I was talking with the COO of a small professional services firm the other day that had experienced 100% growth over the last year. When I asked him how he managed that spectacular growth, he said he’d hired thirty-one people during the year. He might have interviewed three or four times that many.
How did he do it? His answer was succinct and direct. He couldn’t always interview for specific skills or experience. Others in his company could help him with that. Instead, he said, he interviewed for the right values. If he could find people with the right values, then he could worry about putting the right butts in the right seats.
The interesting thing was that the values for his company were written on a large sign in the lobby where his employees and guests could see them. The list of five began with, “Always Add Value,” and ended with “Do the Right Thing.”
Values are different than business goals. A goal is what you want to achieve. Values are guidelines that we use for how we will behave and make decisions, especially when there is a conflict.
It seems to me that corporations don’t have values in themselves, but rather the people in them do. When you put them on the wall, you are saying… this is how we expect you to make your decisions and conduct yourselves. It helps hold others to the same code.
The test comes of course when really tough decisions have to be made or there’s some conflict between values. In that case, you’d better have tested your own values beforehand. Many companies simply put them up as they would office decoration. Or they put up their business goals. The real difference is can you live your values?
This is a time when positive impressions of business in America are at an all time low. It’s easy to be cynical about corporate values when the company doesn’t live them or live up to them. When this happens, it’s a huge demotivator and saps productivity and trust, both with employees and with customers. However, this COO understood the value of values in creating a company that could grow at 100%. Good values lead to good growth. Values precede business goals.
Marketing and sales also own a big piece of the values for their organizations because they have the principle responsibility for communicating with clients, customers and prospects. So what are you values? Do you interview for them? And how do you do that?
Do Great Things!