The Key to Greatness Is Already in Your Hands
“I Never Noticed They Were There!”
This was the response from Jennifer, the young lady behind the service counter at my local Bass Pro Shop, when I asked about the large plaque on the wall behind her. In big, raised letters, it said, “Our Goals”: Price, Service, Quality, Selection.
If you read closely, you would notice that these are more than goals, they are Bass Pro Shop’s core values. But the distinction hardly matters if Jennifer and everyone else doesn’t even know the goals are there. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way.
The Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA), a national HVAC trade association with over 5,000 members, recently conducted an internal survey asking how many “have a written set of core values.” An impressive 82% of members said they do.
The eMyth organization, in their “State of the Business Owner” (SOBO) report, which included over 1,700 small and medium-sized businesses, asked a similar question: Do you “have defined company values”? An even higher number, 85%, said that they do.
The problem isn’t that companies lack a defined set of core values, it’s that they do a poor job of communicating them. Missing this last step robs you of a competitive advantage and a very important opportunity to achieve significantly better results, even greatness, in everything you do.
In my work with organizations, I help them to discover their core values. Notice I didn’t say "create" their core values. The reality is that every organization already has a set of core values because every organization already has a culture, a set of beliefs, and a way of doing things that defines who they are.
Many, and perhaps most, if you believe the EGIA and SOBO reports, have taken the time to write them down. But again, what good are a set of core values if you fail to use them?
One more very important data point to consider. The Gallup Organization publishes it’s “State of the American Workplace” report every couple of years, most recently in 2017. One finding from the data is that 78% of employees do not believe the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization… Jennifer included.
The report states, “Employees…feel frustrated when managers fail to help them connect their role to the bigger picture. The modern workforce wants a job that feels meaningful… When employees have this sense of purpose, their engagement soars.”
78% of employees do not believe the leadership of their organization
Not Just a Feel-Good Item
What can you do differently in your organization? First, if you aren’t one of the 82-85% of companies that can honestly say they’ve figured out what their core values are, then discover your core values.
It’s not an effort that takes a lot of time (my program gets it done in half a day), but following a good process ensures a quality end result: a set of five to seven core values that everyone can proudly say represents your beliefs as an organization and what you stand for in the eyes of the world.
Second, don’t relegate your core values to a “feel-good” item on your company website or bury them in the employee manual to be dusted off every couple years when you decide it would be a good time to do some strategic planning.
Your core values must be integrated throughout the daily operations of your organization so that they’re top of mind when making critical decisions at every level, from the mailroom to the boardroom.
Whether it’s how to invest company resources, or determining which job applicant will be the best fit; determining the proper marketing message, or deciding whether a new client or customer will be a joy or a headache, every decision should be informed by your core values.
MAC: Memorable, Actionable, and Clear
Core values must be easy to remember, no more than one word or short phrase for each. “Honesty and integrity” is a good example.
But you can’t stop there because most words have multiple meanings and can be used in many different ways. It’s essential that each core value be accompanied by a short action statement that tells people what to do with the value, how to act on it. For “honesty and integrity” you could tell employees to “always do the right thing.” Pronet, an engineering and project management firm, has done a great job with this approach.
Pronet – www.pronetgroup.net
Integrity – We do the right thing.
Collaboration – We work as a team to achieve collective goals.
Passion – We are inspired to make a lasting impact.
Innovation – We bring creative solutions to complex situations.
Pursuit of Excellence – We continually strive to exceed the expectations of our clients and our people.
Lastly, to ensure that the meaning of each core value is clear to the world, you need to create a short narrative that describes and exemplifies what, exactly, the core value means to your organization. The narratives reduce ambiguity and, when done properly, energize your team to live the core value. We took the time to do this for each core value at my former company, D.R. Wastchak, LLC.
Core Value Narrative - Honesty and Integrity
1. You represent the DRW reputation each time you interface with a client, a homeowner, or industry partner.
2. If you don’t know an answer when asked, admit it and go get it.
3. Admit mistakes quickly and adamantly with a sincere apology for the error and an honest commitment to correct the mistake now and avoid repeating it in the future.
4. It only takes one “oh crap” to undo ten “atta boys,” for you personally, and for the company.
5. The DRW Team will always back you up and support you when you choose to act with honesty and integrity.