Ep #13: Entrepreneurial Values
Values are the rudder for your business and have to be an extension of you. There are no right or wrong values. They just need to be honest, because entrepreneurial values determine who you hire.
What you’ll find in this episode:
- Start by asking yourself, “What do I value in other people?” Do a brain dump. Start big and pare it down to three.
- What happens when you hire people who don’t align with your values.
- Once you’ve determined your values, then you need to communicate them to the team.
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Hey everyone, I’m Kris Plachy, and this is How to Lead for Female Entrepreneurs and Founders because the best way to grow a business is to grow the person who’s running it. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Hello, gorgeous. How are you? Today I want to talk with you about values and why they’re so important for you in your business. And this is really true for wherever you are in your business, so whether you just started, or you are making $10 million or $50 million, knowing your values is super, super important. And we want to think about values as … I like to think about them as like the rudder for your business, and they have to be an extension obviously of you, because this is your company, and this is being developed through your vision, through what you want to create in the world. And there are no right or wrong values. I think all of us think they should sound very … when we first start this values thing, it sounds very corporate-y, and they should be very, very important-sounding.
I disagree. I think your values just need to be honest because values determine who we hire, right? We want to hire people who are aligned to our values, and then we want people in our business who are aligned to our values. And so let’s just tell the truth, right?
Just incidentally, this was a couple years ago, I was speaking at a very large event for a very large company, and I was having a conversation with a few of the people who work there, and they had to go to some separate meeting because they were working on their values. And this was, like I said, a big company, and so they’d hired a big other company to come in and help them formulate their values. And it was like a two-year project or something ridiculous or a one-year project, and they … No, I’m sorry, it was taking a year, but they were paying like $2 million for it.
And I was like, “Okay, I could get you done, figure out your values, and be in and out of here for $1 million in four hours, I promise.” Right? So we overthink this stuff, absolutely overthink it. And unfortunately then, because we overthink it, we don’t do it. We don’t set up our values, or we overindulge this whole process, and then we end up with 15 values, which, you guys, is worthless to have 15 values because then none of them mean anything, right?
So I recommend three, no more than five, but three. Let’s get it to three because, if you’re really thoughtful about it, I think you’re going to see that a lot of your values are kind of the same. They just sound a little different, but they can actually be the same, like trustworthiness and honesty or ownership and accountability or responsible or whatever. They can all kind of start to be the same meaning.
So the way to figure out your values is just first, honestly ask yourself, what do I value in other people? Just start there. And I think it’s good to make a bigger list to start with. Just let your brain sort of go into like what do I value? What do I value in other people? What do I value in relationships with people? What do I think is important? And just let your brain dump, right? And I think you can align … I think your values can be a word or a sentence. And what I mean by that is I don’t mean a full sentence with a period, but like a phrase. Okay?
So one of my values, as an example, is think and act like a leader, right? And I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you that that would be one of my values. Now, the reason I landed with that is because I had a whole list of other things like ownership, responsibility, accountability, problem-solver. I had all these other potential other values that I could list and I could keep if I wanted to have 15 values. But the truth is, and when I really looked at it, I’m like, “Okay, so what I really want is people to think like a leader.”
Now, it’s my job to be able to define what that means in my business, right? But it’s incredibly important to me that people assume a leadership position in their brain and in their behavior in the world. And I want those people to work for me, and I want that to be how we emulate who we are to others. Right? And so that value was very, very clear to me.
So, when you think about your values, you could have a value that’s just one word, and that’s fine, or you could have a value, like I said, that’s like a phrase. But the whole reason that we do these values, and we want to do them early in our business if we can, and if you haven’t done them yet, and you’ve been in business awhile, just don’t freak out, that’s fine. Do them now. But they really do help us get clear about who we want to hire into our business because nothing is worse than … well, there’s a lot of things that are worse, but nothing … It could break you as an owner and a business leader and as somebody who’s trying to make a lot of money and help a lot of people, if you hire someone into your business who is not aligned with your values, and then you don’t have a structure in place to hold them accountable and all that kind of stuff. And we’re going to talk about value alignment here in a second.
So what I want you to understand is your values exist. This is not something you’re creating. This is something that’s already in you. Your job is to reveal it to yourself, right? You have to be honest with yourself. There is no point in lying and telling yourself, “Oh, these are my values” when you don’t believe them, right? Just be honest. If one of your values is to make a lot of money, is wealth, then put that sucker in your values and hire people who value that too. Stop lying. Just tell the truth. I think we have this story in our head that somehow it should sound very pretty and very, very … whatever.
Okay, so you want to make a brainstorm of your list. Then you want to really narrow it down to three. And sometimes you need help with this because I did. When I was doing my values, I called somebody actually I trained, and I was like, “Can you please work me through my values? I need to talk this out loud.” That’s kind of how I think. So that was super helpful. But you don’t just trust yourself, right? Get some other insights so that you can bounce it off so that you can hear what people hear when you say that. Does that make sense? Does that even resonate? If you heard it, would it mean anything to you?
Now, the reason we really recommend that you stick to three is we want your employees to know these backwards and forwards because the values then inform expectations. So values is about who we hire and who we bring into our business. Expectations is about how we hold people accountable, right? So the values are born right out of the expectations. They’re not different. That’s just a slightly different way of communicating how we hold people accountable is through expectation, which is born out of values.
So, even if you have one person, even if you have three people, we want to start doing this now so that we are always having the rudder of our business be present and be consistent. If we don’t have it, it honestly makes it hard for employees to perform and do their job well because they don’t know what you value, right? Well, they’ll make a guess based on what you give attention to and what you highlight. This is the other thing that I think is important: that you recognize that your values are showing. Whether you’re talking about them or not, your values are showing. So you might as well be conscious about it.
