3 Ways to Check That Your Business Values Are Being Lived by Your Employees
The following excerpt is from Jeffrey Hayzlett’s book The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound
Can any among us say we constantly review our values to make sure that we’re actually living them? And to make sure our employees are living them?
Here are three things you can do right now to check on how your values are being lived by everyone in your organization:
1. Look for opportunities, not excuses.
From the seeming inability to hire more diverse faculty to the exposure of abuse by people associated with Penn State (of young football players) and Michigan State (of young gymnasts), universities are among the most resistant organizations to deal with problems, admit mistakes, and adapt. They make every excuse in the wake of these scandals, from bureaucracy to the lack of qualified candidates to playing the blame game, or they just fail to admit they ignored or refused to take seriously the nature of the complaints and evidence. So I was really taken aback (in a good way) when I read an article in The Washington Post by Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, who answered the question, “Why aren’t college faculties more racially diverse?” with an unbelievably honest answer: “The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.”
In other words, they want people like themselves (white, liberal, mostly male) and find every reason they can to dismiss the others. But if you keep fishing in the same spot, you’ll likely catch what you always have, which may be a lot. But others may take the time to fish elsewhere or partner with people and organizations that know where to catch bigger, better, or different fish and give them expertise and increased Operational Excellence you don’t have.
What do I mean by that? Consider the most recognizable name in health care: the Mayo Clinic. On the May 24, 2018, edition of the syndicated radio show Marketplace, Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, talked about “entrepreneurial plans” for a hospital that opened in 1889, so it doesn’t get stuck in its story for its next century in business. He encourages physicians and scientists to be entrepreneurs and to collaborate as teams to solve problems without compromising the bond between physician and patient. He’s open to artificial intelligence. And he doesn’t see a threat in Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway potentially getting into the health-care field. He sees it as an opportunity: “We don’t have a high-quality, sustainable, affordable health-care system in America,” he said on the show. “And folks are looking at that and saying, ‘What could I bring to that?’ Of course, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway can bring capital, logistics, know-how, technology, price transparency, and they’ve reached out to us and we’ve talked with them about what the opportunities are, and I think there are great opportunities there.”
2. Visit with your people -- walk around!
When was the last time you walked around your offices -- every part of them -- to learn, engage, understand? I’m talking the server rooms and shipping, manufacturing and accounting, sales and marketing, and IT and inventory. Try it out. Have the team leaders show you around and do the following:
- Look for things going right -- and what you don’t understand
- Ask questions to learn
- Make sure you keep doing it to maintain that connection to your story
Related: The 6 Levels of the Hero Factor
Catherine Monson understands the power these visits have to reinforce the values you hold and drive them through the culture of your business. She was hired to be CEO of Fastsigns International in 2008 by the private equity firm that bought the company from the founder. She felt blessed to follow in that founder’s footsteps but noted he had some different philosophies: He rarely went out in the field visiting franchisees, or what some leaders call MBWA -- Management By Walking Around.
“One of my early mentors talked about the impact of MBWA,” Catherine says, “so when I’m in the corporate office, I’m talking to people on the team, no matter if they’re direct reports or not and ask, ‘How are things going? Do you have the tools you need? What’s your biggest challenge today? How are we supporting you in solving that challenge?’ I also do that with franchisees when I’m out in the field to learn what’s really happening out there, to build relationships, to use the opportunity to motivate and influence them to do something to increase their success.”
3. Connect with the people who do the work.
Anyone who’s seen an episode of Undercover Boss, in which CEOs go undercover at their own companies to do the lowest-paying jobs, understands how easy it is to get disconnected as your company grows. So make it a point to reconnect and ensure your people aren’t stuck in their stories. If you don’t ask, you might still see the results -- good and bad -- but you’ll never understand the mindset of the people creating those results.
As Pirooz Abir, CEO of domestic and international payment processing company LiquidInvoice LLC, said to me: “If you’re leading an organization, you may not know the exact job of each person within the organization. But if you don’t understand what they’re producing, you can brush them off. You need to know the value each person is bringing to your teams. You need to understand that they put the hours in to make some software work or some application work or some customer work. As a leader, you better know what your flock is doing. You may not know the exact work [they’re doing], but you better know what they’re up to, how they’ve worked, and when they’ve put their heart and soul into to get you where you are. You better thank them.”