With all the talk about values - most of which we'd be better off without - there's not much good advice on how to actually find out what your values are. And finding those values and writing them down is the first of nine key systems your business needs to grow.
The most important thing to remember is that you aren't setting out to 'create' your values, you are setting out to uncover them. They are already in you, personally, and while they'll need some dusting off and polishing, it's about bringing something out that already exists.
Once you've got them, what you need to create is a business 'version' of those values. It's a document that answers a simple question. "How, in our business, do we strive to relate with people - both internally among our team and externally with our customers? What are our expectations - both of ourselves and of them?"
When we went through this process internally a few years ago here at EMyth, we discovered we had a pretty long list; but there were a small handful that we come back to over and over. I wanted to share a few of those that might spark a few of your own.
The most important thing to remember is that you aren’t setting out to ‘create’ your values, you are setting out to uncover them.
Probably our most essential core value is Self-Responsibility, and here's how we defined it:
"Holding yourself responsible and accountable for every result whether that result is positive or negative - a standard of personal integrity where you own your successes and your failures without diminishing or exaggerating your contribution to either."
Another was Challenge, which of course is a lot of what we do with our coaching clients:
"The willingness to confront the status quo of the business, the owners' relationship to it, and the people that work there in whatever way is needed to reach the deeper, long-term goal."
And since we're in a helping profession, we wanted to define our standard for Caring:
"Caring is a natural orientation you have towards yourself, others and the world where you strive for excellence for its own sake and out of your own self-interest."
As I talked about last week, unless we embody them they're just words on a page. But what we've found is that these values are things we come back to over and over again - in good times and in rough waters. They inform every choice we make, no matter how small the detail.
Other companies could copy our words and it wouldn't matter. What matters is whether we embody them, and the same is true with your values. It's the secret to making your company the only one of its kind in the world.