But let’s talk about what happens when we hire people, and they’re not aligned to our values. This is where a lot of my clients, I start working with them, right? Because you’ve hired people, and then there’s this misalignment, right? And so what I see is it happens in two different, very distinct ways.
There’s lots of subtleties in between, but the two distinct things that happen is that you really, really value results and performance and ownership, innovation, initiative, those kinds of things, and you hire somebody who wants to be told what to do all day. You hire somebody who doesn’t deliver, who doesn’t meet their result line, their accountability commitments, that doesn’t demonstrate ownership, that doesn’t demonstrate responsibility.
So now you have this person on the team who is not aligned to what you expect. But maybe they had good experience. Maybe they had a good skill set. Maybe they were your friend’s brother’s mother, whatever, so you hired them. But now we’re in value un-alignment, and it’s painful. It’s painful for everybody. It’s painful for the team member who doesn’t share the same value, and it’s painful for you. And then, if you’re like most of my clients, you don’t have a very sophisticated accountability process in place, and so it gets hard to remove these people from your business, right? So we want to hire on the front-end for our values and make sure we’re really, really clear about what those are.
The second kind of way that this presents itself is the opposite. So you might have a real value of service delivery, relationship building, connection, et cetera, and you’ve hired someone who generates a ton of revenue and makes a lot of money for your business, but they’re a train wreck, and they’re rude, and they’re dismissive, and they aren’t nice to work with on the back-end. And then what happens is you can get held hostage in your brain by this employee. You start believing that, “Well, I have to keep them because they’re the ones who are generating the revenue.”
I think almost every client that hires me has this issue. There’s somebody on the team who does really well from a skills perspective, and they get results, but they don’t align to their values. They’re not good people on the team. They’re injurious to other people. They cause problems in the culture. They’re toxic. But because we hired them, and now we’re getting this PR “result,” we’re not willing to release them. And so then we compromise our own values for revenue.
And so, in many cases, I’ve asked my clients, “Well, do we value revenue more then? Because that’s what your action is saying.” And that’s okay. If that’s who you want your business to be is it’s really about revenue or quantity or number of clients or products or whatever, then just tell the truth, but don’t have these other values that say integrity and honesty and connection or whatever, and then you let someone work in your business who’s mean, even though they get revenue, right? But that’s where you have to be really, really careful because there is a huge cost, I believe, to hiring people who are not aligned to your values.
Culture is one of those things that happens whether you’re paying attention or not, and you don’t get to decide what your culture will be. Your culture is a result of your behaviors, first of all. As the leader and owner, it comes directly from you. Your behavior is what drives what happens within your business. And then, if you have managers who report to you, that just amplifies it, right? So culture’s happening whether you’re paying attention or not. So, if you, if you want to have more authority over your culture, then you have to pay very good attention to the values and to what you tolerate in your business as it does or doesn’t align to your values.
So all this to say, you’ve got to write your values. If you don’t have values, you need to write them. If you have 15 values, you need to pare it down to three. And I know that sounds painful, but it’s required. In order to continue listening to this podcast, you must have only three values. No, just kidding. But really, I promise you it makes a big difference because then everybody knows what the values are. I can’t memorize 15 values.
I ask my clients what their values are, and if they’ve got like eight, they can’t remember them all. It’s always like, “This one, this one, this one, and then … What were the other ones again?” They can’t remember them. Do you know why? Because you only need three. So get three. Sit down and brainstorm.
And the way that I do this, like when I used to do workshops with people, is we would have a whole list. We’d make a huge list of values. People would write down their favorite top 10 values. Then they would pare it down to five, and then they would pare it down to three, right? So start big, work your way small.
Then, once you have those values, then we need to communicate them to the team. What do these values mean? So what does “think like a leader” mean? What does it mean to be … I think the other one I wrote, I don’t think, I know the other one I wrote was called “silly, serious,” which I know sounds ridiculous, but I was really trying to think about … The other way that I wrote it was “good-humored with a sprinkle of this shit really matters.” Right? And I know I’ve talked about this in my previous podcast. I try not to really make what we do feel over-important. I don’t want to fall into the phase of over-importance where we’re losing perspective, and I like to have a really good time. I like to laugh a lot. I like for people to have fun. I like for people to feel like they’re in a place where they seen, and we enjoy one another.
But I always want people to know there will be that moment where it’s like, “Okay, zippers up, let’s pay attention. We have really important work to do.” So, for me, I finally just wrote “silly, serious” because I felt like it summarized my values as best I could. It took me a while to really think about that, and I would have to explain that a little bit to help you understand what that means. But I think that’s my job as the owner and leader of this business. So you have to then talk to your team members about what your values are and what that means in everyday business.
And then we have to really do an assessment about our current team members against our values. So if you haven’t had values, or you haven’t been doing a good job at communicating your values, or you have 100 values or 12 or 15, and now you’re paring it down, then you’ve got to do your own little assessment here on each employee and how well are they aligned to your values.
And if there is significant misalignment, then that might mean that could be a game-changer for them because it really does, over time, eat away at the core of your culture if you have people on the team who aren’t aligned to the values.
So give some thought to your values over the next week here and pay attention. If you don’t have your values and you’re not sure what they are, I would just pay attention to yourself as you go along the day. What’s important? What gets your attention? What do you really enjoy in other people? What do you really look for in other people? What’s important to you? And pay attention and see what comes up and write it all down. I think you’ll find it’s not as complicated as a lot of people would like you to think. Thanks for tuning in.
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