Too many businesses "talk the talk" on values but fail to "walk the walk."
"Integrity: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot do something, then we won't do it."
This sounds great doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's one of four aspirations never actually implemented by the now-bankrupt and infamous Enron.
Contrast those empty public relations statements with the actions taken by Starbucks when some Philadelphia branch employees acted contrary to the stated corporate values: The branch management had called the police to remove two men of color who were on the premises but didn't immediately buy any coffee. The company closed ALL their U.S. branches for a day and gave mandatory training to ALL employees system-wide. It is a video-based education session to promote diversity and raise awareness of unconscious racial bias.
The global coffee shop chain also clarified a significant policy detail. All people are welcome in the shops whether they buy or not. Starbucks' four corporate values are interesting in that none of them mention coffee...
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity, and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, and holding ourselves accountable for results.
How then do you as an individual entrepreneur come up with the values that are important to you and integrate them into everyday business life? The process has four doable steps:
1. Get to know and understand your values.
If you already have a values statement, reflect on it and review it with your stakeholders. Is it still appropriate and relevant? If you are unclear about the values that are key to your success, then ask yourself, "what is important to our customers?" And "when did you feel good about your business performance?"
Your values drive your behavior. They give you priorities, guide your everyday choices, and deep down they are often the measure you use to tell if your enterprise is on the right track.
2. When you are sure your values statement is complete, plan how to share it at every opportunity so as to align yourself and your employee-customer interactions. How can you raise the profile of your values in every communication arena from team meetings to sales calls? Lead by example with your values in your own behavior. Of course, there will be times when your standards slip. Nobody is perfect, but acknowledging the failure, apologizing, and making amends multiplies the powerful impact of doing the right things.
3. Integrate those values into every system and process within your business. So, for example, explicitly ask in customer surveys how they were made to feel welcome or treated fairly or whatever value is important in your business. Or include specific behaviors in each employee's performance review.
Of course, the communication processes are the key ones when it comes to making values your way of life. Constant communication around values is the only route to the internalization of them within your enterprise on an ongoing basis. They should be the first item on every agenda in every communication between customers and suppliers, both internal and external.
4. Measure your performance on values
. Old habits are strong ones, and any changes made to systems and processes will revert to business as usual without specific and timely feedback. We are not talking dollars here but rather "STARs" (Situation or Task, Actions and Results).
When you see someone living up to your values, give them an immediate verbal star... "Frank, you handled that angry customer (situation/task) like a pro. You heard them out. You were unfailingly polite. One of our core values! Even when they swore at you (actions). So at the end they even said they'd be back with friends (result)."
Be sure to have all STARs recorded and assigned to the person, so they can form part of an effective reinforcing performance review later in your business cycle.
Values are the essential ingredient for personal and business happiness. Business success flows from them. The key thing to take away from Values Inc. is this: Values guide us to make the right choices in every circumstance, and all the research proves that when businesses develop their unique written set of values AND WALK THE WALK, they increase, trust, happiness, and profitability.
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