Leading With Values

Aligning Your Business With Who You Are

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“Am I growing the business that I really want to grow? Are the values really aligned with who I want to be and the people I want to attract?”

That’s one piece of the wisdom shared with me by Dina Dwyer Owens during Episode 620 of Onward Nation.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question or something similar plenty of times in your life as an entrepreneur and business owner. But what struck me in my conversation with Dina is how she has found a way to operationalize the shared values of the company she leads.

How do you allow values to rise above the employee handbook and out of your own heart and mind as an owner, to really make them a part of your business?

In leading her company, the Neighborly brands, Dina does this through an initiative they call Living R.I.C.H.

R stands for Respect, I for Integrity, C is all about Customer focus, and H is for Having fun in the process.

That’s a nice memory-jogger, but it’s much more than that. Dina talked with me about how they gamified those values in order to operationalize them.

Here’s how it worked: each employee got a laminated copy of the Living R.I.C.H. value statement. But they didn’t just throw this into a file folder to get lost in their workspace.

This is where the game comes in.

When an employee would catch someone in the leadership team violating the values, they literally called them out. It sounds a little different, but employees would call out a “beep” if they caught someone violating the Living R.I.C.H. values.

For instance, part of respect is speaking to each other calmly, without profanity or sarcasm. If someone on the leadership team got a little heated, employees would “beep” at them to let them know.

Dina recalls, “So we did that for 90 days and it was like the Road Runner was racing through our buildings. We heard a lot of ‘beep-beep!’ We were awful. I’d have to say it was downright comical. But we saw that the employees took us seriously and they loved the idea of catching us doing something wrong. They were studying the values and got to know them well over those 90 days.”

So lesson one: living values isn’t automatic, and it doesn’t just happen out of the gate. You and your entire organization have to internalize them.

But the cool thing is that you can have fun in the process. I love that! There were no HR-led meetings with a dry “values” PowerPoint. It wasn’t just one all-hands meeting with Dina cheerleading the values – but then business as usual.

They kept at it. Dina and the leadership team kept the drumbeat of values going, and they took it seriously when employees called them out.

Here’s the process Dina and her team used. Once you’ve determined your values and written them down:

  1. Take those values through a testing process and make sure your employees are going to buy into them. Make sure there is buy-in at every level of the organization.
  2. Come up with a mantra. For Neighborly brands, it was Live R.I.C.H. Then take it beyond a mantra.
  3. Measure your performance. It is one thing to talk about having clearly written values and to strive to live them. Unless we’re asking our employees, vendors, and clients to tell us how we’re doing, we could be kidding ourselves.

Our leadership team and employees are watching. And if we are not living out our values, they will often vote with their feet. Values and how they impact the work culture are that important to people.

The good news is that making values part of day-to-day business is doable. And your unique values are a big part of what differentiates you from your competition. So take some notes from Dina, ask the tough questions, and live those values throughout your organization.

Are you growing the business you want to grow? Developing a creative blueprint for living your values is a great way to get you there.

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