“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
- Jesus of Nazareth
Our kids enjoy a show called Expedition Unknown on the Travel Channel. Every episode has the incredibly likable everyman Josh Gates taking us into the great unknown mysteries: the origins of Stonehenge, the Mayan lost city of Gold, and even the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant.
He is often digging for and unearthing “treasure”. And I say that in quotations because what he typically finds looks more like a rock, a lump of clay, a shred of wood, or a piece of broken off something. Of course, once it is cleaned up, sourced, and attached to story, myth, or legend, it takes on inestimable value.
It is the same with your company and your life.
Most companies we encounter have some version of core values and they are incredible noble words: integrity, honesty, teamwork, etc. Fantastic words that nearly every company would identify with and wouldn’t differentiate a company from any other.
Lencioni taught us that these are permission-to-play values. Sort of contrived or “duh” values. Because a starting point or sort of assumed baseline of operating as a successful business should include all of those. It is hard for a team to rally around those kinds of values, own them personally, or provide the differentiating power that real specific values provide.
When we are trying to arrive at a set of powerful and unique values to define an organization, we do a deep excavation of true company culture, the best and worst employee experiences, the things their customers celebrate about their engagement with them, and we walk all the way back through a company’s story.
We are all a collective sum of the experiences we’ve had…both the good and the bad. The overcoming and even the redemption of those experiences is where our true treasure is found.
If we are going to arrive at something powerful, unique, and interesting - something that clarifies, motivates, and inspires our team - our values can’t be borrowed from the short list that every other company uses.
We’ve got to dig that stuff up, clean it off, and understand how it powerfully differentiates us from all others who do what we do.
Several of our clients are in the process of wanting to aggressively grow their business. We are using the StoryBrand framework I am trained in to help them reintroduce themselves to the market. They are not only feeling more powerful through the differentiating clarity of their values, they are using them to more confidently offer their value proposition to a bigger audience.
One client texted me after a key meeting with an influencer. He said that he differentiated his work through the articulation of the values he had excavated. The person he met with was taken by the values and said they were a great way to describe the unique quality of his work.
This client isn’t a fan of business development and wasn’t super excited about the plan we laid out to monetize his new organizational clarity into new business. But he just told me that the meeting above was his fifth of many. They have all gone well and he is beginning to find them invigorating.
How great is that?
Real, deeply embedded values - once articulated - bring clarity, provide momentum, and are the pathway to doing more of what you do in even better ways. Watching leaders feel more powerful about what they are doing and leveraging it to do more of the business they desire to do is a really glorious thing to watch.
- What values are core to your organization?
- How did you come up with them?
- Was it a collaborative team experience or was it something you did on your own?
- It is rooted in your story, your history, and the experiences of your employees and customers?
- Are they powerfully motivating and focusing for your organization? They should be.