Benjamin Franklin addressed values-based decisions years ago when he said, "We stand at a crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value systems we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make...."
Over the years, I have seen hundreds of sets of organizational and team values plastered on every imaginable surface. All too often though, those values are not embedded into daily work and decisions. It's easy to spot values-driven organizations by observing their decision-making process. Rarely a day goes by without a decision being made that explicitly considers one of their values. For nearly 20 years we have worked with Barry Davis, Executive Chairman of EnLink Midstream.
While the multi-billion dollar publicly-traded company he founded was still in its infancy, I partnered with Davis to develop their foundational E4 values: Excellence, Employee Focus, Ethics and Enthusiasm. His team articulated actionable descriptors to support each value.
Today, EnLink is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, and their values have been the core of its culture during the past 18 years of growth. Even as the company quintupled in head count and locations, EnLink continued to conduct all-employee quarterly meetings to demonstrate its value of Employee Focus. That decision came with significant time and financial investments. If Davis had based the ROI analysis solely on the numbers, he would have stopped the meetings a long time ago. But because he was committed to living their values, Davis and his team maintained the all-employee quarterly meetings as a forum for communication and for staying connected with the business and its people.
Similarly, I recall a Fortune 1000 company that wanted to offer new employee benefits that would give employees more choices to meet varying personal needs. But these new benefits came with a multimillion-dollar price tag. The Board approved the plan based on the company's core value of "respect for the individual." They realized that the cost of not living their values was ultimately much greater than the cost of the new benefits.
If you don't use your values to make decisions and guide your actions, then why have them? If you do not value your team's values, no one else will. So, as you are faced with decisions, use your values to help you determine what to do. Making a values-based decision sends a strong message about your values and your leadership.
Take the time to communicate your values, allow your team to personalize them and, most importantly, live them. Taking these steps will ignite your team's passion and sense of ownership.