I am the furthest thing from a political animal. But watching the worldwide women's rallies and marches this past weekend moved me, as I hope they moved everyone, to think about what is truly important in our lives.
These marches communicated many messages, but they all spoke to a common idea: the power and importance of values. Because values are the heart of every community and, for that matter, every successful business.
As BusinessDictionary.com reminds us, values are "Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable." More importantly, it says, "Values have major influence on a person's behaviour and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations."
I emphasize the influence on behaviours because, to me, actions are what define us. We can talk about our ethics and principles all day, but it's how we behave that reveals our true values to those around us.
In my company, our core values are built around three concepts:
Freedom drives us to imagine what could be, rather than focusing merely on "what is."
Adventure opens us up to a journey of exploring the things that "could be," in exuberant, optimistic fashion.
Structure ensures that, when the adventure ends, it results in clearly identified business opportunities with well-articulated plans for implementation.
Why are these three values important to us? They frame how we act in every situation. They guide how we hire, how we bring new people on board, how we train, and how we relate to each other as a team. Our values are reflected in the processes that we develop for clients, and the experiences they come away with when they engage with our team.
Over the years, our company's goals and strategies have changed. Our flagship products and services have changed. People come and go. But our values haven't changed – except to the extent that we have become better at articulating them, and thus improved our ability to live up to our own ideals.
And in that period, we have seen a big change in our clients. As our values became our brand, our dealings with many clients have gone from the merely transactional to longer-term and collaborative. Like attracts like. Values that promote exploration, creativity, and action attract clients who want to aim higher and run faster. Our values make us better partners.
I'm not prescribing the values you should adopt; we all develop our own values based on our experience, our goals and our dreams. In a robust marketplace of ideas and values, you'll eventually find your tribe. Your purpose. And, maybe, your best customers.
One of my daughters participated in one of the Women's Marches a few days ago. She returned tired but exhilarated, excited to have found her voice and her ideals. Maybe, I suggested to her, we should all march more often for what we believe in.
I am excited that more and more companies are establishing core values, and creating measures and metrics to ensure they live up to them. Only this way can they consistently be the organization they want to be – truly, their best selves.
I'll take this parallel one step farther. I don't believe that you will find a great company today that is not grounded in core beliefs. They may always not live up to those ideals, but striving every day is how you make progress.
If your business is still on the sidelines, wait no longer. Every business decision, every action, every interaction, needs to be grounded in your own unique core values. As your technologies, products and people evolve, those values will keep you marching confidently into the future.
Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy firm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. He holds the Institute of Corporate Directors certification (ICD.D). Follow him on Twitter at @90per centRule.