Step 2 – What’s driving you? Develop and define your values

Why even bother defining values? I thought we were discussing the future, looking forward to what our company or organization is going to be like. How do values play into this?

You get people to want what you want and go where you go because you reflect with your life what you say with your mouth that you ought to be.

This is the essence of effective leadership. The tag line of my blog and business is to enable you to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. The implementation of vision is never done in isolation. It demands the cooperation and participation of others.

But it is much more than job lists and processes. It is the incarnation of values, the practical expression of what is important. If you don’t identify and proactively overlay values on your company, the pressures of deadlines and cash flow will inevitably tempt you to take shortcuts, compromise quality controls, and skip crucial steps. You’ll be tempted to do what you know you shouldn’t do because you are short of time, money, or both.

Here is how OpenX, an online advertising firm has defined their values:

We are one – One team. No exceptions. We are a group of strong and diverse individuals unified by a clear common purpose.

Our customers define us – We know our business flourishes or dies because of our customers.

OpenX is mine – We are all owners of OpenX. We stake our personal and professional reputations on the excellence of our work.

We are an open book – We are eager to teach and share what we know with others.

We evolve fast – We take risks and confront failure openly. We recognize and repeat success aggressively. We actively seek out and provide constructive criticism. Defensiveness is for weaklings!

We are what we are. No noble-sounding vision statement can ever compensate for less-than-honorable values. They may be undefined. They may be unexpressed, but your values are already at work. They set the tone of the work you do and compel decisions made at every level. We are what we are.

If you have an employee of the month award, how are they selected? May I suggest that the award be bestowed upon an employee who best exemplifies the values of the organization as voted upon by their peers? Too often such awards are given almost whimsically, conferred upon the one with the highest sales numbers.

But if values are to be, well, valuable, they need to be given pre-eminence in the pecking order. The intangibles like your set of values should carry more weight than the tangibles. Hint: tangibles can be counted because they are quantity measures while usually values can’t be counted because they are quality measures.

Values can be positive like Google’s which says that they want to be a great company without being evil. Or they can be negative like those companies that are solely or primarily profit driven. Let me conclude by focusing on the final word of the previous sentence – driven.

I’ve used the analogy of movement, of a company or organization going somewhere, the destination being defined as its vision. One cannot get there without going there. Something must propel the vehicle (your company). Values “drive” the company. They provide the engine that unlocks motivation and unleashes energy within the people who populate the company’s spaces.

What’s driving you and your company? That is what a discussion of values is all about.

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