Unlocking Values in the Workplace

For those of you who have followed my blogging up to this point, I hope a few things stand out to you:
1) I love my business and the industry we are in (staffing)
2) My kids (all 11 years and under) teach me some major business lessons
3) I try to learn every day from the experiences I have – positive and negative

Allow me to add one more to that list…I believe our values define who we are…AND I understand how challenging it can be to stand by those sometimes.

As our company has embarked on its 2017 journey, we have certainly been met with our share of challenges. The last 8 years have been action-packed, long days of building a business, but as we have made the transition from “Mom and Pop” to a “scaling” business, we have realized the challenges of growing while staying true to who we are and the vision we set out with. You see, as the ownership team moves further away from influencing day to day decisions, you also risk losing the very identity you were trying to establish in the first place. And, by the way, I’m not just referring to the business, I am also referring to how we act as managers and leaders of the staff that has bought into the very vision we sold in the first place. Fortunately, in my case, we have hired some very good people who have given me the grace and patience I need to get things right.

So, what have I learned you may ask? Well, allow me to humbly throw out a few things that may resonate for many of you, whether you own a business or simply manage a team.

1) Vision without Daily Focus is only a New Year’s Resolution

Now maybe you’re better than me, but I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. Why? I was great at them for about 3 months, and then life got in the way. In fact, I read an article recently that claimed only 8% of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I’ve found that it wasn’t until I was TRULY motivated did those resolutions stick. But if I REALLY wanted to change or accomplish something, I practiced it every single day. It was on the top of my mind, considered in everything I planned, and executed regularly. So why do we as organizations establish a set of values and then not talk about them constantly? How do we expect ourselves and our colleagues to rally behind a vision and values unless we make them a part of everything we do and celebrate the positive outcomes that come from them? We must make them an integral part of who we are as people and business leaders every single day. Which leads me to my next point…

2) Differentiators are Values in Action

In our company, we’ve had a lot of discussion recently around our differentiators. How are we different? What makes us unique? Why would a company or individual choose to work with us? And while we are going down the path of making sure we define that appropriately, here is what I’ve learned so far….Our differentiators are our values in action. In our case, those are Integrity, Collaboration, and Extraordinary Service. Sure, they sound great, but how we DEMONSTRATE them is the key. You see, if we really, truly live them daily, then our best practices will automatically emerge. We will always do the things our clients want to see because our decision making and performance will be made from a place of wanting to be the best version of ourselves. Not because someone told us to do it that way. You want to see Integrity in action??? Watch me recommend that we are NOT the best resource for a client on a particular engagement. Effective collaboration??? I might have to deliver the difficult message that you’re not giving me enough information to allow me to do the job right for you.

3) True Values Belief = Accepting Real Feedback

In December, I formed a Task Force of 5 employees to meet with me monthly and give me their input on our business. Good News – They all love the idea and being part of this team. Better News – They take it very seriously and are very candid with their thoughts and input. Best news – It really hurts sometimes!!! But I love it. It’s what we need. It’s what makes us better. It’s what makes us human – vulnerable, imperfect, and willing to change. And it flows both ways. So we learn and grow TOGETHER. Get it? Collaboration! Supports our core values. Yep – even leadership must be willing to embrace this concept. In fact, if the leaders won’t, then who the heck will?

Anyway, that’s my values talk. Have them. Mean them. Live them. Challenge one another to embody them. It won’t be perfect. But the pain of getting them right is nothing compared to the tremendous outcomes that will drive from them.

Jason Skidmore is CEO and Chief Learning Officer at Vernovis. He just now made up that latter title because he seems to be learning more in 2017 than he anticipated heading into the year. And his kids still teach him a lot, which is frustrating considering that their combined age is about the same as his total years of schooling. But maybe they are going to be really really really smart…