The Key to Greatness Is Already in Your Hands

September 28, 2021

Missing this one thing robs most small businesses of a competitive advantage and a very important opportunity to achieve significantly better results, even greatness, in everything they do.

“I Never Noticed They Were There!”

This was the response from Jennifer, the young lady behind the service counter at my local Bass Pro Shop, when I asked about the large plaque on the wall behind her.  In big, raised letters, it said, “Our Goals”: Price, Service, Quality, Selection.

If you read closely, you would notice that these are more than goals, they are Bass Pro Shop’s core values, what they stand for and believe in. 

But the distinction hardly matters if Jennifer and everyone else doesn’t even know the goals/values are there. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.  In fact, it shouldn’t be this way.

Driving a Ferrari

The Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA), a national HVAC trade association with over 5,000 members, recently conducted an internal survey asking how many “have a written set of core values.” An impressive 82% of members said they do.

The eMyth organization, in their “State of the Business Owner” (SOBO) report, which included over 1,700 small and medium-sized businesses, asked a similar question:  Do you “have defined company values”?  An even higher number, 85%, said that they do.

The problem isn’t that companies lack a defined set of core values, it’s that they do a poor job of communicating them.

Missing this last step robs you of a competitive advantage and a very important opportunity to achieve significantly better results, even greatness, in everything you do.

In my "Core Values Discovery" class, we teach small business owners how to discover their core values (at the end of this article, I'll share a free gift that will help you with that today).

Notice I didn’t say "create" their core values.

The reality is that every organization already has a set of core values because every organization already has a culture, a set of beliefs, and a way of doing things that defines who they are.

Many, and perhaps most, if you believe the EGIA and SOBO reports, have taken the time to write them down. But again, what good are a set of core values if you fail to use them?

One more very important data point to consider.  The Gallup Organization publishes it’s “State of the American Workplace” report every couple of years, most recently in 2017.

One finding from the data is that 78% of employees do not believe the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization… Jennifer included.

The report states, “Employees…feel frustrated when managers fail to help them connect their role to the bigger picture. The modern workforce wants a job that feels meaningful… When employees have this sense of purpose, their engagement soars.”

78% of employees do not believe the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization.

Not Just a Feel-Good Item

What can you do differently in your organization?

First, if you aren’t one of the 82-85% of companies that can honestly say they’ve figured out what their core values are, then discover your core values.

Following a good process ensures a quality end result:  a set of five to seven core values that everyone can proudly say represents your beliefs as an organization and what you stand for in the eyes of the world.

Second, don’t relegate your core values to a “feel-good” item on your company website or bury them in the employee manual to be dusted off every couple years when you decide it would be a good time to do some strategic planning.

Your core values must be integrated throughout the daily operations of your organization so that they’re top of mind when making critical decisions at every level, from the mailroom to the boardroom.

Whether it’s how to invest company resources, or determining which job applicant will be the best fit; determining the proper marketing message, or deciding whether a new client or customer will be a joy or a headache, every decision should be informed by your core values.

MAC: Memorable, Actionable, and Clear

Core values must be easy to remember, no more than one word or short phrase for each. “Honesty and integrity” is a good example.

But you can’t stop there because most words have multiple meanings and can be used in many different ways.

It’s essential that each core value be accompanied by a short action statement that tells people what to do with the value, how to act on it. For “honesty and integrity” you could tell employees to “always do the right thing.”

Pronet, an engineering and project management firm, has done a great job with this approach.

Pronet –

Accountability – We take responsibility for individual and collective actions.
Integrity – We do the right thing.
Collaboration – We work as a team to achieve collective goals.
Passion – We are inspired to make a lasting impact.
Innovation – We bring creative solutions to complex situations.
Pursuit of Excellence – We continually strive to exceed the expectations of our clients and our people.

Lastly, to ensure that the meaning of each core value is clear to the world, you need to create a short narrative that describes and and provides examples for what, exactly, the core value means to your organization.

The narratives reduce ambiguity and, when done properly, energize your team to live each core value.  We took the time to do this for each core value at my former company, D.R. Wastchak, LLC.

Core Value Narrative

Honesty and Integrity

D.R. Wastchak has a culture of honesty and integrity that pervades everything that we do as an organization, from the people we hire, to the clients we choose to work with, to the partners we choose to align ourselves with. We always choose to do the right thing, not because it is easy, but because it is the right thing to do. As a service company who does not produce a product, all we have is our reputation. This makes it particularly important for each member of the DRW Team to always remember the following:

1.  You represent the DRW reputation each time you interface with a client, a homeowner, or industry partner.
2.  If you don’t know an answer when asked, admit it and go get it.
3.  Admit mistakes quickly and adamantly with a sincere apology for the error and an honest commitment to correct the mistake now and avoid repeating it in the future.
4.  It only takes one “oh crap” to undo ten “atta boys,” for you personally, and for the company.
5.  The DRW Team will always back you up and support you when you choose to act with honesty and integrity.

Top-of-Mind and Front-and-Center

In my "Core Values Discovery" class, we teach several specific ways to ensure that your core values are front and center in the hiring process, employee evaluation process, and in messaging to the entire team on a regular basis.

We share with student a job ad template that not only sells your company with your vision, but uses your core values to attract applicants with whom they resonate and repel those with whom they do not.

We teach an interview process that relies heavily on core values as a means to filter out those who don’t pay close attention to the job ad.

Lastly, for each employee review (we recommend one every six months), we show how core values are again used to double check alignment and, where necessary, create conditions for greater alignment.

If alignment isn’t possible, this process facilitates a smooth and non-contentious separation, often at the employee’s own initiative.

For clients and customers, we've found that the 80/20 rule is alive and well when it comes to their demands:  20% of your clients will take up 80% of your resources.  A closer look at the twenty percent often reveals that they aren’t aligned with your core values.

For example, a client may constantly push for a lower price, even “shopping” your confidential proposal to your competition.

If your core value is honesty and integrity, this customer clearly doesn’t align and will almost certainly be difficult to work with.

Your core values will guide you away from these clients and towards those who may also ask you for better pricing, but do so in a spirit of cooperation that is above-board and collaborative.

Using Your Key To Greatness

If you have already defined your organization’s core values, start putting them to use and start realizing better results in everything you do.

If your core values need to be more MAC (Memorable, Actionable, and Clear), make the time to do the necessary work to upgrade and update them so you can start realizing greatness in everything you do.

If you need help discovering your organization’s core values, making them MAC, and fully integrating them into your organization’s daily operations so they are top of mind and front and center in all areas of your operations, I would love to help!

If you've read this far, thank you!  We'd like to share a free gift that you can put to use right away. 

Click here to download a copy of our "Personal Core Values Discovery" and see how easy it is to discovery your own core values when you use a simple process as your guide.

If you'd like to get started discovering the core values for your business, click here to take my Core Values Discovery class, available on-demand today.

Take care and talk soon.

Until then, stay focused on your freedom!

Listen to the podcast episode: #008 The Key to Greatness Is Already in Your Hands

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