Many entrepreneurs roll their eyes when they’re told their company needs a clear set of values to guide behaviors and how ‘people are treated’.
“This is a bunch soft stuff,” they say.
“I don’t need it because everybody who works for me knows what to do. They know how to show up. They know what’s going on. They get it because they’re here. It’s very simple.”
Before you reject “the values thing,” ask yourself a few straightforward questions.
- How many people have you hired in the last three years?
- What’s your turnover rate?
- Can you walk through the place and call everyone by name?
- Do you know what your core values are?
- If so, do you communicate them clearly?
If your business is growing you’ve probably hired some people recently. And if your turnover is as good as the average of the top 100 companies to work for in America, it’s 10 percent a year. That means half your workforce has been with you fewer than five years.
You may not even know most of their names.
So if you think everybody understands your values and how you expect them to behave, and you haven’t had that conversation lately, think again. If you believe everybody understands how you, as the company’s owner, founder and driving force expects customers, stakeholders — all internal and external constituents — to be treated, you’re living in a dreamland.
Clarify Your Values
Typical workers coming out of college today will have had more jobs by the time they are 40 than their parents had in their lifetimes. When they join your company they bring a lot of baggage. They bring their own ideas about how to interact and how business operates. So it’s more important than ever for you to clarify your values and make sure your people are on the same page.
Values – your guiding principles – are the bedrock on which you develop your vision and mission. Without driving your sense of values into your business, even the greatest ideas and strategic plans can fail!.
How We Show Up
Your values tell everyone: “Here’s how we show up. You can count on us to show up this way every single time.”
Founding Entrepreneurs, especially, need to articulate their values. That’s because you often have the values conversation with yourself and forget to tell anyone else. A 2005 survey of more than 300 companies conducted by management consultants Booz Allen Hamilton and the Aspen Institute, showed that companies considered to be financial leaders understand the relationship between values and performance, better than most. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they rely on explicit CEO support to reinforce values. “It is considered the most effective practice,” the study says.
In their book, “Full Steam Ahead,” Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner define values as ‘deeply held beliefs that certain qualities and principles are desirable. They guide your choices and actions.’ A well-articulated values statement provides answers to the inevitable question of what to do when the organization is in new territory or faces a new challenge.
If you haven’t yet done so, sit down with your top people and ask what your company really stands for. It’s the start of a great Strategic Thinking Conversation!
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