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Bring Values to Life in Your Business
by Bill Collier

For years, I’ve encouraged businesses to use values to guide their decisions and actions.

Recently, an entrepreneur asked me to provide some specific, practical examples of how this can work on a day-to-day basis. Here they are, using the value “Teamwork” for illustration purposes.

PEOPLE DECISIONS – PROMOTING & REWARDING

Use a chart like the one below for people decisions, where core job duties/performance are on one axis, and values are on the other.

Values
High

Coach to success or
assign other duties


These are your
“A Players”

Values
Low

Not suitable
for your team

Not suitable
for your team

 

Performance
Low

Performance
High

HIRING

  • Talk about your values in your recruiting ads, and make it clear that the company only hires people who firmly believe in them. In the ad, tell the potential candidate to apply only if he/she shares our values.

Sample open-ended, behavioral interview questions:

  • “It can sometimes be difficult to fulfill individual responsibilities and be part of a team. Tell me about a time when you had to face this conflict and reached a satisfactory compromise.”

  • “Describe how you helped build a positive team spirit in your department.”

  • “Tell me about a time you had to set your own priorities aside in the interest of the team.”

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

  • Build your values into your formal performance review system. Here is an example of a 4 step rating system, with specific behaviors described for each level:

Teamwork

A) Supports & has contagious excitement for department and company goals. Intervenes when observing “us versus them” attitudes in others. Regarded as highly dependable by all.

B) Very interested in achieving team goals. Encourages others. Reports “us versus them” attitudes. Follows established procedures. Positive attitude. Very dependable.

C) Some interest in team goals. Generally follows procedures. May tolerate “us versus them” attitudes in others. Generally positive attitude. Generally dependable.

D) Little interest in team goals. Engages in “us versus them” behavior. Does not follow established procedures. Negative attitude. Undependable.

RECOGNITION & REWARDS

Company leaders must constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to praise, recognize, reinforce, teach and reward the right behaviors. Here are some ideas for doing this.

  • Implement one or more annual awards that highlight team members who model your values. These can be peer-selected.

  • Tell stories to reinforce company values. When a team member is observed living a core value, talk about it publicly. Make the ones who live out the values heroes of the organization.

FIRING

Nobody likes to fire people, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Here are some ideas for using your company’s values when terminating an employee:

  • “I’m not firing you. You fired yourself by choosing to not practice the company’s values, even though it was made clear when you were hired that violating them is not tolerated.”

  • Well before firing, there should be conversations, coaching and written warnings. The final termination is just a formality and should not be a surprise.

  • Before getting to the termination stage, identify specific behaviors that violate your values, and meet with the person to discuss the situation. See if the employee can be coached to success. If not, issue a written warning letter with a timeframe – maybe 90 days. In the letter, tell the employee you’ll meet monthly to discuss progress, and will meet informally as appropriate. Make it clear that you’ll support them, but ultimately success is up to the employee.

  • When you do have to fire someone based on values, whose job performance, productivity is high – it’s a gut-check for the company and a teachable moment for the entire team.

Dealing with customers & SUPPLIERS

  • Make customer and supplier decisions using values as a filter. Never violate your values when dealing with them.

  • Just as you tell stories about employees to reinforce company values, do the same with customers and suppliers. Make them “values heroes” also.

  • Consider “firing” customers or suppliers who are so clearly out of sync with your values that it makes it difficult to do business with them.

What should employees do, EVEN IF the owners areN’T here?

  • It’s simple: Do the right thing. Let the values be the boss. Ask yourselves, “What would the boss do if he/she was here?”

This is not an exercise in touchy-feely. Values – guiding principles – are your organization’s bedrock foundation for growth. They give your people principles to apply, instead of policies to enforce. Identify yours, and use them as “guardrails” on your road to success.

 

Bill Collier is a St. Louis-based business coach, consultant and speaker. He is the author of the book “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life.” His website is www.collierbiz.com, and his email is bill@collierbiz.com


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