DILEMMA: My best friend is one hell of a lady. She's just fired her best salesman because 'his values weren't the same as the company's'. Sounds crazy, especially when sales are so hard to come by right now. But it made me wonder what people think our company values are. Has she got a point?
ISSUES: Sounds like your friend is brave, but is she right? Whose values were better for the business in the long term? I once heard a somewhat rampant entrepreneur fire someone for being too honest with the customers! However, let's assume that she is right and his way of doing business was not in line with the company's. Why?
Were there issues when he was recruited, or has he developed these bad habits since? Good recruitment processes test for this kind of fit. Has she been clear what values she wants, or does she expect people to follow her example? Who was managing him? Is there an issue there?
What value do values have anyway? Is this something that only CEOs of larger companies need worry about?
Absolutely not. If people know you for your brand, the way you behave and your staff's values will drive your brand. They are therefore hugely important, whether they're clearly stated or not.
What do you want people to say about you? 'Great little company, they're so responsive', 'fantastic products, shame about the service' or 'money-grabbing bastards that we only deal with because we have to'.
The leader needs to communicate what is expected. This doesnot have to mean Dolly-the-salesman cloning of your teams. Diversity is a value, especially in an international business.
Tolerating the wrong kind of behaviour serves to endorse it. If your actions diverge from the words, people will be unclear about what matters. Think hard about what you let them get away with. And when you've decided what you want, communicate it clearly and with sensitivity.
- This is not something for wimps, it's tough commercial stuff.
- Think hard, research well and come up with a few simple things that fit the business strategy and your own style.
- Make it clear what you think matters, demonstrate it and deal with those who don't get it.
- Finally, don't come over all touchy-feely if you're not; you'll spook your best staff.