Core values are a critical starting point for defining your company, but Regency Enterprises Inc. CEO Ron Regenstreif says you can’t stop there.
If the people at the top of your company aren’t reinforcing the core values each day, your core values won’t take root as the foundational principles of your business. You have to take a personal stake in making sure that doesn’t happen.
“Once you’ve identified the values you want your company to embrace and embody, the pressure is really on you as the leader to keep doing what you’re saying,” says Regenstreif, also an owner and co-founder of the lighting and energy management company that does business as Regency Lighting and which generated $89 million in 2008 revenue. “If you don’t, your effectiveness is going to sink pretty quickly.”
Smart Business spoke with Regenstreif about how you can allow your core values to take root by living them each day.
Identify your values. First, your company should identify what your core values are. Once you identify what they are, probably the most important thing is that leadership lives what they say. That actually is a rarity these days. We’re living in a day where people make a living out of saying things but their lives don’t match up with what they say. When that happens, people recognize it and lose respect for the leadership and end up not paying attention to what they say. If you talk about honesty but you’re not honest in your own life, people see that.
From there, I believe in reinforcement. Human nature just doesn’t do a good job of retaining a lot of information for very long. So most of our meetings are around fairly similar topics. We have a company acronym we use, the four letters ‘RISE.’ Those four letters represent relationship, integrity, service and expertise. We’ve kind of come to realize that pretty much all of what we do can fit into one of those envelopes. We continuously refer back to how this topic pertains to relationships, how it pertains to integrity and so forth.
We have defined what the key elements are in having relationships. It’s really similar to the key elements of all our relationships. It works in marriage, it works in friendship and works at work, as well. We’ve identified respect and listening, things like that. Some of them seem so simple, but they are really dynamic. A person who isn’t a good listener often isn’t a good manager. They’re just going to bark out orders and tell people what to do, but they’re not going to understand how a person feels or what they’re going through. If they don’t ask questions of their direct reports, they won’t understand them as individuals and they’re not going to have a real effective team. So it’s about meeting a lot, talking a lot and reinforcing the core values of your company over and over again.
Welcome feedback. I welcome feedback. I had a managers meeting recently when I used an example of an experience I had, and one of the managers challenged the story I was telling. The manager was saying that my example wasn’t necessarily the best way to handle this particular situation. And what they said was right. That means I had to say that, ‘I’m wrong. What you said is a much better way of handling the situation than I did.’ So it’s living the same principles in front of everyone and not elevating yourself, that you are a person that the normal rules don’t apply to. I’m not a big believer in the idea that we’re in some special category of individuals because we’re leading the company. I struggle with many of the same things that my staff does. Sometimes I’m wrong. I have to admit it, and I have to take ownership of a mistake or missing something. When the culture is that way and everyone takes ownership, and everyone sees leadership behaving that way, it makes everything run more smoothly.
Feedback is hard to solicit at times because people are just afraid to be honest. That is a really big thing in our culture. People don’t want to ruffle the feathers of others. You have to continuously give people permission, ask them and almost plead with them. Tell them, ‘Please, if you see something with me that doesn’t add up with our company values, please e-mail me, come knock on my door, leave a message on my phone. I want to know.’
Create the right environment. Your employees have to know that you are about becoming the very best leader you can possibly be, and if they don’t tell you when you’re doing something wrong, how can you ever learn? It’s creating a learning environment and a growing environment. You have to say to your employees, ‘I’m not perfect. I’m not the No. 1 CEO in the world. I’m learning, too.’ But you have to keep watering, keep fertilizing and keep asking for their feedback.
As a leader, you need to understand the value of getting your employees involved and seeking their input. A lot of leaders don’t. A lot of leaders are either really insecure or they think more highly of themselves than they should. You could go it alone and get up to a certain level, but if you allow the opinions of others, you’ll be able to bring your company further along than you might otherwise.
How to reach: Regency Enterprises Inc., (800) 284-2024 or www.regencylighting.com