In today’s economy value is at the heart of business success. Successful companies have products buyers value and buy. Failing companies lack products and services customers value and so they refuse to buy them—leaving products on shelves, services undelivered and jobs and income languishing. If enough companies fail, our economy remains flat, our debts unpaid and the future looks bleak.
Effective leaders have the capacity to create value by leveraging personal values to build financial and relational value. Just as King Midas turned everything he touched into gold, effective leaders turn average companies into profitable ones.
And how can you become a more valuable leader? Your personal values and the ability to honor the values of others is what value creation is all about. The ability to add value, create value, and discover the value in others is a powerful leadership skill. Understanding and leveraging the power inherent in personal and shared values is a developed skill in great leaders. Here are three simple concepts you can apply to immediately increase the value of your leadership to all aspects of your organization, including making your products more valuable to your customers.
1) Understand the principle of value exchange. Our ability to add value is directly linked to the degree to which our values are shared by others. It is not possible to add value to those who do not share your values.
Conduct a little exercise with me. Think about a person you value being with. You know; the person you can easily spend time with and whose conversation and ideas you find interesting. Then, ask yourself this question: What values the two of you have in common? Chances are if you would share many top ten values.
I learned this lesson during my years in sales. After months of inconsistent sales success I examined both successful and failed sales attempts. That’s when I discovered the principle of value exchange. Those who bought from me shared common values with the company I represented as expressed in the products offered. Once I learned this, I opened sales conversations by uncovering the values of the buyer. This enabled me to pre-qualify a potential client by discovering if they had valued what my company offered. By focusing on those with shared values, my sales numbers immediately climbed.
2) Clarify your personal values as a leader, and live them. The most trusted leaders are those whose values are obvious in their words and deed. Your ability to be consistent, predictable, and act in alignment with your values will resonate with those you lead, whether they share your values or not. People want consistent and predictable leaders. Being clear about your values enables people to know when and how to approach you. The result is clarity, certainty, and effectiveness.
3) Recognize and honor the values of others. The way to build trust and become a more valuable leader is to recognize the values of others and honor them. We can tell when people respect us. Can’t we? When they acknowledge and honor our values and deeply held beliefs, we feel good about them. We like them because they have the grace to respect our core values, even if they don’t share them. Your true identity is revealed in your values and deeply held beliefs. The fact is, our values define us, whether or not we know it.
Therefore, the secret of becoming a trusted and valued leader is the capacity to recognize the values of those we lead and honor them and in doing so strengthen the relationship.
I remember a college intern I hired to join my staff. I hired this young man because during his internship he demonstrated initiative, thoughtfulness, and creativity that impressed me. I liked him and looked forward to having him on our marketing staff. As we prepared for a trade show in Vegas, I told him he would be expected to make the trip, help set up the booth, work the show and then help tear down the display before returning home.
A few days after I explained his responsibilities in Vegas, he asked for a private meeting. Once together in my office he said, “Larry, I hate to tell you this, but I can’t make the trip. I’ve got to attend a religious meeting on that weekend.”
In that moment I wondered if I had made a mistake in hiring him. I was stunned that he would ask me to let him skip the trip when he had just taken the job. Would he have other value conflicts and ask to be relieved of other responsibilities? Instead of challenging him, I said, “I’m sorry you can’t make it. But I respect the value you place on your previous commitment. We will miss you, but can make it without you.”
He thanked me and left the room. Much to my surprise, I don’t remember any other incidents where he had a ‘values conflict’ with anything I asked him to do in his job. In fact the opposite occurred. Over time he became one of my most trusted, reliable, and passionately committed employees. By respecting his personal values in that one instance, his commitment to me, his job, and the company became consistent and predictable.
When you understand and are able to leverage the power of values in leadership, you become a more valuable leader able to bring value to every aspect of your business.