My friend David Wright is the CDO (Chief Deal Maker) of Lawyers Reality Company, a commercial real estate brokerage in St. Louis. He read my recent article Culture is the Who and How We Work; Strategy is What We Do and was inspired to share his company’s culture statement with me.
Most companies have mission and vision statements. Often you can find the company’s values in those statements. But a values statement is a little different. It doesn’t define why the company exists or the direction it’s headed. It defines the culture and personality of the company. It describes the behaviors and values that are expected from every employee. Some companies, such as Lawyers Realty, have created separate values or culture statements.
Companies that pay very close attention to their culture statement hire people that fit into the statement and turn away candidates who don’t.
As I read the Lawyers Realty statement, I thought about the late, great Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos.com. Hsieh was emphatic that every person who worked at Zappos embraced and modeled 10 core values. They were (and still are) the personality of the company, and they clearly defined the culture at Zappos. If an employee was deficient in just one, they weren’t a good fit for the culture of the company. Those values are:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
Here’s a simple question: Who wouldn’t want to work at a company with employees who practiced these values?
Lawyers Realty is similar and different at the same time. Its statement has eight values or personality/character traits that include:
1. Honesty and Integrity
2. Family First
4. Customer Service
5. Positive Attitude
6. Take Pride
7. Knowledge and Skills
8. Care About Others
For each of the above statements are a few sentences to describe them in more detail. For example, Family First (I really like this one): We must take care of our families first. This does not mean there will not be inconveniences, but we must balance our priorities between family and work.
So, here’s the same question: Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that practiced these values?
There are plenty of other words or phrases you could include in statements like these. For fun, I went to ChatGPT and asked, “Can you give me 50 core values and personality traits to consider for my employees?” Within seconds, the “machine” spit out a list of 50 with a short sentence to elaborate on each one. Of course, it’s impossible that someone might have all 50 of these baked into their DNA, but the list offered some creative food for thought.
If you don’t already have a list or statement like Zappos’ core values or the Lawyers Realty culture statement, it might be in your best interest to create one. But don’t stop with a list of words. Be sure there is a short description to define them. And then, you must do more.
Once you’ve made your list, be sure to create ongoing training around them. Everyone may think they understand them, but do they know how to operationalize them every day? That’s the key. People must live and breathe them. These are the words you must diligently put into practice. If they are what defines your culture, you must hire for them and fire them for lack of them. Otherwise, these words that make up your culture and values statements are exactly that … just words.
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