By Michael Gunther
Ever wonder what great organizations have in common? My experience has shown that these organizations’ leaders and management teams have a strong collective vision and the drive to operate their organization based on a clear set of core values. Operating an organization based on a clearly defined vision and values creates a domino effect of success.
Because most employees want to work toward a purpose (no matter what the industry or role they play within it), a strong vision passionately communicated by their leaders and a set of core values consistently modeled within an organization gives employees guiding principles and a sense of security and structure. These employees tend to be more committed to the success of the organization, and these organizations tend to have better than industry performance.
I was fortunate to get first-hand experience early in life with two such organizations.
The Gunther Organization
My first great organization experience was with my family. My parents had a strong vision for the type of family unit and household they wanted to create. They started their marriage with a goal to have 13 kids (my dad wanted to be beat his dad by one), and as with many organizations that have a strong vision, they beat their goal – by 4.
In addition, my parents had a strong set of 12 guiding core values (rules to live by) that they taught us and lived by themselves. These core values were framed on the wall next to our toaster, where my bread-loving family would see the core values regularly. Our vision and values were based on working hard for what we wanted, respecting one another, appreciating what we had, and giving back to our community. My parents consistently modeled these principles, instilling them into each of my siblings and me.
Shurgard Storage Centers
My second great experience was with an organization called Shurgard Storage Centers. Yes, storage centers. I spent almost eight years with this incredible organization, which had a strong vision to be the industry leader in service, quality, and employee satisfaction. Their 10 core values guided company leaders to assess annual growth plans and directed all employees’ day-to-day decisions. Because this organization walked their talk, they built an incredibly committed workforce – from the hourly waged workers to the senior management – and achieved double-digit returns even in the worst economic times.
Your Vision & Values
As a business leader, what is your vision and what are your core values? You can create a more successful business and increase employee loyalty and productivity if your employees know where your organization is going and understand what their role can be in making it happen. Think of it this way, would a baseball team start the year without the goal or vision of winning the World Series?
Before you criticize your employees for making poor decisions, lacking work ethic, or not understanding the importance of their tasks, consider whether you have truly provided them with a solid framework to represent your organization appropriately. Have you communicated your vision to them? Have you modeled your core values for them? It all starts from the top, and it all starts with a strong vision and strong set of core values.
The Bottom Line
Set a clear vision for where you want your business to be over the next 3 to 5 years and identify a strong set of core values that you will operate within. Once you take the time to create these tools, share them with your team and use them as guidelines for all your decisions and actions. Do this consistently and you will create the structure for a more productive work environment and, in turn, achieve above average results.