All the textbooks say that one of the first things we should do when starting a business is come up with a mission statement, vision, and core values. It can be a fun exercise, and if you’re embarking on a joint venture with partners, it can actually stimulate some important discussion about the shape and direction you want your fledgling company to take.
We spend time crafting the perfect message that gets at what we’re trying to say. We draft several versions with slight variations. We debate, ad nauseum, the subtle nuances between synonyms, making sure that we’re perfectly representing our raison d’etre.
After much deliberation and soul-searching, we arrive at what we feel is the perfect combination of words. Then, what do we do with it? Most companies put it in some low-traffic location on their website. Maybe you get it printed on high-quality posterboard and hang it conspicuously in the office somewhere. At best, it’s referenced at an annual retreat when coming up with strategic initiatives for the months ahead. But many times, it is simply forgotten about.
Recently, Trilix hosted a workshop on creating a growth imperative (grab some of the highlights here). Our CEO and Founder Tim Hebert spoke about a “whirlwind of activity” we need to do for our business. These are the everyday tasks that keep the lights on. Buying, selling, invoicing, and so forth. “When we choose to focus on too many things, we can’t compete against the whirlwind,” he explained.
While this was in reference to strategic initiatives, it’s just as relevant to our mission, vision, and values. Too often, we get caught up in the whirlwind and forget who our company is, and why we’re in business in the first place. This trap is especially easy to fall into when faced with an unprecedented event like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Our core values are a compass for how we comport ourselves. In business, our values serve as a code of ethics for what we are and are not willing to sacrifice in the name of growth and success, how ever we may define it. Our personal values are no different. Indeed, the values of our businesses are extensions of our own. Companies with a strong culture place an emphasis on recruiting and retaining staff that embody their organizational values. They can not only recite them, but they live and breathe them every day.
Lately, I’ve found myself reflecting on my own personal values and “checking in” with them whenever I find myself in challenging circumstances. Each of them has served a purpose in guiding how I’ve thought, acted, and responded over the last several weeks. Mine, as explained below, are Empathy, Humility, Accountability, Equity, Learning, and Fun. You’ll notice that some of these complement each other quite nicely right now—which is why I’ve included some pairings, like you’d see with entrees and wine on a restaurant menu. (Hey, remember restaurant menus?)
The value that I… well, value… the most. I bring empathy to everything I do. Right now, we all need to be mindful of how empathetic we’re being in our actions and words. We bring empathy to our potential clients by adjusting our messaging to address their current concerns; to our current clients by listening to them and appreciating what they’re going through; and to our colleagues by being flexible and understanding of their needs without judgment.
Pairs well with: Equity. Understanding what our customers, vendors, and colleagues are going through allows us to be equitable in our dealings with them.
In my field of data and technology, humility is always important. It’s the way we continue to grow and learn. Right now, the first thing we need to do when dealing with uncertainty is accept that we don’t have the answers. This can be an uncomfortable position for some, but it is a critical step towards ensuring we’re making clear-headed decisions informed by the best information at our disposal.
Pairs well with: Empathy. Truly seeing the world from another person’s perspective requires us to have the humility to let our own perspective take a back seat for a moment.
There are many ways that accountability has played a critical role in how we work in the last couple of months. On an individual level, we’re working differently. In some cases we’re working remotely with less supervision; in others we are challenged to “do more with less” as budgets are tightened. Both situations require us to be more personally accountable. And as organizations, we can choose to blame our reality on circumstances beyond our control, or look past them and identify how we can move forward with intention.
Pairs well with: Humility. When we’re accountable, we set aside our ego and rise above finger-pointing, choosing instead to take responsibility and chart a path forward.
In this context, equity means a basic sense of fairness. Without valuing equity, we would be beholden to the letter of our negotiated contracts rather than the spirit of our agreements. When dealing with unforeseen circumstances like a global pandemic, it’s equitable to be forgiving if customers are struggling to make payments or devote bandwidth to the projects we’re working on for them.
Pairs well with: Accountability. Being equitable involves taking a fair and honest look at ourselves and how we’re acting in service of the relationships we value.
For some, “learning” right now means taking the time we have right now for growth or professional development. For others, that might seem like a daunting task with everything going on. At a minimum, we need to be on the lookout for learning moments, even if we’re unable to consciously act towards self-improvement by taking a class or pursuing a certification. We will come out of this pandemic with lessons that will serve us—and our businesses—even after things are closer to normal.
Pairs well with: Humility. Those that believe they have all the answers also believe they have nothing new to learn. This is a mindset that stunts personal growth entirely.
Working from home can blur the lines between work and leisure. To keep these in balance, we need to find ways to set boundaries between work and play. Otherwise, we run the risk of being “always on”, which can quickly lead to burnout. The quarantine has given me both the time and the urgency to finish building my basement office, a project I’ve been working on on-and-off for over two years. This keeps work in a separate “work area”, but also has allowed me to organize a separate section of my basement for my playtime passion: building LEGO creations.
Pairs well with: Learning. Play involves creativity, and there have been many times where a novel solution to a work problem has come to me while connecting a few LEGO bricks.
What about you?
If you haven’t figured out your core values—both as a business and as an individual—now is a great time to do so. And if you have, but you haven’t examined them in a while, pull them out. Make sure that when the going gets tough, you are being true to yourself and person and business you want to be.
Trilix helps organizations grow by building a strong foundation of Strategy, Culture, and Execution. Core values are a critical component of a strong business culture. If you’re having trouble figuring out your values or how to apply them in the current climate, reach out to our team for a free consultation.
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