Wouldn't it be enough to simply have the boss declare, "Pay attention to these values 'or else'?" and then go about his or her day? We could simply require frontline staff to dutifully follow these principles, behaviors, and actions every day and remove ourselves from enforcing them. Sure, we could add behaviors or actions to the list, along with an accompanying explanation in the employee handbook. We could hold an annual refresher course and then post updated placards on the wall. We could structure performance reviews around values and say that your next raise would be determined by demonstrated adherence.
This is not enough. What we want—what we need—is for our leaders to intrinsically exhibit these values in their everyday work as an example to everyone around them. We need to live them out loud, in word and deed. Our values should be evident in how we treat each other, our customers, our vendors, and our community. They should be obvious when looking at any work we put out. And if we do this consistently, over time we will see these values beyond the workplace—in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and our schools.
Can you imagine the joy that would accompany this kind of reality?
Joy, Values, and Stability
I have learned over the last many years that the word 'joy' can be a difficult one to grasp in its fullness and richness, especially in the context of business. Many people ask me why joy is the overarching value at Menlo and if it implies that we are striving for constant happiness and fun every day.
At Menlo, we find joy in the hard work we do together. It would be impossible to be happy every minute of every day. Are we happy? At times, of course we are, maybe even most days. Do we have fun? Yup. There is laughter every day at Menlo. We never take ourselves too seriously. Yet, joy transcends the happiness, the fun, the profits, the sales, the technology, and the growth. Joy is about the profound change we are trying to make in the world. In order to get there we must employ every ounce of the best part of ourselves every minute we can. We will not be perfect at it, but we need to identify joy even in the difficult pursuit.
Seeking joy by itself won't work. You need to tie joy to values—to seed joy in guiding principles, behaviors, and actions. If you do, though, you'll set the groundwork for momentum in your work and for positive stability that will help you sustain high performance (and a high level of joy) for everyone your company interacts with.
An airplane is designed to take flight and stay stable, even in poor weather and turbulence. As a pilot, I was taught that positive stability is the foundation of modern aircraft design. If you are flying along straight and level and turbulence buffets your craft, the plane is designed to get back into straight and level flight without pilot intervention. In fact, trying to overcontrol the aircraft can be dangerous.
If the aircraft is designed correctly, the act of piloting requires less effort. Then your primary job becomes to chart the course, check the waypoints, monitor the fuel, and guard against emergencies, which, if you've done everything else you're supposed to do (annual maintenance, diligence of preflight checklists, and paying attention to key indicators like fuel levels), will be rare to nonexistent. When conditions are right, you can simply take in the beauty of the flight itself, realizing that you are enjoying one of mankind's most impressive engineering achievements.
Of course, things don't always go so well that the aircraft will simply take care of itself without skilled and practiced intervention. Weather changes suddenly, equipment malfunctions, mistakes are made. We must be prepared and vigilant. We must act when conditions warrant action.
Leaders are like pilots. They are responsible for a lot, but they can't do their jobs safely entirely by themselves. They depend on help from others and are aided by systems that keep them as safe as possible while allowing them to get where they are going.
Strong values provide this positive stability to our organizations.
While we are doing all the frontline work of the business, the core culture is nurtured and maintained somewhat routinely like any ingrained habit. It's not really 'that' easy, but running an organization becomes a whole lot harder when we don't know how to judge ourselves in any given situation or understand what makes our company unique and what our path is. Values and guiding principles gently push us back on course when the difficult clients or hard economic times attempt to divert us from our mission.
In the chapters that make up part 1, we will go beyond the core company values I shared above to dive into our most precious 'leadership' values, those that we most aspire to in order to become the best leaders we can and to foster the growth of joyful leaders within our team. You might think, 'Really? In addition to the core values, there are also leadership values?' Yes, much like the difference between being a member of a family versus being a parent in that family, the values of an organization and its members and the values of leaders are not one and the same. We'll explore what it means to lead an organization and take on the awesome responsibility of guiding, supporting, and protecting those around you.
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.