That idea didn’t just hit her and her leadership team out of the blue; instead, it was part of the strategic planning process that this president and CEO leads each year at her $270 million company, which does marketing for transportation companies.
She says that a company can’t simply establish its values, then put them aside and go on with its work. So every year, her team reviews the values to determine whether they truly embody everything the business stands for and whether others need to be added. Doing so keeps the values an active part of their planning process so people can’t forget about them.
Smart Business spoke with Taylor about how she drives the company’s values so that everyone else will come along for the ride.
Create solid values. Understand what’s important to you as a company from a values situation. We took a survey, and one of the key comments that came back to us was we always want to be respected. If you listen to your employees, they’ll tell you what is important to them.
Define what is important to you. You have to come together and agree that this is the code of values that you want to live by. We sit down each year and define what those values mean. For example, one is integrity. Define that, what does that mean, and you break it down. Each year, we look at our values and say, ‘Is there anything that we’re still not committed to? Is there anything we want to add?’
Values are the foundation of your company. Every decision you make and everything you do needs to be based on those values. We have a value of the month, and we train on that value and make it clear what we mean by that value.
The best way is to live that value every day. If you’re living it and if the decisions you’re making are based on your values, that’s the best way for people to understand what your values are.
Hire good people. Sometimes that is difficult. Some of it is a little bit of instinct. One thing [to look for] is their leadership style, their ability to be a good communicator and their people skills.
You can have the best someone who knows everything there is to know about a position but if they do not have good people skills, it’s difficult for them to be successful. Without good people skills, it’s difficult to get people to buy in to your mission and what you want to get accomplished.
If we’re hiring a management position, we use Myers-Briggs [personality assessment]. Spend a good bit of time in the interviewing process, and ask some pointed questions. If it’s a senior leadership role, we usually use a small panel through the interviewing process, so that helps us to determine how we feel someone’s leadership would be perceived and how someone’s skills would be.
Empower people. First of all, listen to them. Listen to their ideas and thoughts, and respect what they have to say. Then give them the freedom, as long as it fits in your guidelines, to act on the things that they’re thinking about. People have really great ideas. A lot of times, it’s a small thing. It may not be a large idea, but it will be a small idea, and all at once, it makes very good sense.
You have to drive out fear. People cannot be afraid to make decisions and to act on them. That’s very key. Have a clear vision, a good set of values, and everyone needs to understand that if they’re operating within that value system, that they shouldn’t be afraid of the decisions that they’re making because if you operate off your value system, you’re not going to make a bad decision.
Communicate better. Most companies, communication is one of the areas that companies need to work on so their employees feel like they understand their vision and they know what’s going on. They want to feel like they’re part of the process.
I have a different manager every week walk around our entire campus and just spend time talking to the various departments and getting to know them and just listening whether it’s about their families or whether it’s about something going on from a business standpoint.
You have to be open, and employees have to know that you’re open to listening to what they have to say. Drive out fear so that people are not afraid to communicate. Drive out the politics so people are not afraid to communicate, and you just have to have an open environment.
They send an e-mail to everyone and thank them for spending some time, and then they come back to me and report on the process. They do not come back and communicate everything that they talk about because I want to make sure there’s an open line of communication so people feel they have freedom in everything they say. That’s always a little difficult because most people have a general apprehension, but if you live your values and you work at creating an environment that people feel comfortable, that is just so key. It’s that open environment where people are comfortable with the management.
HOW TO REACH: Bennett International Group LLC, (800) 866-5500 or www.bennettig.com