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Committed to core values

IN building Verifone from $30 million to $600 million to dominate the global market of clearing credit card transactions, Hatim Tyabji said his key leadership/ management tool was a small booklet that explained in eight languages the eight core values at the heart of Verifone’s success. “I essentially spent the last six years repeating myself,” Mr Tyabji said. What are your rules? Below are eight ways to bring these core values alive, and a process for discovering your true values if you’ve never committed them to writing. In essence, replace all the random ‘people lists’ (hiring guidelines, performance appraisal criteria, recognition awards, etc.) with a coherent single list and simplify that part of your company. Finding the right words: The Mars Mission I’ve seen firms spend tens of thousands of dollars and months going through a laborious process that often generates a generic list that misses the uniqueness and power of the existing culture. Alternatively, there is a way to get at your core values that’s fun and amazingly fast. It’s an approach outlined in Jim Collin’s and Jerry Porras’s article ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’. You can download the article from www.hbr.com. Just follow their Mars Mission process. To give you a flavour for the core values of a small company, following are ours here at Gazelles. 1) Practice what we preach. 2) Nothing less than ecstatic cus-tomers. 3) First class for less. 4) Honor intellectual capitalists. 6) Never, ever, ever give up. Techniques for bringing your core values alive Once you have your values, it’s the ‘repeating’ of and living ‘consistent’ with the firm’s values that’s the most difficult part of the process. A leader must go beyond merely posting the values on the wall and handing out plastic laminated cards. Here are eight ways to keep these values alive and simplify your people systems. •Storytelling: Everybody enjoys a good story and most great leaders have taught through parable or storytelling. Identify some ‘legends’ and current stories that represent each value. And stories provide the explanation for any core values that might seem unusual or cryptic on their own. •Recruitment and selection: Design your interview questions and assessments to test a candidate’s alignment with your core values. Then rate the person in terms of their perceived alignment with each core value. Your goal, after all, is to make sure your new hires fit in. •Orientation: Once hired, it’s time to inculcate (bring into the culture) the individual. Like many social organisation initiations, orientation (you do have one?) is when you can further emphasise the company’s core values. Consider organising your orientation around the teaching of your core values. •Performance appraisal and handbooks: Core values should provide the framework on which you hang your performance appraisal system. With a little creativity, any performance measure can be made to link with a core value. In addition, organise your employee handbook into sections around each core value. •Recognition and reward: Organise your recognition and reward categories around your core values. You also gain a new source of corporate stories and legends each time a reward or recognition is given that highlights a core value. •Newsletters: Why struggle to come up with a catchy title for a newsletter when some word or phrase from your core values will do beautifully? Highlight a core value with each issue, incorporating stories – yes, more stories – about people putting these core values to work for the betterment of the company. •Themes: Use your core values to bring attention to your corporate improvement efforts. Milliken, the textile manufacturer, takes one of its six core values and makes it the theme for the quarter, asking all employees to focus on ways to improve the company around the theme. The Ritz-Carlton chain goes to the other extreme and highlights worldwide one ‘rule’ every day. In either case, establish a rhythm that keeps the core values top of mind in a repetitive fashion. •Everyday management: I’ve found that managers and CEOs can almost repeat core values endlessly without it seeming ridiculous – so long as the core values they’re using truly are relevant and meaningful to their employees. When you make a decision, relate it to a value. When you reprimand or praise, refer to a value. When customer issues arise, by all means, compare the situation to the ideal represented by the value. Small as these actions may sound, they probably do more than any of the aforementioned strategies for bringing core values alive in your organisation. Copyright © 2006 Verne Harnish •Verne Harnish was named one of the Top 10 Minds in Small Business by Fortune Small Business. In a one-day seminar on Friday March 2 2007, Verne Harnish will provide those attending the WA Business News seminar practical tools fast-growing companies can use to create focus, alignment, better communication and a winning strategy.

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