|Earlier this month we had the privilege of hearing the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for UPS speak to our NAWBO membership about ethics in business. Two days later I had a speaker in my Vistage group conduct a workshop on values-based leadership. Not exactly the same topics, but close enough that they really got me to thinking.
I picked up two common threads between the two talks. First, values and ethics must be defined, then taught. Second, it’s all about behaviors, not words. So what does that mean to the typical small business?
Many small businesses credit the good reputation of the owner or founder for their success. Yet, we jeopardize that very reputation when we don’t spend time on the “soft” things such as defining and teaching our values. For example, if I say that my company works with integrity, is responsive to the customer and is focused on quality, I’ve just listed three values that my company and I stand for. But if I haven’t spent any time with my employees, suppliers or even my customers about what that means to me, then I’ve left each of those values up to the interpretation of the listener. Does "responsive" mean I’ll return your call within 1 hour, or 24 hours? Does "integrity" mean that I won’t cheat you on price or that my actions mirror my words….or both?
Employees of UPS spend time at the beginning of each meeting talking about something in their policy book. What does that policy mean? What is the intent? What is the expected behavior? This is how UPS helps define and socialize their values into the company to ensure employees are on the same page and in sync with the intended behaviors.
Values are just words until they are put into action. Just make sure it’s the action you intended.