(Originally written on LinkedIn)
Values are built in- honesty, integrity, courage, and service. These are things we grow up with; innate identity that can carry us through life. As we move into a new generation of business, it is of great importance for us to put our values at the forefront or core of business.
Value led business means better business, happier employees, and a greater value to community.
In a recent conversation with Ben Williams, serial entrepreneur and founder of Reelio, Ben said he’d rather teach somebody coding than to hire somebody without strong values. “You can’t teach honesty, but anyone can learn code.” Appreciating the tangible, I asked him how he chose his values, to which he responded that you don’t. “You already have them. It’s about clearing the dust and recognizing what they are.” He takes long walks and spends 45 minutes every morning identifying his goals and aligning himself.
Diane Hessan is another CEO worth highlighting. Diane sold Communispace for enough money to never work again, but she decided to join Startup Institute in order to help people kickstart careers at high-growth companies around the world. While Diane had a great answer to my question on values, she shared a more compelling story that captured her values best (earlier in the conversation). In 2001, during the dot com bubble burst, her company was faced with serious budget shortages–it had to lay people off. Before making that decision, she made a choice to give employees time to brainstorm solutions and see if they could come up with other options.
The employees brought to the table an idea for everyone to take a pay cut+stock options. Everyone could keep their job.
This human solution to a market problem was a direct result of Diane’s people-centered values and leadership. Simple things, such as knowing everyones name in her company, speak to how much she values people and they shine a light on her values. Values were not just an option on the path to success, but for Diane they directly enabled her business to succeed.
It seems that in business values and success could not be correlated, but Ben and Diane are two examples of the opposite. Peter Drucker often cited Frances Hesselbein as a core example with her ability to operate highly functional organizations that are value driven and highly successful. Furthermore, Craig Jelinek (Costco) shows us that you can be profitable and still very value based. Costco just gave employees Thanksgiving off–and they are still making great earnings! Costco also pays its employees a living wage and employee happiness shows through their relatively low turnover rates.
Adam Grant and Simon Sinek seem to base their theories on the same logic. Good business and good culture makes for successful individuals and successful companies.
Now, the local small business fried chicken entrepreneur may focused on making enough sales to pay the bills. Investing in the human capital of employees could seem far from the business or product. It is not that he/she lacks values. Rather, it is priorities by maslows hierarchy that can push them away from practicing their values in a stressful business environment.That said, we must continue to study this area and space looking at and testing different models in policy, business, and culture to see what works.
Business is our largest engine in transporting and building skills, people, and goods.If we allow business and values to remain divorced then we will always remain a fractured and highly unequal society. Instead, let’s practice our values and let business be an engine to drive growth, prosperity, and progress.
This starts with you. Regardless of who you are in the organization practicing your values at work. This is especially important in leadership. You act as a light for those around you. When you understand your values you can better understand yourself, your actions, and your alignment.
Clear the fog. Identify what values mean the most to you and make it a habit to practice them intently. Maybe start with Ben’s idea, take a walk or break in a coffee shop before you start your day.