People talk about values a lot. But I think often they don’t really understand what they are and why they’re important. There may be a list of your business values up on the wall where you work. But what are they really all about?
The word value comes originally from the latin word valere, which means force. In old French it then became valoir, which means to be worth, before becoming our english word values, which we define as ‘principles or standards of behaviour; your individual and personal judgement of what is important in life.’
Your values are a central part of who you are; who you want to be as a person, as a leader and as a manager; the lines you won’t cross in the way you operate; in the way you want to be with friends, family and colleagues.
Your values are your internal compass. They guide every decision, every behaviour, and every action that you take. When you go against your values, you feel it in your gut. Your gut tells you that what you've done isn't right (you may feel physically uncomfortable) whereas when you’re in line with your values, everything feels just right.
What are your values?
Whenever I ask this question in a group setting - a workshop, a networking event - the same two words are always trotted out - ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’. And yes of course, you want to be honest, always, and yes, absolutely, you want to demonstrate integrity. But for me these are the most basic of values - the values that are the foundations of being a decent human being.
When I’m talking about values, I’m talking about the things that make you, you. The things that your family, friends and team would say really matter to you. The things that make you angry, the things that delight you, the things that you rail passionately for, or against. They are the force that drives you; the things that show what you’re worth; the heart and soul of who you are. Maybe it’s your attention to detail. Maybe it’s that you always tell it like it is. Maybe it’s that you listen in order to understand.
An architect client of mine was struggling to define what his values were. He’d trotted out honesty and integrity and then got stuck. I’d noticed though that in conversation over the two days I’d spent with him, he had said a number of times that he believed that there was always another way, another viewpoint. He told me that every time his architects were going to look at a new project, he would say to them ‘whatever your first thoughts are, remember, there’s always another way, so look for it. Look for all the options. Broaden your view.’
It was something he believed in strongly, something he lived by, a force that drove him to look at other viewpoints, other options; to expand his thinking. It was clearly one of his values.
Keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise.
As you move through life, your values may change. For example, when you start out, success, measured by money and status, might be a top priority. But as you get older, perhaps after you have a family, you may value work-life harmony more.
When thinking about what your values are, ask yourself:
Let me give you an example from a private client I worked with a while ago and the feedback I gave them, which illustrates the point.
‘You say that you want a team that takes ownership for their role and how it is performed, but your team see you needing to be consulted on every decision, and keeping tight control.’
‘You say that you want a fast-paced organisation that grows at speed, but you over-analyse everything and take forever to make decisions.’
'You say that you value your people, but you cancel training sessions and team events.’
‘You say that you value your clients and want them to have first class service - but you ignore customer feedback and seem accepting of failure to deliver on time.’
What you DO is a megaphone for what you believe in.
So what do you believe in? What would your team say you value?
Your values are all about you and the personality of your business - you’re going to hire team members who share those values - you’re going to attract customers who love your values. You want these values to inspire, to attract, to hold everything together.
A brand strategy business I know has the following as their values:
So? Who are you?
Do one thing: Work that out. Then ask yourself, and your team, if your day to day behaviour reflects who you are and what you believe in.
Thanks for reading.
I can remember attending a creative thinking workshop once. Not only did it not get my creative juices flowing, but the few I had, shrivelled up and died!
It was presented and run in traditional, death by powerpoint; slides without images or colour, just bullet points of what was being said. No interaction, no audience participation, no energising fun session. It definitely didn’t do what it said on the tin. Very much, “Do as I say, rather than do as I do.”
Conversely I know someone who used to get new recruits at induction standing on chairs supported by colleagues. Demonstrating things she wanted from them going forward - ‘seeing things from a different angle’ and ‘team work’. Her session was often followed by health and safety; she always hoped the presenters didn’t turn up early and catch her!
What you do and how you behave will always either reinforce or contradict what you say. As a leader, manager, business owner you’re always ‘in uniform’ as it were. I don’t mean you have to be starchy but you need to be aware that your actions and words can have consequences, such is your influence. In my book, the amount of influence we have, just by personal example alone, is often under-estimated, after all, ‘it’s only me’.
Now back to the creative thinking workshop you may be thinking well, the fallout from that wouldn’t be great. The worst consequence may be the waste of money and people no further forward, but there can be far reaching consequences of a mere throw-away remark….
If you’re my age you’ll remember the story of successful high street jeweller Gerald Ratner. For those who don’t, he made a throw away remark about one of his products being ‘total crap’ and his business fell off the edge of a cliff.
