There’s a whole lot of changing going on! I’m 61 years old and that means I was born in 1952. I think they’re starting to dig up artifacts from that era (especially if you were to ask my 29-year-old daughter and my 26-year-old son). That’s right, I’m a Baby Boomer.
Throughout the nonprofit world Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y leaders are now assuming positions of president and CEO; some very different ways of expressing values are arriving with these younger leaders.
One of the cultural shifts occurring in the workplace has very much to do with how we express our vision, mission, and values. Now I’ve never been one to memorize stuff. I find the practice of repeating things over and over very tedious. Consequently, were you to ask me what our vision, mission, and values were, I’d have to look at the nicely framed poster on the wall of my office. But don’t be misled, my lack of memorization in no way means I haven’t internalized all of these critical statements. I’m a very visual person, so naturally I need visual prompting to recite what our company holds so dear. My wallet is so filled with fishing licenses from 5 or 6 states that the last thing I want is a laminated card with all of the words from my poster sticking out of my back pocket. So I have strategically placed framed versions of our vision, mission, and values throughout our offices.
Here’s what our statements say:
At Douglas Shaw & Associates, we dream of becoming recognized thought-leaders in our industry, delivering results and providing the highest level of service within trusting relationships with our clients and co-workers.
At Douglas Shaw & Associates, our mission is to provide our clients with excellent communications, marketing, consulting, and fundraising services to enable them to achieve their mission, and to provide meaningful work for our staff.
At Douglas Shaw & Associates, we find our ultimate direction in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. We value:
• Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our clients and co-workers
• Servant leadership and an attitude of service among all staff
• Striving for excellence, both individually and as a team
• Honesty, integrity, and respect in all our dealings with clients and co-workers
• Innovation and teamwork, as a means to providing excellent service and continued growth
• Profitability, as an indicator of good stewardship and a means to sustaining our business
• Diversity among our clients and staff
• Fun, humor, and a joyful work environment
On its face, this is pretty good stuff! But this is where the rubber meets the road… do we apply these critical statements in our behavior, deliberations, and policies? Can we be trusted to live out what we have so boldly proclaimed and displayed? Only those we serve can answer these questions.
As I’m certain you’ve noticed, our values are both internally and externally focused. It is our desire to live our core values within our firm as well as in the marketplace. Yes, we exist to accomplish our vision and mission; but without our values we couldn’t recruit and retain the top talent of the industry. Our values are the glue that holds our work community together. If they are truly lived out on a daily basis, they provide a sense of equity, fairness, and well-being within our work community. When we lag in our commitment through actions that are inconsistent with our values we create an environment of mistrust and hypocrisy, ultimately undermining our very reason for existence.
Consistency is a trust-builder. When people trust each other, we are free to be vulnerable, receive criticism, and take the greater calculated risks that spawn innovation. When we trust each other we minimize negativity and foster a community that loves, forgives, and creates.
Here’s the sticky part. We will always make mistakes by violating our values, especially as leaders. When we do this, our work community pauses, holds it breath, and waits to see what we will do.
I’ve learned a few things about the mistakes I’ve made over the years. First, I am the one who makes the biggest mistakes in our company. So it follows that I am the one who must be proactive in acknowledging the mess I’ve made, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. If I, as the CEO and Chairman of the Board, can do this, then anyone in our work community can feel the freedom to do the same.
This same culture applies in the service of our clients. Our core values apply to them as well. I’m always reminded of God’s infinite grace whenever I take responsibility for a mistake our agency has made, own the problem, make it right, and ask forgiveness. After all, we were all bought at a great price.