Figuring Out What’s Really Important

It is really inspiring to see this whole new trend of companies really going out of their way to (re)evaluate their culture and value system from scratch. These are the companies that will have a tremendous advantage in the next stage because they are correcting the most crucial aspect of their company’s foundation, which impacts all other aspects of their business – human relations. The corporate values that they create together define how they interact with one another and the people they are connected to outside the company. Members of the team usually figure out these things as equal parts of a whole and invest a few days in the process.  Obviously it takes a special kind of leader to call a ‘time out’ to deal with this compelling issue that can really determine the fate of the company.

A great post about company values just went up on the Influencer section of Linkedin, The Power of Simplicity by Adam Bryant, a corner office columnist at the New York Times:

Robert LoCascio of LivePerson, shared the story of how he worked with his employees to boil his company’s values down to just two.

“I invited everyone into the process, and I provided context to the whole thing. I remember that I had an all-company call and said: ‘You know what? We’ve done amazing things. We went from $20 million to $100 million in five years. We should be very proud, and we should congratulate ourselves. And now we are going to move forward, and we need to design a different environment, a different company. So let’s acknowledge that we’re going to do that as a team, as a company.’

“And we ended up all going to Israel, where our research offices are. All the employees, more than 300 of them, came. I remember some people said: ‘I don’t want to come. This is dumb.’ There was a lot of friction. But everyone came, and we spent three days doing this cultural evaluation. We were in small groups of 20, and we sat in circles. The first day people were like: ‘I don’t know what’s going on here. This is kind of crazy. It’s a little Kumbaya-ish.’

What is interesting about this example is how people expressed their resistance out loud and thought it would be a complete waste of time. So the first thing to take note of is that humans resist change – any kind of change in our daily pattern. The first instinctive reaction is to resist. Why is that? Way deep down inside they know that such a process will change them. We are willing to change a lot of things in our lives – careers, homes, spouses, cars, etc. But the things we resist the most and put off until the very last minute are the changes that will require us to make adjustments in a place that we perceive as perfect the way it is –  inside ourselves. But the payoff is huge. A bunch of new LivePerson products were thought up by unlikely sources in the company. They also reached some very insightful conclusions that really prove how valuable this process can be:

We eventually got to two core values: be an owner and help others. Be an owner is about us being owners as individuals, driving the business, and helping others is about being reflective and understanding that we’re in a community here. We can’t be selfish.

You can see video footage of them sitting in circles and really connecting on a new level on the LivePerson culture page.

Another great example from Linkedin Influencers:

The CEO of OpenX Tim Cadogen’s 10 Lessons in Defining Your Company’s Values is really worth reading. He split the company up into groups of ten to discuss how they wanted to interact with the world. The first value is quite an incredible achievement and tells you everything you need to know about this company.

We are one: One team. No exceptions. We are a group of strong and diverse individuals unified by a clear common purpose.

By the way OpenX just raised $20 Million in Series D Funding To Fuel Growth. Just a coincidence? Not really. There is nothing random going on here. The companies that arrange themselves to operate in a harmonious manner within and outside the company will flourish in the coming years. Those still allowing the free reign of the human ego without taking others into account will not.

Now imagine taking this to another level. Imagine sitting down with your neighbors and deciding on the core values of your community. Then imagine taking all your conclusions to the national level and even forming a new global community based on the winning values.

Of course we will all resist this process for as long as we can. But once we get to that point where we sit down and define who we really are and the norms of behavior in our society together, there will be no turning back.

Let us all take these great examples from successful business leaders to heart and figure out how to apply this in every area of our lives. Let us all sit down together – even if it sounds a little Kumbaya-ish – and figure out what is really important to us and how we intend to get there. We are the only creatures on earth with the capacity to plan ahead so let us start using our collective powers to shape a better tomorrow.