Big Red Car here. Nice, nice day in the ATX. On Earth as it is in Texas!
So The Boss is having a conversation with two of his brilliant CEOs and they get on the subject of values.
CEO #1 says: “I need to get on that. We don’t have any values.”
CEO #2 says: “We’ve got our values printed on a poster. We have five core values and they’re hanging in the reception area.”
The Boss asks CEO #2: “What are your values?”
The CEO hems and haws and finally admits he can’t remember exactly what they are. He gets a couple of them but he doesn’t remember all of them. He wrote them.
CEO #1 laughs and CEO #2 takes him to task: “At least we’ve got some values.”
If you don’t remember or articulate your values, do you really have anything?
The Big Red Car sayeth: “No!”
You live your values
What was funny about this exchange is that both of these CEOs are very good CEOs and their companies are doing well. They really do have values — the values they live and the values they project.
What is missing is a little codification as a means of communicating these values BEFORE they are needed. Companies need spaced repetition articulation of mission critical information that aligns efforts. You have to communicate and update constantly. It is battle drill. It has to become instinctive.
Bottom line: Values are not what you say they are, they are what you live.
Values, a guide
Not every company is going to have the same values though the best companies seem to have extraordinarily similar values when distilled to their essence. [“Distilled to their essence” — what a bullshit turn of a phrase, Big Red Car. Really? Get real, you freakin’ dinosaur.]
Here is a little guide that The Boss developed in 33 years of CEOing. It is not for everyone but it might be a way to get a good start on codifying your approach. Steal it. Why not?
A few words of advice:
1. Make your utterances on values comfortable for the entire company. Don’t write them like they are a submission to the Atlantic or the Economist. Make them readable.
2. Make them simple and clear, one by one — bit of crawl, walk, run.
3. Give examples so they are not pronouncements but earthy examples that anyone can understand and act upon without further instruction.
4. Big one: LIVE THEM! Do not bullshit your own company. Live them! The company can smell a phony a million miles away.