Every hero has values to which he clings. Superman had "truth, justice, and the American way" while MacGyver believed his mind was more effective than guns for solving problems. Some values are more honorable than others, but you can't be a hero without values worth dying for.
Values Worth Dying For
Not a concept that's widely embraced in the business world. Not too many corporations that I'm aware of would lay down their lives for the work they do (or the workers that do it). The very nature of a corporation is to generate a profit for shareholders - and sometimes doing what's right may mean NOT generating profit for shareholders.
So is it possible to be heroic in business? Absolutely. Because doing the right thing is always in style, even if the shareholders disagree.
Men and women of action always have a choice. We can choose to value principles over profit, people above things, and not be a martyr in the process. We can do what's right, knowing that the long-term reward is far greater.
And no, I'm not talking about "eternal rewards" or heaven here. I'm talking about the tough decision to close a business segment that's losing money, and shifting those people and resources into areas where better work can be done. I'm talking about the tough decision to NOT fire good people if they can be used elsewhere, even if it means a short term cashflow pinch (not crisis, mind you. That's different.).
I'm talking about having values worth dying for.
When "the world" tells you how things "should" be, even thought your gut tells you otherwise, and your values guide you in a different direction, do you cave? Or do you choose to be the action hero?
Will you take a short term beating for a long term gain?
So many people will do anything to avoid even the slightest amount of pain. Yet, pain is a part of growth. Discomfort & uncertainty abound in entrepreneurial circles. You can't avoid it if you want to grow. And yet, time and again I see people take what appears to be an "easy" way out, only to find themselves stuck in "the fire swamp" because they didn't trust their gut.
Remember, heroes are not above getting bloodied up a bit - so long as the fight is in alignment with their values.
As you examine your own business, think about these questions:
- What are your core values - those things you are willing to die for?
- Are those values being reflected in the work you do?
- HOW are those values being reflected in the work you do?
- What do your clients, colleagues and co-workers identify as the core values of your organization?
If you can't answer these questions, you've got your work cut out for you. It would be nice if you could stop and get absolute clarity on this before you do anything else. However, I recognize that's not always practical.
How to get these answers in the next 30 days:
- Block out an hour and really dig into your values. Ask yourself how you would respond if you saw something that was in direct opposition to your values. Would you face death for what you value? If not, re-think your highest values.
- Give yourself permission to be extremely honest with yourself about what you truly value - not what other people think you "should" value. Stop "shoulding on yourself" and get clarity. Maybe honesty is important to you, but it's not one of your top 4 or 5 core values. It doesn't mean it's not important, and it doesn't make you a bad person if it's not your number one. Just get clear.
- Look at your calendar and examine not only what you accomplished, but also what went by the wayside this month. What got neglected or ignored tends to be something we value less. Look at your bank statements and see where the money went this past month. Also think about what you didn't spend money on in order to spend or save what you did. Like your calendar, this will give you clarity about what you truly find important and are willing to sacrifice.
- Ask your clients, colleagues and co-workers to share with you their thoughts about what you truly value. Do not judge their answers or justify your position about anything, just take in their answers. This step takes courage. Many will never do it for that very reason. The truth of the matter is that perception is more powerful than truth. What your clients, colleagues and co-workers perceive about you is their truth until you can alter their perceptions. If there is a discordant mis-match between their perception and yours, brainstorm a plan to change those perceptions through your actions (not just words).
Remember, this isn't about issuing a "vision statement" or some other piece of equally benign paper. Show, don't tell. "Be the change you want to see" and all that.
I'll even put my money where my mouth is...
Take a few minutes to share with me (via email or as a comment on this post) any/all of the following:
A. What do YOU value in life and business?
B. What did you learn when you asked others what they think you value?
C. Based on what you know about me, what do you think I value?
I'm sharing my results in a later post. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens!