On Monday night I went out for a nice meal at a gastro pub in a country village. I’d not been there before and I was impressed. Nice atmosphere, tasty wines, delicious food, all was going really well until it came to desert.
I plumped for the blackberry and apple crumble as a fitting winter warmer. It came out, steaming stewed fruit and a crumble top circled in custard. I attacked it with gusto, but two mouthfuls in, something wasn’t quite right. On closer inspection of the larger pieces of crumble it was clear the crumble topping was in fact an uncooked, crushed digestive biscuit.
When I asked the waitress about it she looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. It was clear she knew something was amiss. I declined her offer of a different desert.
Looking back on it there had been a number of items they’d had to tell us they’d run out of during the course of the evening. I can only surmise that not wanting to do this again, the chef had decided to fudge a solution instead. As a consequence, what had been shaping up to be a great evening left me feeling slightly disappointed. An outcome that could have been avoided had they just stuck with their honest approach and told me the crumble too wasn’t available.
Lewis Hamilton is a bit like marmite, people either love him or hate him. I have to confess I’m a fan. I admire his focus and drive. I admire his self-belief. He is particularly confident of his abilities in the wet. He believes he can get more out of the car in tricky conditions than anyone else and thus he’s able to push himself to the limit and get the results. After his recent race victory in Singapore he said in the post-race interview “I didn’t pray for a miracle or for anything to happen but when it rained I thought ‘this is it, I can win from fifth.’” I admire that self-belief. It’s something we think is key to success in all walks of life.
So I was disappointed to see, revealed in the recent passion papers, that he’d avoided paying taxes on his private jet purchase. He’s a guy who gets paid really well to do something, that, yes he works hard at, but also something he loves. He’s still a great racing driver, but for some fans I’m sure this will have tarnished his image and personal brand.
In both of these cases there is an issue of values at play. Whenever we work with our clients to develop their business strategy, one of the things we put right at the centre of the development of their strategy is the identification of their core values and what those values mean in the context of what the business and its employees will do and not do on a day to day basis. We believe consistent adherence to a strong set of values are critical to the success of a business. This is because customers like consistency. They like to know where they are and what to expect from you or your business. They like to know they will experience the same levels of service time and time again and we believe having strong business values is core to maintaining this in a service based business. In both the instance of the pub and Lewis Hamilton, by not maintaining consistently high values, their reputation has potentially been damaged.
I also follow premiership rugby team Harlequins. They’ve recently let go of their winger Marlande Yarde. He’s an international level winger who’s scored 8 tries in 13 appearances for England and 27 tries in 81 appearances for Harlequins. The Harlequins director of rugby explained the decision like this:
“He’s played really well for us this year, but the decision for Harlequins to allow Marland to speak to Sale was made because I felt it was in the best interest of the club.
I’m building a positive environment and culture at Harlequins, on and off the field, which I believe will ultimately allow us to challenge for honours.”
Yarde was let go on the basis that he’d missed training for no good reason one too many times and they decided he was not a good cultural fit. He wasn’t demonstrating the values central to the team and their coach recognised that despite all of his obvious talents, this values clash had the potential to undermine the success of the whole team. One bad apple can cause widespread rot.
I was working with a client last week where they realised exactly the same thing. They’d been talking about a couple of staff members who they felt had had a negative influence on other members of their team and were dragging down their business performance as a whole – in fact they described them as poisonous they had been so impactful. When we started doing the values exercise and talking about the importance of the team sharing values the penny dropped for them. They realised the major issue with these members of their team was that they in no way shared the values that they’d just identified as being core to the business. They didn’t fit, and as a consequence they were undermining the performance of others as well and therefore of the business itself.
This is why values are so fundamental in business. They provide the basis for the brand consistency you’re looking to deliver to your clients. If you can ensure your team adhere to your business values, then your customers are far more likely to have a consistent experience, and therefore be consistently satisfied when engaging with your business. Similarly if you have a team that is recruited with an alignment of values in mind, you are far more likely to all be pulling in the same direction. When a clash of values comes in, that is where conflict and poor performance can start to arise.
To what extent are you clear on your business values? And to what extent are they honoured in all you and your team do? Is this an area for reflection? If so I encourage you to put some time aside to do so.
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All the best