Ever heard the phrase, “You can walk the walk, but can you talk the talk?” It’s all about taking ownership for what you claim to be or know. Have you ever been a part of—or worked with—a company that, from the outside looking in, seemed to be successful, but upon taking a closer look, had an operational core that was a mess?
In business, if you want something to really mean something and have an effect, there are two steps you need to follow:
- Write it down
- Own your ink
For example, every company should have core values—a set of guiding principles that the company owns. It has been said that these values should be so strongly embodied in the company that you should hire and fire for them. If your company doesn’t do this, it’s time to write them down.
Writing core values is not an easy task, and I have read many core values that are not specific or tangible. They often are seen as merely “feel good” words on a page, such as “Good Customer Service,” or “We Go Above and Beyond.” How are these measured and identifiable? Many years ago, we got caught in this trap and wrote our core values after a management retreat during which we heavily debated and negotiated what we each thought our core values should be. Unfortunately, after revision after revision, they became “feel good” words. In fact, when asked, employees couldn’t remember them because they were not clear and tangible.
After a brief struggle with company morale, I knew it was time to revisit and finalize our core values. They had to be values that I believed in as the leader. After a two-day personal retreat, I introduced the updated core values to the management team, and they stuck—but they would mean nothing if we didn’t own our ink.
Some things we implemented to establish and own our core values were:
- Installing signs with our core values around the office for guests and employees to see
- Giving each employee and new hire a core value card so they would look at it every day
- Setting an expectation of all employees to know the core values on command
- Renaming our conference rooms in the office after each value
- Rebuilding our customer service curriculum around the core values
- Encouraging employees to nominate a value victor each month, with the winner getting to display the sizable trophy on their desk in recognition of their achievement
Essentially, we tried to weave our core values into every part of the organization that we could. Why wouldn’t we? We have to own our ink in order to be effective and efficient at what we do.
Take a few moments today and think of your company, or even just yourself. Do you have core values in place? Are you really owning them? What can you do to embrace and live them, or are they merely words on a page?