Monday, February 11, 2013

Values and right-now decisions

Vintage Balance Scale by Joie De Cleve
Vintage Balance Scale, a photo by Joie De Cleve on Flickr.
Articulated values are not only the "hearts and flowers" segment of your company's long-term plan.  At least they are more than that when they are real, communicated, reinforced and acted.  Although they are often thought of as big-picture items that are nice to do when you have time, authentic values are far more immediate than that.  They are driving right-now decisions.

  • Your values determine whether you answer the phone to respond to a customer who is calling, or whether you finish your work first with the customer who is standing right in front of you.
  • Values determine whether you would rather (if you were forced to choose) hand a project in on time or hand it in done exactly right.
  • Your inner code of values influences whether you decide to delegate a task or keep it to yourself - because you are the only one you trust to do it just the way you want it.
  • Values determine whether you take time to communicate in person, or whether you relegate important information to an email.
  • Your values create the inner-driven necessity for you to keep your commitments - or not, if it is no longer convenient or comfortable for you to do so.
In the process of hiring and developing staff, the assessment of the individual's values fit often stands in line behind educational qualifications, experience, and job competencies.  Sometimes values aren't even discussed, until the misalignment shows itself after an investment is made in the individual and a performance problem rears its head.  This can be an expensive component of hiring and development to miss.  Core values are far more difficult to build (or rebuild) than are skills and knowledge and job experiences.

If you as a leader want to be able to delegate more effectively, you cannot be hovering over the employee to which you have delegated.  The idea is for them to perform the task independently and to obtain a satisfactory result, thus freeing you for other activities.  When you know you can't or shouldn't be there right beside them to ensure that they are doing the same thing that you would do, knowledge and integration of shared values help them to obtain the result that you would want.  Values like:
  1. We respond to our clients within the same business day as their question or problem.
  2. Customer loyalty comes first, and we do what's necessary to keep them happy.
  3. We are always, always, always on time.
  4. Our employees are essential to our success, and we treat them that way.
  5. Collect data before making decisions.
If you do not identify values, reinforce them among your staff, and select new employees in part for their alignment with them - you are taking a risk that right-now decisions will conflict with - or even sabotage - your company's goals.  When faced with an urgent or stressful situation, people don't hit the pause button and stop to ponder.  They react.  It's a stimulus-response world.  Core values generate those conditioned responses.  So if you want to manage the right-now world more effectively, you are well-advised not to leave values to chance.

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