What it really means to stick to your business values

Business Growth

‘Light is the task where many share the toil.’ 


This week we had to let one of our staff go. I had never done this before personally, and it was hard. He was a team member that we had not only invested in financially, but mentally.


As a team we had all invested in his learning's and his growth with us. But over the 6 months he was with us, the wheels slowly began to fall off, and what seemed like a strong relationship, was underpinned with doubt. 


So we had to have the conversation, and let him go. 


But why? 


It would just be so easy to keep them around, keep pumping resources at them, keep them upskilling, acknowledge the learnings they had already made, build them up. 


And hand on heart we did. But holding on to this underperforming team member was affecting our client relationships, my mental health, the team's perception of success and our brand. A brand we had worked so long to build. 


Before and after the fact, I reflected on how much I will miss them as a person. Because, culturally they were a match. 


But I will not miss them as a worker. Because from a values perspective, they were incompatible. 


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I had a mentor several years ago who said it was simply not enough to just have business values, you had to live them and live with them. Sometimes for better or for worse. 


You had to stick by them, during awkward times such as confrontations with team members and disheartened conversations with your clients. 


Because if you can’t live your values, they are just words. Empty words on a board, words in a document, words spoken by your leaders but not believed by them. 


In the Odyssey, Homer remarked, “Empty words are evil.” The same can be said for lifeless values. 


I have worked at businesses before where the ‘values’ were representative of this. The business leaders would harp on about them every now and then, but no one ever adhered to them. 


They were lifeless and as a result the business was lawless. 


So why set values as a business?


Well, I know what my personal values are. When I fulfil my values, they make me feel good. If I compromise my values, it makes me feel bad.


So this feel good, feel bad understanding should be the basis for business values too. If a business value is transparency, and you feel you have withhold information from a client that is a detriment to the business and goes against the experience and expectations of your brand. 


But, finding your business values - and sticking with them - takes real guts. Because when properly executed they can be a source of pain. And if you are not willing to accept the pain that you are likely to incur as a result of your values then ‘Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.’


So in this case, we stuck by our business values and we said goodbye to a team member that I really enjoyed on a personal level. 


If we did not, the team would have questioned if we really believed our values, our clients would have wondered if it was all a marketing spiel and personally as the builder of this brand, I would have lost faith in my own decisions. 


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