Open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.

Dalai Lama

In a recent interview, a candidate pulled out a piece paper, referenced the post below and asked me about our company values. I had to smile considering I originally published the piece on LinkedIn on December 24, 2014 and she somehow managed to find it. Insight for job seekers: of all of the interviews I’ve conducted this year, she was the first person to reference anything I’ve written. Considering the John Wooden reference below, that was a “layup” which she was able hit.

As our company continues to grow, I’ve noticed that it becomes easy to lose sight of guiding principles and become focused on the details necessitated by the growth itself. Our expansion, brought on by success in the market, has created its own set of challenges requiring us to constantly “shift gears” as we address them. In so doing, our gaze turns from the skies to the weeds

Of course, the natural ebb and flow of growth and change demand that we alternate between the strategic and the tactical. I’ve just noticed that as we chase more growth, bigger deals, and oceans beyond the small pond where we started, the organizational tendency is to shift focus from your own values to those that the market appears to be rewarding. There seems to be a gravitational pull to what others are doing, normalized expectations, and the mire of the status quo.

A recent meeting proved to be a conviction of sorts for my own wandering in the soul-wrenching middle ground between what-got-us-here and what-we-need-to-change-to-grow. Thirty minutes into a presentation, I discovered that I had lost my audience in a flurry of future-casting when they were still trying to digest the basics. I was showing them how to get to new oceans without making sure they knew what pond we were already on.

Though my values had not changed nor how we do business, the story above reflects the danger of getting too far from first principles without first making sure that others understand them. Anticipating what’s ahead is good. Building a path to it and helping others along that path is just as necessary.

Below, I’ve reposted the original article as a reminder that we need to keep those core values front and center, particularly as we change and grow. Your core values are important for employees and customers. For partners and suppliers. They define the framework within which you operate. They are the stars by which we need to navigate to new oceans.

Actualize Your Values for Success

In my post, Win or Lose, You Can Still Succeed, I talked about defining success on your terms. The next step is moving towards that success. In recent conversations with new team members, I’ve had the opportunity to talk through our company philosophy toward helping our employees succeed in their roles. For our team, it begins with understanding and embracing our core values:

  • Follow the Signs
  • Leave It Better Than You Found It
  • Be A Good Steward
  • Show Up Every Day

From there, decisions become a bit easier because we have a shared framework and value system. But how do you convert values into a process for success?

Here are four steps to actualizing your values for success:

  1. Prepare
  2. Position
  3. Work
  4. Share

Preparing for success encompasses “sharpening your saw” as it relates to your personal skills as well as your knowledge of your company’s products, services and capabilities. It is making sure that you are the best you can be each and every day. From a core values perspective, preparing for success means being able to articulate your “Why” for your customers and other stakeholders in those moments when the opportunity presents itself.

Positioning for success is putting yourself in situations in which you can intentionally align your capabilities and interests with those of your company, customer, association etc. It is also being mindful of timing and reconciling your desired timing with that of the other parties involved. To be most effective, you’ve got to embrace the values of your organization and situate yourself in the places that allow you to best reflect them.

Working for success means living your values – every moment of every day. It takes persistent effort over time and in spite of obstacles to make things happen. Working for success sounds simple but can be the most challenging element. Why? Because work is, well, work. Day-in-day-out effort can be difficult to sustain when you face an endless barrage of barriers and disappointments. Working for success requires continual effort even when you seem to be making little progress. It demands that you continually remind yourself why you do what you do and push through until things happen – your work reflects your values. No, it is not always easy but it is as fulfilling as it is necessary.

Sharing success reflects the reality that we are not in it alone. Getting others on board is critical to our ability to make things happen. Sharing the journey makes it easier and more meaningful. Your employees, customers and all other stakeholders must be brought along in order for you to achieve your objectives. From a core values perspective, sharing success means aligning your “Why” with the “Why” of your stakeholders. Recognizing that you are not alone on your journey and inviting others to participate will enhance your experience…and theirs.

Make your values real by weaving them into your story. Actualize them by showing how they reflect your “Why.” Bring others into your story with action and make it relevant. Your values don’t have to be an esoteric branding message left in some corner of your website. Bring them to life by making them integral to your process. This alignment will yield results because it is an authentic reflection of your company’s essence. Others will sense this and respond to it – internally and externally.