Archive for June, 2010

A True Story of Values at Work in the Workplace

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

“Allan” was a competent performer for our company, but we fired him anyway. Why? His competence didn’t compensate for his compulsion for violating our core values. Our company has five core values that make up the centerpiece of our culture. I outlined them briefly below with our definitions of how they apply in the workplace:

1. Personal growth. We will work as hard on ourselves as we do on our jobs. Getting better at what we do is not an option.

2. Teamwork: The good of the team comes before the personal comfort level or agenda of any one individual, because when the team’s welfare is compromised we’re all at risk.

3. Attention to detail. We will become brilliant in the basics of our job. We will do things right and excel at the “little details” of our job, because in reality there are no “little” details.

4. Urgency. We will act now. We will serve customers and one another with a high sense of urgency. There is only power in now. There is no power in later.

5. Integrity. We will do what is right, not what is easy, cheap, popular or convenient. We will do so without excuse and regardless of the cost.

Our values serve as a filter for hiring, firing and promotions. They also provide employees with guidelines for making decisions during the course of their day. This is especially useful when there is no time for them to check with a supervisor, but must make a call on the spot when assisting a customer.

Allan’s problem was that he couldn’t manage to make it to work on time. A little thing, you say? No way! It violated three of our values: attention to detail, urgency and integrity. The fact that we had pre-established values made it easier to do two things:

A. Confront Allan with his errant behavior as we could point to how it violated our values and give him a chance to correct it.

B. Increase the speed and ease with which we replaced Allan when his unacceptable behavior continued.

And therein lies the power of core values. They create a benchmark for accountability, and make it easier to make decisions concerning employees deserving kudos as well as those warranting punishment. After all, once you decide up front what you stand for, you don’t need five meetings of your management debating society to determine the right course of action.

What are your company’s core values? Which behaviors have you decided are non-negotiable in your organization? We are at the half-way point for this year. If you haven’t created and reinforced core values, isn’t it time to step up and define what you stand for and what you are unwilling to settle for? And if you do have values, can you do more to bring them to life and make them a integral component of your high performance culture? If your values have been relegated to a framed parchment in the lobby of your business but don’t positively influence the daily behaviors of your people, they are impotent.

By the way, there is little that reinforces your commitment to your values than when you: (1) champion the employees who exemplify them, or (2) remove an employee failing to live by them. You can rest assured that after Allan’s dismissal, no one in our organization had to guess as to whether or not we were serious about our values. And everyone always shows up to work on time.