I have a SELF map that defines me as an individual. And the single most important section of that map is something I call my ME. It’s the summation of what the self-help gurus classify as either values or beliefs or behaviors or traits or tenets or whatever you want to call them. Mostly it just defines my personal behavioral preferences/tendencies.
I also have a WORK map that defines my business. And the single most important section of that map is something I’m going to call WE. It’s the summation of what the business gurus classify as either shared values or beliefs or behaviors or traits or tenets or whatever you want to call them. Mostly it just defines my businesses behavioral preferences/tendencies.
So on my SELF map this stuff is called ME. On my WORK map it’s called WE. Makes sense.
Now here’s something that might not be quite so obvious.
As a business owner my WORK WE must be a carbon copy of my SELF ME. My personal behavioral preferences/tendencies must match the behavioral preferences/tendencies of my business.
Point being, your business should not be a behavioral democracy. Your team does NOT get to collectively decide what you value and how you behave.
Sounds conceited and harsh. Why not make the place a huggy behavioral melting pot? Why not let people vote on the values and behaviors? Democracy is sweet and inclusive and feels so warm.
Nope, sorry, not this time.
It’s your business. Your name/reputation is 100% on the line during it’s entire existence and you make the rules.
Failing to take a firm stance in this area is the number one issue that screws up businesses.
The owner believes in something, but fails to enforce or defend it. So, over time, the business gently evolves in a way that is not aligned with the owners core beliefs. Not necessarily moving in a bad way, just moving in a way not in synch with the owner. Until one day the place no longer feels like home.
A mismatch that leads to an owner that no longer enjoys pulling in the parking lot each morning.
Recall from post #46 - Roll Your Own that I mentioned guru Patrick Lencioni and his book “The Advantage”. And I noted that I liked his thoughts on culture. Well, he refers to this WE stuff as Core Values and here’s what he says on page 93 of the book.
“Core values lie at the heart of the organization’s identity, do not change over time, and must already exist. In other words, they cannot be contrived.”
So core values are at the heart of the business and don’t change over time. Doesn't that suggest they must come from employee number one? You? The original owner?
Maybe. But here's what Lencioni suggests on page 102 of "The Advantage"
“The first step is to identify the employees in the organization who already embody what is best about the company and to dissect them, answering what is true about those people that makes them so admired by the leadership team.”
This can be good advice. In fact, I’ve led multi-day discussions doing exactly this. BUT, you should avoid this route if possible.
Save this kind of analysis for businesses with a temporary or transitional leader. Or a leader that isn’t confident enough to put their stamp on the place.
In all other cases, including next generation leaders and leaders brought in from the outside, you must have the gravitas to shape the place in your likeness. Assuming you plan to stick around for the long term and assuming you have clear values and beliefs and a preferred style, how else could you possibly move forward?
If you don’t make this stand, you’re running someone else’s business using someone else's values. That’s called acting or business-sitting. It’s definitely not leadership, and it's not good for the future of your business.
You, the owner, must authentically exhibit a WE that comes from your chest. A WE that is a carbon copy of your personal ME.
And then you must be a zero tolerance zealot in it's defense.
GUIDELINES FOR ME AND WE
The advice below is an updated rehash of post #25 - More ME. It’s a set of guidelines that helped me succeed at nailing my ME/WE.
#1 KEEP IT SHORT. Limit your list to 2 or 3 items. Do not creep to four or five or twelve or seventeen. If you believe in everything, you believe in nothing.
You're going to use this stuff to make real business decisions, so you must kill all noise.
This is the most challenging of all the guidelines, and the most important. Doing this work now will allow you to avoid lots of migraines later.
#2 AVOID APPLE PIE. This is not a marketing exercise. You won't hang the results on the wall in your lobby. So don’t try to get cute or play to the audience.
Patrick Lencioni, who we’ve already discussed, says it best on page 92 of his book “The Advantage”…
“When an organization announces that it has nine core values including customer service, innovation, quality, honesty, integrity, environmental responsibility, work-life balance, financial responsibility, and respect for the individual, it makes it impossible to use those values to make decisions, hire employees, or enact policies. After all, no action, person, or policy can meet all of those criteria.”
This speaks to keeping the list short, as I discussed above. And it also speaks to getting rid of sweet sounding apple pie stuff that doesn’t differentiate.
A criteria I love, but can’t remember where I found, is to be skeptical of descriptors that no rational business would ever take the opposite side of. So if one of your three ME/WE’s is honesty, would any person or company ever say they value DIShonesty? No!
So to keep honesty on your short list you would have to be damn sure that you're demonstrably head and shoulders above the crowd in this area. It must be obvious to everyone that knows you and to all employees. They must see this heads above the crowd honesty playing out every single day inside your four walls. And that’s hard to do.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t value honesty. It just means that it might not be what defines/differentiates you and/or your business.
I say this because these apple pie qualities typically only define you if you lack them - if you run a dishonest business. If you run an honest business all you get is a participation award. You get to compete. But are you the only honest vendor in the land? Isn’t at least one of your competitors also honest? If so, you're still undifferentiated.
And remember, I gave you a solution to this challenge back in post #25 - MORE ME. There, in point number 1, I introduced the concept of DuO. DuO stands for "Do unto Others as you would have them do unto you". This phrase covers huge territory in the ethics/morals space and reminds me to play nice. And by placing it underneath my ME in the SELF map and underneath the WE in the WORK map, I'm showing that these traits are foundational.
Now all you have to do is figure out which two or three other critical elements you're going to layer on top of them.
#3 BE REAL. This exercise is about uncovering existing inherent preferences - not whiteboarding the ultimate you. It must be 100% real today. It’s about who you actually are and who you’ve been for many years.
And, as I shared back in post #24 - WHY's Partner, I bet these tenets will be double-edged swords. They’ll have good and bad about them depending on your application.
#4 ERASE MONEY. Money is a good thing. If you aren’t profitable all these people can’t pay their mortgages. Having said that, keep it out of this analysis. We’re talking about beliefs that drive your behavior and money is dangerous in this sense. If your business is nothing more than a money tree, then there's likely a disconnect between who you are and what your business represents.
(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)
In my case, my ME on my SELF map boiled down to these three points.
KNOW, DISTILL, beDIRECT.
Which means the WE on my WORK map is also KNOW, DISTILL, beDIRECT.
If I’m being true to myself, how could it be any other way?
Please join me next time when I’ll go into more detail on my WORK WE.
***Note: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.