to prove that he was the best person for the job. He was also a friend.

Within the first month, two of my better people resigned. In the next 3 months, another two of my best people resigned. In the 1 year that Mark had taken charge, the business environment and culture lost its mojo. It was highly strung and the team was deeply unhappy. Something just didn’t click and what I learned was that Mark’s values were misaligned with the values of the business. This caused a whirlwind of destruction. It was the classic case of right skills and wrong values.

Values are the first, and primary, alignment that every business must find. When values are aligned, a sense of belonging surfaces. When that happens, people feel they can be themselves, and they do their best work. Because of this, values cannot just be a poster on the wall. Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner.

In every decision that we make, we always ask this question first, “What do our core values say?”. When we make decisions this way, it provides us a guiding principal in which we can make good decisions, and consequently it makes decision-making easier.

Values provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone can be successful

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Values are the foundation of our businesses, and provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone (employees, customers and the business) can be successful.

Our values are brought to life by:

  1. Screening people for our values so that our hires are values-based
  2. Onboarding people with our values
  3. Celebrating when people live our values
  4. Coaching people in real-time when they don’t live our values

A great tool we use in making sure our values are brought to life is to keep track of all stories that are aligned with our values, and to share them far and wide in our businesses.

Values are the basis of any business

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Values are the basis of any business. Our values are not that inspiring (“fun”, “integrity”, “respect”, “service”, “trust first”), but they are known and practiced by all staff.

I have a saying: “If you are not in business for fun and profit, what the hell are you doing there?” So basically, as a value, we try and ensure that employees enjoy their surroundings and the people they work with, but we also expect them to do a fair day’s work so that we make a profit. The same saying goes slightly differently for the employee: “If you are not in a role that you enjoy and learn, what the hell are you doing there?”

The value that is the backbone of all our values is “respect”. At a new employee’s induction, we stress this value, and generally this is the value we quote when firing an employee. For example, if an employee steals from the company, it is not showing respect for the company. If an employee hits another employee, it is not showing respect for a fellow employee. If an employee swears at a supplier, it is not showing respect for the supplier.

Values are the basis of any business.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

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