Just as parents need to provide their children with a good moral foundation, CEOs need to provide their companies with a strong cultural foundation. And the method to do so is the same, according to the founder of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization. In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What you must do to increase the value of your fast-growth firm, Verne Harnish contends that the key is to set a few rules, repeat them a lot and act in ways consistent with them.
Another term for rules is “core values.” Harnish’s Ashburn, Va.-based company Gazelles Inc., which runs an executive development program for leaders of mid-sized firms, has six core values: practise what we preach; ecstatic customers; first class for less; honour intellectual capitalists; everyone is an entrepreneur; and never, ever, ever give up. He warns against the temptation to claim you just don’t have time to worry about this stuff: “I’ve coached scores of companies over the years, and I’ll tell you, every company that’s on a rocket, every company that’s gaining sales and influence in quantum leaps, takes the time.”
Harnish’s core value checklist includes:
- Build your hiring process around core values. Feature them in your recruitment ads, make them the section themes in job interviews and design orientation sessions for new employees around them.
- Weave them into staff evaluation and recognition. Use core values as the section headings for employee appraisals. With a little creativity, you can link any performance measure with a core value. Do the same when you recognize and reward staff at quarterly or annual gatherings. This generates new stories that bring the values alive.
- Create legends. Storytelling is the best way to teach. Link a company story with each core value so your staff will understand and remember it.
- Conduct a core values audit. Focus your efforts to improve your firm’s processes by gauging how well the way you do business matches your core values. An audit can produce healthy and often-needed dialogue.
- Link core values to everyday management. Without going to the ridiculous (though it’s hard to repeat yourself enough), relate decisions, reprimands, praise, customer issues and employee concerns back to the core values. These daily actions will do more than anything else to strengthen the culture within your firm.