Values anchor you during times of change
When we are preparing to guide a client through a purpose and values discovery, we know how important it is for the environment to be inviting. One where people are open to sharing their hopes for the future, regrets about the past and concerns on their mind for which they do not have an answer. Part of what takes so much time here is finding a way to quell the ego, which serves as a sentry to guard us. The ego is more concerned about external achievement and recognition than it is about purpose and fulfillment. In her own work, Brené Brown talks about this as emotional armor that we wear. Much of the narrative around business is about capturing market share, squashing the competition, beating quarterly earnings, disruptive innovation and more. Much of the business narrative is around winning and achievement.
This is not a railing against profit or growth, but bringing awareness to the reflexively “safe” answers in business that you are supposed to put first. We want to see our clients succeed, but also believe by staying true to what they care about deeply is what will energize their people and excite clients. This is the key to unlocking a powerful intangible in their work.
“The tangible things your competitors can go out and buy. But they can’t buy your spirit. So it’s the most powerful thing of all. Treat your people well and they’ll treat you well.”
Herb Kelleher, former CEO, Southwest Airlines
The most important step in creating an effective team environment according to the study Project Aristotle, is psychological safety. Which stated plainly is a feeling of being supported by those in their team. As people talk about deeply-seated things we need them to feel comfortable doing so.
The reward for taking the time to uncover, clarify and operationalize values though is invaluable. The thing about business today, almost regardless of industry, is the speed at which things happen is increasing. Whether you’re a machine learning startup, a community bank or a centenary manufacturing organization, the competitive forces in your environment are constantly changing or at risk of change. Values can help you remain true to the underlying emotions and beliefs that your organization stands for.
As he says in his book What You Do Is Who You Are, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says, “Remember that ethics are about hard choices. Do you tell a little white lie to investors or do you lay off a third of the company? Do you get publicly embarrassed by a competitor or do you deceive a customer?”. As you feel the mounting pressure to add features, pursue a new market, cut corners, etc., these values help anchor your decision so you don’t react to a force simply because it is there. It helps you hold a consistent tone for employees, clients and other stakeholders, which is vital to preserving trust.
When the luggage startup Away set out to revolutionize it’s industry, I believe the founders would have never guessed that an unchecked “customer obsession” mindset would lead to a culture where verbal harassment and shaming would be so accepted. Instead they became so focused on the client, desires of taking care of the people they relied on to deliver the product went out the window. Was growth at any and all costs something they were ok with or did it slowly just become the norm?
Our process is patient and curious because we aim to help you deliver a set of values that will anchor you for the long haul. We are here to help you get clear on the belief and values you bring to the market and push you to put metrics and budget alongside them.