I was in Rogers on Tuesday (they’re a local cell phone service provider), on the 29th anniversary of my engagement to my bride, trying to get her a phone upgrade. I thought it would be a simple process, and a nice gesture on our “asking” day.
Silly me. Three hours later we walked out with a new phone, bitter and disappointed at the service we received from Rogers. The only reason I didn’t switch was because the clerk couldn’t get through to her own customer service to cancel my contract, and I didn’t want to spent my entire anniversary waiting for this to get sorted out. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.
While waiting I noticed the Roger’s one-page strategic plan lying on the counter. It seems I’ve inherited my grandmother’s faculty for reading upside-down. At least somewhat.
That skill had something to do with why she spent a few years living in Argentina after the war. There’s also something about her burning her then-dead German husband’s papers on the roof of the apartment in Switzerland under cover of doing laundry before fleeing. That’s also another story.
I asked the clerk if I could take a look at her company’s values, and she said no. She hid it furtively. As if she’d been caught doing something wrong.
This puzzles me. If a company is going to go through all the time and effort of discovering a set of expected behaviours for the company, then why can’t its customers see it? Are they embarrassed? Are they afraid that customers will laugh? In Roger’s case, given my treatment by them that night, that might realistic.
I began wondering how many other companies have values that they’re not willing to share with their customers, suppliers, and partners. Are they afraid to be held accountable to them? If you set out values and expected behaviour for everybody in your company, and you know that that’s not who your company really is, then I might understand your reticence.
I challenge you to publish your values. I dare you to make a public commitment. Commitment that is necessary for accountability and results. If you’re not willing to make that commitment, maybe you need to go back to your executive retreat and have another think.
If it turns out you don’t have any values, besides just making money, which I doubt, then don’t make something up. You’re not fooling anybody. Share who you are as a company, and be willing to be held to it. Otherwise the public will make up its own stories about why you behave the way you behave, or treat them the way you do.
Then make sure there’s a way for your clients, staff, suppliers to tell you when you are – and aren’t – living up to them. Listen. They’re already talking about you anyway. If you’re not hearing them it’s because you’re not listening.
If you’re not willing to fire employees behaviour that consistently violate your core values, or you’re not willing to fix internal systems that consistently violate your customers humanity (such as making a phone upgrade a byzantine, three-hour gauntlet of bizarre rules and contractual obligations that require approval from an unreachable customer service representative in some overwhelmed call centre), then don’t waste your time.
There is a direct line between integrity and execution. If you don’t understand the this linkage between vision and engagement, values and execution, purpose and urgency, then stop wasting your time. Don’t waste it on “values” and “strategy” if you’re not going to follow through, or are doing it only because all the other “good” corporations are doing it.
That’s how I got started smoking – because the “cool” kids were doing it. It took me more than 29 years to quit and permanently damaged my health. But that’s another story.
My Own Personal Values
For the record, here are my own personal values:
- I will keep my word
- I will not lie, steal, cheat, hate, nor tolerate those who do.
- I will leave this world better than I found it.
- I will deal with reality, and face my fears. The only easy day was yesterday.
- Family first and last