3 Reasons to Factor Values into Every Leadership Decision You Make

We’ve known it for a long time but for some reason we are just now starting to talk about it. Character trumps skill. Values beat experience every time. If you want to transform your team make sure values are a part of every important decision. Below are 3 reasons why.

1) Leaders must get clear on their own personal core values.

The great leaders of the last 50 years had a strong and clear set of core values from which they led. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, both placed their own personal values at the center of their own leadership style. They also made them a foundation upon which they would build their team.

When I lead my “Values Approach to Recruiting & Retention” I have my attendees review a list of 50 different values. Values like honesty, hard work, compassion, etc. are all listed. I ask them to quickly select 10 that resonate with them. Then I ask them to select 3 out of the 10 that they believe are personal and core to their identity. For many this is challenging. Lastly, I ask them to pick out the one value that is preeminent above the rest. The interesting thing for one is to see the diversity of values that people prefer. There are no bad values. What we need to do is get clear on the ones that are core to us and consistently lead from them. When we do we become stronger leaders as we reach back to our core values to teach, train, discipline, and encourage the people on our team. Click here to find that list. Take a few minutes and review the list of values that you find when you click on the link.

Which 10 do you like? Which 3 are at the core of who you are personally? Which one surpasses the rest? Once you get clear on your values leading gets easier because now you have an anchor from which to lead. It will serve as a reference point to keep you from drifting as you navigate the complex morale and ethical decisions you are forced to make daily.

“Just figure out what your personal values are then just make those the corporate values.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

2) We need to recruit talent within a values frame work.

We all know that people don’t quit jobs, right? The main reason people leave is because of a values disconnect with their direct supervisor. As we get clear on the values from which we lead we being to notice that when we talk about our values they will resonate with certain people. As you begin to connect with candidates that are potential new hires or internal candidates for promotion based on shared values the conversation will quickly deepen and become more meaningful. They will “get” you. And you will “get” them. So how do you learn what values are core to a person through the interview process? Below are 3 tips.

First, make the interview more of a conversation. Listen more than you talk. Second, ask the candidate to tell you more. When reviewing their story and any significant milestones in their life stop them and ask them to tell you why? Why did they leave? Why did they take that job? Why did they have such a long period of unemployment? Thirdly, curious interviews are most effective because they naturally want to understand the depth and breadth of the candidates’ life experiences. When it all fits together, when the reasons for what they did are compelling…if you find yourself connecting with their story… not the person…you may have a values match.

“Make your values visible to let the outside world know — potential employees and others —what you stand for and who you are. In doing so, you will attract others who share similar principles and standards — your code of conduct for competition.” – Coach John Wooden

3) We need to discipline, train, and terminate in a way that aligns with our core values.

Have you seen the bumper sticker “mean people suck”? I couldn’t agree more. Many managers allow their personal frustrations to pour out on struggling employees in the form of anger. We all make mistakes. Top performers learn from them and improve. Weak performers repeat them. Most employees want to do a good job and just don’t know how…yet! A manager with a supportive, patient, firm yet compassionate hand will help the unproven separate themselves into future high performers. One quality I appreciate is a “teachable spirit.” Coachable, teachable people improve when a manager takes the time to gently but firmly clarify expectations and outline consequences for bad performance.

I am appalled at the anger, vitriol, and pure meanness I see managers use and justify simply because an employee made a mistake. I like the philosophy of failing forward. My mentor Bill Rieth used my mistakes as teaching opportunities and I have tried to do the same.

Managers who respond angrily or violently to employees who struggle or make a mistake are being run off! That is not the right way to exit people from the company! Show respect and people will go to war for you. Show hostility and they will refresh their resume on Monster. Try to remember that the best employers won’t put up with a mean boss. Why? Because they don’t have to!

Get clear on your values and do the introspection required to determine which of them are core to you. Then hire people who share them. Promote employees who embrace them. And insure that the difficult, but necessary conversations that occur at all levels within the organization align with them. This is how you build a values based culture that will motivate and retain high performers.