Our team will pick up on how we behave:
all send a clear message to our team that this is acceptable and sets the tone for our business.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
It’s important that we understand and model the behaviours that we want to see in our team, and cut out those we don’t, because the way we behave will influence the way our team behaves.
Our values must come first, and demonstrating those values everyday will build our culture. More of that next week.
Do one thing: think back over the last week, have your words and actions had a positive impact on your team?
Thanks for reading.
I had a number of bosses in my time with McDonald’s - some great, some not so great. But each one of them taught me something about the sort of leader-manager I want to be and the sort of manager I definitely don’t want to be!
I remember one boss I had who was very black and white, who wanted everyone in her team to be the same, who never looked at the individual and the skills they brought to the team, but wanted them to be mini versions of herself. She was all about command and control, a micro-manager who used her position of power to bully people into doing things her way.
Happily, for me she was a one-off, an anachronism, a great example of how I was not going to manage my teams going forward, and I had plenty of great leaders around me to model. Others are not so lucky, and ‘grow up’ believing that being a manager is all about power and authority, about throwing your weight around - and the bullied become the bully.
There are a few manager stereotypes - you might recognise a couple from your own experience:
The Budgie (Everyone’s best friend)
This manager still wants to be one of the team. They hate confrontation and giving constructive feedback and would rather ignore poor standards than talk to one of the team, no matter the consequences. They often work late to help out the team or to correct mistakes they’ve made. They still know all the gossip and will often be the team’s agony aunt. They want to be everyone’s best friend first and their manager second.
The Woodpecker (Micromanager)
This manager is obsessed with the details - everything has to be perfect and ‘just so’. Mistakes get on their nerves because their team should be able to get it right by now. They want reports at every stage of a project, and will regularly check up on the team to see what they’re doing and that tit’s being done exactly as they would do it.
The Peacock (Aloof/Hands-Off Manager)
This manager operates from a distance. They give minimal information to the team about what they want and then leave them to get on with it. If things go well they take the credit, if things go badly they blame the team. They’re rarely around for advice or support. Always out of the office or in meetings with the boss. They don’t get involved in the day to day because they don’t see it as their job - they have people to deal with all that.
The Seagull (Non-stick Manager)
This is the manager who swoops in, dumps all over everyone and then flies off again. They are erratic, poorly prepared and extremely arrogant, and damage team morale by treating them like idiots, talking down to them, and blaming everyone else for their failures. When things turn out badly or they run into a problem, they swoop in to assign blame and then become the hero by sorting it out.
The Eagle (Inspirational Leader)
This is the well respected manager that the team would walk through fire for. They’re inspirational, firm but fair, and hands-on when they’re needed. They do what they say they’ll do, and are always straight with their team who know exactly where they stand. They give credit whenever possible, and when there’s a problem, they take responsibility. Always looking to develop their team and better their leadership skills, they have a great relationship with their boss.
They are the leader-manager we all aspire to be every day.
Do one thing: Have a think about the managers and leaders that you’ve experienced. Who have you loved working with or admired, and why? Who have you hated working for or been glad you didn’t, and why? Then take a look at your own style, what are you happy with and what do you want to improve?
The 5 Management Styles are taken from my latest book 'Mission: To Manage' due for publication in July 2020.
Thanks for reading
Leader? Manager? or Hybrid?
The challenge for the small business owner (and yes, the photo is a long shot - A Labradoodle 'hybrid' - but who doesn't love the odd dog picture?!)
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch
There are many business owners who are inventors, creators, skilled in one specific area - perhaps that’s you. And you may not see yourself as a natural born leader; as someone who could inspire a team to walk through fire for them. Or maybe you’re an ‘accidental manager’ - someone who never wanted to manage people, but now finds themselves with a small team.
Back in the day, there was a very clear distinction between a leader and a manager. In a nutshell, leaders were considered to do all of the strategy and big picture thinking, while managers did all of the organising of resources and looked after execution of the strategy. In the corporate world, this can often still be the case, but in the world of the successful small business, there is a very real need for leaders to be managers, and vice versa.
The view still exists today that management skills can be learned whereas leadership is less tangible; more an ability that you’re either born with, or you’re not.
I’m a firm believer that anyone with the will, can learn and develop leadership skills just as they can learn and develop management skills.
Yes, I think without doubt, some people are born leaders; they have a charisma and an energy about them that can’t be taught or learned. Some come from backgrounds where there were no positive role models and yet they still emerge to inspire and lead others. And there are many types of leader; take Ghandi for instance who galvanised a nation by his quiet example and perseverance.
