What does value mean to you? When you think about anything as being “valuable”, what does that mean?
I once worked with a highly successful CEO who accused me of not creating value in my work because I was a banker. In this guy’s mind, I just pushed paper and ran numbers. He saw no VALUE in doing that. In his mind, value meant building, making, or mining something. The outcome had to be tangible, physical goods. Intellectual property had little if any value in his mind. Oh sure, patents and legal rights might be there, but if the idea could not produce something, you weren’t creating value.
While I don’t necessarily agree with this extreme mindset, there is merit in my friend’s attitude. Too often I have seen business leaders who either don’t pay attention to values or blow past their meaning.
Robert Alan McDonald is the eighth United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He is the retired Chairman, President, and CEO of Procter & Gamble. He presents his list of the 10 defining characteristics of a “value-based leader”. The list was inspired by experiences that McDonald had over the course of his 20-year career.
McDonald offered his beliefs as a guideline and urges leaders to develop their own “list” of sorts.
“It is important for each individual and each organization to get in touch with their education, experiences, culture, family heritage and organizational memberships to develop their own set of beliefs.” -Bob McDonald.
1. Lead a life guided by purpose.
Only work for a company that you believe in. When looking for a job, examine a company’s purpose, values and people to see if they align with your own beliefs and ethics.
2. Everyone wants to succeed and success is contagious.
Treat your employees like they want to succeed, not like they want to fail. “Most of us manage by exception: We wait until someone does something wrong to interact with him or her,” McDonald said. “Spend enough time in your leadership role finding people succeeding.”
3. Put people in the right jobs.
Identify your employees’ strengths, and then place them in roles that feed into those strengths. “At P&G, we had 130,000 employees around the world,” he said. “Imagine what would happen if we put them in jobs that they weren’t good at.”
4. Character is the most important trait of a leader.
It’s important for leaders to have integrity and take responsibility for their mistakes. “Choose the harder right, rather than the easier wrong,” McDonald said, citing a prayer that he learned as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
5. Diverse groups of people are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
Diversity sparks ideas and innovation, so companies must employ a diverse group of people. “We try to plan innovation, but there’s a little serendipity involved,” McDonald said. “Diversity is what helps these nodes to connect.”
6. Ineffective strategies, systems and culture are bigger barriers to achievement than the talents of people.
It’s important to blend a high-performance culture with robust systems and sound strategies, McDonald said. Those ingredients, coupled with technical competencies and a strong company mission, will create a high-performance organization.
7. There will be some people in the organization who will not make it on the journey.
Some employees won’t turn out to be a good fit for your company. As head of a company, it’s your responsibility to find the right place for them. “Your job as a leader is to be committed to them as people, not employees,” said McDonald.
Jim Collins, in his landmark business book, “Good to Great” speaks of this need. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus. They always think first about who and then about what. When facing chaos and uncertainty, and you cannot possibly predict what’s coming around the corner, your best “strategy” is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next. (Courtesy Jim Collins Concepts).
8. Organizations must renew themselves.
Leaders should always think about what changes are needed to stay relevant in the marketplace and fulfill the company purpose. “Organizations are like biological organisms — they constantly need to change,” said McDonald.
9. Recruiting is a top priority.
Speaking to an audience of Kellogg Business School students, “Somewhere here is someone who will be giving a presentation here years from now,” said McDonald. “And that excites me.”
10. The true test of a leader is the organization’s performance after the leader departs.
If you want to determine whether a leader has been successful, “look at their fingerprints and footprints,” concluded McDonald.
Reassess your effort towards building VALUE; value in your personal life, value in family life, value in your community life.
Some argue that we have lost our ability to demonstrate true value. Cars, houses, boats, clothes, HDTVs, and the latest i-phone do not represent core VALUE. These are the bling that mean very little and the things that surely “moth and thief can destroy”. Part of living a legacy is adding value to the lives of those around you.
Collins adds in “Built to Last”: Enduring great organizations exhibit a dynamic duality. On the one hand, they have a set of timeless core values and purpose that remain constant over time. On the other hand, they have a relentless drive for progress—change, improvement, innovation, and renewal. Great organizations keep clear the difference between their core values (which never change), and operating strategies and cultural practices (which endlessly adapt to a changing world).
While we can gain great inspiration fro studying great companies and great leaders, we each have an opportunity, regardless of status and station, to add value, right where we are. I live by a creed: