By Michael Gunther

I know many organizations have core values that were created at some point in their business’s history. The question is, how well are you truly living by your company’s core values? Were they created just as an exercise that you felt, as a leader, you needed to have in place? Or do you use them to inspire your team and make decisions every day within your business?

Last week, REI, a national retailer specializing in outdoor goods, truly made a statement that directly aligned with their core values. This retailer chose to close on Black Friday − the craziest, media-driven shopping day of the year. Not only are they closed on Black Friday, but also Thanksgiving – with pay – to encourage their employees and customers to go outside and “play” with family and friends. A retailer closes on Black Friday – are they crazy? Well, apparently not. They believe their mission “to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship” is more important than being open one more day.

I wonder if this will actually impact their sales positively instead of negatively – I imagine it will. This retailer is loudly and clearly stating that their employees are more important than being open on the biggest shopping day of the year. In addition, they are encouraging their customers to be outside enjoying nature, versus battling other shoppers in the mall on Black Friday. Their core motive is to promote life with family, friends, and adventure.

In a world full of consumerism, it’s fascinating for a company to ask their customers to buck the trend. They have already won with the amount of press and accolades they have received. I believe more people have been exposed to this retailer’s culture and beliefs through this one major decision than they would have through an ad promoting their Black Friday sales. With this stand, I believe more people will take action and shop with them.

I am a big believer that leaders and organizations need to create a strong set of core values supporting their mission in order to provide guidelines in making decisions within their organization. I have seen the impact of this process numerous times throughout my own career, and even at my own company. As opportunities and challenges arise, it is much easier to step back and ask your team: how should we approach this situation based on our mission and core values? In my own firm, we have turned down projects, adjusted our strategies and improved our work environment using these important tools as our guide.

The power and value of these tools being effectively embedded in your organization is how they provide your team members with decision-making parameters to resolve issues on their own. I also ask, when a decision doesn’t produce the anticipated desired outcome, did they use the core values as their guide? When a team member can explain their approach using the core values, I know their intent was solid. These situations then create a foundation for your team to make stronger and better decisions. Mistakes and failures truly become opportunities to learn.

Bottom Line

As a Collaborative Leader™, ensure your team is clear on the mission and core values within your organization. You may have the chance to enthuse your team and customers when your core values inspire your decisions, such as REI’s decision to close on Black Friday. Break the status quo – bring your values back to your decision making! #OptOutside



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