Don’t Get Boycotted

The Urgent “What? Why? & How?” of Company Values

We live in a volatile, polarized society now. Most of us don’t want that. Yet it’s a reality of the present. Whatever your views or opinions, you are entitled to them as an individual. As a business owner or leader, it is essential to be proactive in ensuring that the leadership traits present are in alignment with your company values. When they are not, as we have seen more than once recently, business leaders are left scrambling to respond to backlash on social media, boycotts, picketing and rebuilding their brands.  How big it could become depends on the company and incident in question. But, most of us don’t want to lose clients or customers; especially over things like these. When someone’s business need doesn’t sync with our solution, that’s one thing. To learn they felt it was “bad business” is awful. To have it shared, shouted from the rooftops of social media or spread in our corporate networking circles can be catastrophic, embarrassing and costly.

Likely you recall the Starbucks incident about a month ago. If you missed it, read what happened, and how it was handled here. After a public lashing and national boycott (with local picketing), the results were a CEO apology, $200,000 settlement (donated to charity) AND closing 8,000 stores for a day of racial bias training. Whew!  Situations like these are a new, unfortunate trend that will only continue and have been described as “glass box wrecking balls.” As glass boxes, companies need to be keenly aware of the fact that customers can see inside. The external brand and internal culture must be in sync. If not, sooner or later…KABOOM!

Now, my purpose here is not to finger wag at companies on what their values should be. Instead, it’s to point out how much you need to clearly define, communicate and exemplify them. Or pay the price.

Company values do two key things:

First, they draw some clear lines for how you do (and don’t) do business and treat others, internally and externally, day-to-day. Second, they function as a solid guide in the case of the unforeseen when your folks just don’t know what to do. You can’t cover every potential situation in a handbook. You can’t micromanage everyone. Nor should you. There has to be some trust placed in your team that they’ll “do the right thing” which, of course, can be open to interpretation. Close that “knowing gap,” regularly. Otherwise, the fundamental attribution error will purport to compensate for a lack of personal accountability. But how?

Here are Three places to start with COMPANY values:

  1. If you haven’t defined your company values, do it. Now. Plant your flag as to who you are as a company and how you do things. If no one knows what these values are, you’ve still missed the mark, unfortunately.
  2. Talk about these. Use the words. Create core competencies to link your values to being successful working there. These are non-negotiables expected of every single employee who is a part of your team, regardless of their role. Make them part of your interview process and your job descriptions.
  3. Walk and talk your values. Set a clear example of how business is conducted; customers, employees, and colleagues are treated. Make who you are visible, from the top down.

Custom leadership development that relates specifically to your core values is where you close the “doing gap” so that your folks have the tools they need to manage real situations effectively.

It’s a wise investment in your brand, your people and your success when compared to rebuilding after the wrecking ball described above.

I’ve been a member of the ADVISA team for 12 years and I still remember the day I saw ADVISA’s Core Values upheld when a new hire was terminated on the spot for refusing to be truthful about falsifying an email. They were more than words on a page. ADVISA stood its ground then and has more than once since. Personally, the values have guided me in more than one challenging situation over the years – from navigating not-so-shining moments, some mine and some of my colleagues, to handling a prickly client situation. Values don’t make those situations easy but they do provide more confidence, for me and the company I work for, that I will make the right choice. Be confident about yours too. If you don’t have the HR management to clarify, communicate and develop the leadership traits to support them, we’re more than happy to help.