But I know equally, that you can learn leadership behaviours. And it’s fair to say that charisma on its own, without the leadership behaviours to match it, can be a dangerous thing. Remember Bill Clinton? He is a great example of a man with amazing charisma and energy, who was a little flawed when it came to being a leader.
So what are the qualities of a great leader? Here are my personal top 7:
Every manager needs to be a leader and every leader needs to be a manager. In your role as a leader you’ll make sure that your team know where they’re going, that they feel comfortable, that they grow as people and contribute to achieving team goals.
But people need structure to succeed. So as a manager you need the skills to organise your team’s activity and make best use of the resources you have to deliver on your goals. A manager without leadership skills won’t optimise their team’s potential. On the other hand, a leader without management skills will be chaotic and drive their team mad.
Great leaders are also managers because they understand the best way to harness their team to get the work done to achieve their goals.
Great managers are also leaders because they know how to make best use of their own skills and talent and more importantly how to get the best out of every individual in their team to deliver even greater results.
All of these skills and behaviours can be learned. But there is one last quality I’d like to share that marks out a leader/manager who is committed to being as good as they can be: The willingness to ask for help
“What is the bravest thing you've ever said”? asked the boy.
“Help!” said the horse.
Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Don’t ever be too afraid or too proud to ask for it.
Do one thing: think about your role as a leader manager. What skills or behaviours do you need to develop so you’re better able to grow your team? What help might you need?
Thanks for reading.
I love Vera. I love her complex character played by the great Brenda Blethyn, the people in her CID team and of course gorgeous Durham and Northumberland. And the storylines are just perfect Sunday night viewing, for me anyway.
Whereas she has got some great qualities as a leader (more of that later), when it comes to her management style, I have to take issue with a few things.
First of all I frequently find myself saying ‘please’ out loud as she gives another directive to the team. Now I don’t know if this is how the police operate since it is a command and control structure. I have no experience of working in an environment where people have to call me ‘ma’am’ but even if you do give out orders, I still think you could add a ‘please’.
I know in the police, the armed forces and the operating theatre there will be times that you need to snap an order in the quickest possible time because of the urgency of the situation. By the time a surgeon has asked, "Would you mind awfully passing me a scalpel please", the patient might have died. So ‘scalpel’ has to be barked out, and that seems reasonable.
The thoughts of the army shouting, "Fire! please," wouldn't be quite right either. But I just wonder then, if someone is used to operating like this, say in the NHS (no pun intended!), how easy it is to revert to a more collaborative or even merely polite style in everyday situations. If anyone has worked in this type of environment I’d love to know what your experience is.
When my dad ran his coal business I don’t think he would ever have got his lads together to ask how they should do something. His was very much ‘do this or that’ and that style was very much of it’s time. But my experience at McDonald’s and with clients since, has shown me how much more people buy in and take ownership when they’re treated like adults and are involved in establishing and developing the ‘one right way’ for an exceptional customer journey.
The other thing I wonder about with Vera is how she treats her team individually. The long-suffering Kenny receives a fair bit of rib-pulling and mockery which a less robust individual could wilt under. And then I’m never sure about how fairly she treats them. Which would I rather do, get driven round the countryside in a gorgeous old Defender, meeting potential suspects or look through six hours worth of CCTV footage? Mmm tough one that. So maybe Aiden her sidekick is a higher rank than the others but if not, the others could feel hard done by.
And there’s the dilemma for business owners or managers. How to keep people sweet when you probably do prefer some of your team members to others or when someone is great at a role but which they find maybe boring or unsatisfying. Do you change roles round to keep people happy and potentially lose effectiveness or productivity? How do you ensure you’re not playing favourites even subconsciously?
If you have a ‘one right way’ of doing tasks in your business, it is much easier to train people up, to multi-skill. That is one of the ways where people can develop and have variety in their work. You may also uncover a diamond, and people over time have a chance to develop niche roles if that’s what you’re looking for. As for playing favourites, I think you just have to ‘police’ yourself :)
So that’s two things I don’t like, but there are a couple of things about Vera as a manager that I absolutely love. Firstly she really really cares about the victim whoever they are and secondly she perseveres until she succeeds.
So despite some of her management short-comings, I will continue to be a huge fan of Vera and tune in every Sunday night.
Do one thing: watch Vera and see what you think about how she manages her team and then think about your own style. Are there any similarities or things you’d like to improve?
Thanks for reading.
Image property of the Radio Times
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)