Five steps to leadership
Teaching kids basic values is arguably a parent’s most important job. We repeat these important messages constantly but wonder, “Will they ever listen?” In the long run, they do. And we can only hope that children will put these core values to use in their professional lives.
Why? Because the practice of maintaining solid values is as essential to business as it is everywhere in life.
As both a parent and a life-long leader, I’ve made values a big part of my message. At Tractor Supply sales meetings, I always found time to talk about our company values. I hammered on this so much that at one corporate event several senior managers asked kiddingly if I was going to get up on stage and talk about what I always talk about. My response: “Damn right!” Leaders can never say enough about values.
As business leaders, we have the responsibility to reinforce the basic values of our organization with those who work for us. Instilling the right values in a team can have a huge impact on the results we produce.
Here are some values that pertain to every business:
1. Respect is an essential component for ensuring that teams not only get along, but also achieve results and long-term success. Sometimes people under pressure can get very emotional about hitting difficult goals, and occasionally individuals just “lose it.” When tempers flare leaders must step in to calm things down and encourage peacemaking. It’s our obligation to talk about the importance of maintaining mutual respect as a principle for success.
2. Ethical behavior should be basic practice in all business operations and in all aspects of our lives. Your team needs to know about your organization’s ethical standards and hear about them repeatedly from you. It’s also essential that leaders are available and open to discuss ethical dilemmas that may present themselves unexpectedly. It’s important to demonstrate and voice your commitment to ethical behavior as well as your openness to coaching on the subject.
3. Communication that is open and honest is another fundamental value in every organization. Hidden or concealed information, whether intentional or not, creates a lack of trust that can lead to mistakes, misunderstandings and bad decisions. As leaders, we need to demonstrate open communication in all we do and never keep secrets from our team. The great leaders practice free and open communication as a way of life and talk about its importance on a regular basis.
4. Initiative is another value that every leader wants in a team. Start by letting your people see you take the initiative on a project and then discuss how and why you did it. Challenge your folks to do the same. And when a team member actually takes the initiative on a new project coach him or her along the way. When you see a big success, make a big deal of it. Celebrate initiative and you will get more of it in return.
5. Positive attitudes will encourage teams to work together enthusiastically. As leaders, we set the tone — and people tend to mimic our behavior. Be positive and upbeat, and your team will typically follow your lead.
Values matter everywhere in life. So, no matter the time or place, demonstrate your passion for values by setting the right example. Then find the time to talk about your principles more frequently than you think you should. Values really do matter.