Labor Day put me in mind of my Dad. In October he’ll be gone three years.
I find myself telling a lot of stories about him lately as a way to teach important leadership competencies to clients; especially the competency of shaping team culture by sharing personal values. At Columbia Business School they call this having a leadership credo statement.
My Dad would find the fact that I use him to teach a Business School concept hilarious.
Unlike the other kid’s Dads on my block, he never attended a leadership development workshop or had a 360 review.
My Dad was blue collar.
He came home from work every day of his life smelling like a combination of sweat, dry wall dust, cigarettes, and mints.
But whether he knew it or not, he had a credo statement.
Your Credo = Value Based Leadership
He unknowingly shared his credo with me the first time he took me with him on a repair job. Mrs. Greenblatt had a big hole in her living room ceiling and my Dad was going to fix it.
I was so excited to be going I’d barely slept the night before.
When we get to her house Dad puts pink shower caps on his feet and makes me do the same. “Wow,” I think. “Going to work is fun. You get to dress up like a clown!”
The next thing he does is unroll the biggest piece of plastic I’d ever seen onto her living room carpet. Then we carry in all of his (heavy) tools.
At the end of the day we carry his (heavy) tools back out to the truck, roll up the plastic, take off our clown shoes and drive home.
The next day I hop in the van. “Where are we going today?” I ask. “Back to the Greenblatts” he says.
When we get there he puts the shower caps back on his feet, rolls out the plastic and we carry all the same HEAVY equipment back into the house.
I look up at him and say: “Daddy why didn’t we just leave all of this stuff here if you knew we were going to be coming back? Seems like a lot of extra work for nothing.”
Leave It Nicer Than You Found It
I’ll never forget the look on his face. He replies:
Carol, Mrs. Greenblatt didn’t just hire us to patch a hole in her ceiling. She hired us to leave her house nicer than we found it. That means every day, not just at the end of the job when we get paid.
Leave it nicer than you found it. That was my Dad’s credo.
Your Credo Shares Your Values
I’d seen my Dad pick up litter from the sidewalk when we went to the park. I’d wondered why he shoveled our neighbor’s driveway without being asked. I’d watched him cheer up my Mom with a stupid joke and a silly voice after she’d had a hard day.
I couldn’t have articulated it then, but that was the day I understood something new and important about my Dad.
Today what I know is that he did these things because one of his core values was being of service to others.
Be Purposeful. Share Your Credo.
My Dad hadn’t planned on telling me a ‘personal credo statement’. He simply used my question as a way to teach me something about life that was important to him.
And his values shaped mine.
As a leader, your values will shape your team’s culture. Don’t leave that to chance.
Deliberately and purposely sharing your values will create psychological safety with your team and nurture an environment were trust and engagement can flourish.
How Do I Share My Values?
Now. You might be thinking: That’s all find and good Carol, but how do I share my values without sounding pedantic?
The easiest way to share your personal values is to tell a story about a time in your life when that value got formed.
By way of example, I’ve just shared with you the story of the day my value of being of service took shape.
When Do I Share My Story?
Once you craft your personal values story, you’ll want to look for a good time to tell it. Here are some ideas:
A Credo story works very well during new hire training, or, when assembling a new project team.
The start of a new job or project is exactly the moment individuals crave information about their leader’s style and philosophy.
Yearly Town Hall Meeting
Many leaders are called upon to summarize the year’s achievements at annual general meetings. This is the perfect time to link your personal values with the company’s values.
The Announcement of a New Initiative or Change
Each time your organization goes through a big change is a strategic time to share your values story.
Giving voice to the anxiety people feel during times of change—by sharing how you’ve coped with change in your own life—can help accelerate people’s acceptance of the change.
What story can you tell that highlights one of these qualities?
- Letting go
Is someone on your team struggling with something you’ve struggled with too? You can use your credo story as a coaching tool to help them along.
Another moment to tell your values story is when you engage a new vendor or partner.
The beginning of any new business relationship is a smart time to set expectations with each other. Your expectations will likely be driven by your belief system. Sharing your values story at the outset can eliminate miscommunication later on.
Strategy + Leadership = Credo
William G. Pietersen, author, and professor at Columbia University has written that:
The Leadership Credo can be the crucial point at which strategy and leadership intersect. If the Credo is clear and simple, and if you harness the power of images and stories to communicate its message to those with whom you work, it can play an important role in keeping you and your organization on track.
My Dad may not have known what Professor Pietersen meant by strategy and leadership intersecting, but he certainly would have gotten behind the idea that it is important to keep work on track.
You should too.