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Lift the Fog: Leadership values as the key to growth

As an employee, customer, investor, or a competitor, what is the most important thing you can learn aboutLight House a company?  If you said profitability, market share, operating margin, or the direction of their industry segment, you’d be hitting on strong factors impacting the company’s financial health.

But I’d suggest that what you should study mostly intently are not these metrics, but rather the values of the company’s leaders. That’s why we begin our in-depth management and marketing study of a company, with a long in-person and personal interview with its CEO. We really want to get inside his or her head…and heart…to learn about the experiences and forces that contributed to development as a person and a leader.

Few people are going to have the opportunity to sit and talk to a chief executive, but to really know the core of a company, we need to do our best to get to the core of its people.

This is important because values--deeply held beliefs and motivations--drive every decision people make.  They are embedded in the soul of who we are.  They are connected to the deepest corners. Values as motivators and drivers, for example, might be security, or desire for recognition, for health, for seeing those we care about thrive.  It could be about living well and making a difference in people lives.

These values are always the real drivers in our decision-making, and show up in how we spend our time, money and influence.  Some are at the core, impacting what job we take, where we move, school, lifestyle and the like.  Things like family and faith are in this category.

They impact even the most insignificant choices we make today, like what you had for breakfast, who you text, what you wear, and who you will hang out with tonight.

We advise our clients to be certain that they have a clear understanding of their leaders’ values and beliefs, and how they impact relationships with employees, vendors, and customers (#22 of 35 Valcort Keys to Business Growth).

It is vital because to build trust with a company, a person must share the values of its leaders. When values and motivations become aligned, trust increases.  When values or motivations are suspect, trust erodes.

The values we hold drive the choices we make.

Have you ever made a new acquaintance and just hit it off, and next thing you know, you’re talking about very personal things?  You’ve most likely uncovered values you share or hold in common -- some common interest, a hobby or deeply held values like kids, sports, family, faith.

Sharing values is common.  Even thieves trust the values of other thieves.  Recall our beloved Johnny Depp character Captain Jack Sparrow in the blockbuster movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  He says, “Me, I’m dishonest, and you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest. Honestly, it’s the honest ones you have to watch out for.”

Values build trust

Values are the bedrock of trust with another person.  When you share values you connect on a deep, personal level.  The more values you share, the more opportunities to build deeper trust and enjoy the relationship.  If you have shared values, you already are likely to trust that person.  More importantly, you are well on your way to a long lasting, strong, deep trust relationship.

Trust sells product

Because trust is crucial to healthy relationships, it is sometimes assigned to the “soft” category of business impact.  Actually, earned trust is perhaps the most powerful force in building strong teams, selling products, and keeping customers.  Customers don't buy from people, or companies, they don't trust. When a brand is trusted, customers will buy more, try related items, and pay more for your products.  In many ways, trust is the essential currency of commerce. And the road to trust begins with shared values.

As you are looking at a company--your company or one you have your eye on--look deep for the values of its leaders.  Do you share values? This may be the most important question you can ask, and answer.

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