By Don Britton, an EO DC member and founder and CEO, Network Alliance
Disciplined Approach Renews Company’s Core Values
These new core values—Go All the Way; Be the Wingman; Results through Rapport; Show Up, Not Show Off; Potential, Not Credentials—guide my company’s team. They drive our mission to make IT simple and keep us focused on our vision to ensure that everyone we interact with is better off than they were before and that they love (or, at least, don’t hate) technology.
Young and full of ideas from then-popular business books, I wrote the first set of Network Alliance core values—17 years ago. In my mind, they worked and I didn’t see any reason to fix what wasn’t broken.
Then I met Ann Rhoades, founder of People Ink and the person responsible for the company culture at both Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue. I read her book, Built on Values, and liked her process for developing and then implementing a Values Blueprint. In the meantime, I had also completed EO’s intensive four-day Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP) in Dedham, Massachusetts.
The EMP emphasized the importance of all team members knowing and, more importantly, living the organization’s core values. For that to happen, the EMP also stressed, core values must be clearly stated and easy to remember. The time had come to revisit our core values, and I was convinced that an EMP-style session was the way to go.
We started our “revaluing” process by asking associates to vote on who best represented Network Alliance’s culture. The top five formed a Values Committee. Next, members of the Values Committee conducted company-wide interviews, using a list of questions from Built on Values. The anonymous responses were then compiled into a list of issues to guide an in-depth core values development session.
Then, it was off to West Virginia with facilitator Anna Birch, a member of the EO Board of Directors, for a two-day off-site workshop. Anna, founder of the Adventure Links team development program, has a track record for designing and delivering powerful executive retreats and management workshops.
I have to confess that I was a bit nervous. Would the core values that I had established 17 years ago still be relevant? At my age, would I fit in? Session participants were all tech people—how creative could they be?
In keeping with Anna’s process, I did the introduction and provided the context for why we were there. After that, I stayed in the background. My role over the next two days was to answer questions—that’s all.
To my amazement, the five members of the Values Committee were extremely creative. And, to my delight, they came up with ideas to rejuvenate our core values that were 100 times better than the original ones.
As it turned out, the essence of our core values didn’t change. But the words were clearer and more compelling. With a company-wide commitment to take responsibility for our day-to-day actions, everybody lives them better.
All associates now have regular monthly goals that help ensure they are living up to the values. Our core values are also guiding how we interview and hire people, how we conduct employee reviews, and how we structure meetings.
Anna says, “Core values are not invented, they are discovered. Establishing core values can create momentum for the organization and freedom for the people who work there.” That has certainly been our experience at Network Alliance.
What’s my bottom line on creating or redoing core values? The process is well worth the time. Just make sure your process is representative of the individuals within the company. If it’s something done solely by the CEO or by mandate from above, the outcomes won’t stick.
The bigger challenge is personal. As the leader, how will you set the example in living up to those core values each and every day? If you can’t, what can you expect from your team?
Don Britton, an EO DC member, has been striving since 1996 to make technology simple and worry-free for small businesses. That’s what his company, Network Alliance, is all about. Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.