Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Values and the Leader

Last week I spent several hours with a person who is feeling very frustrated. He was running a very successful business but, in February last year, two key customers started experiencing difficulties - suddenly revenues dropped significantly. Initially he thought this was a minor hiccup but then the global financial crisis hit and, almost over night, other of his customers were also affected.

My friend has a value set which believes that you should look after the people who work for you and, when this issue first erupted, he had 14 people employed. After a few weeks he realised that, in the short term, revenues were not going to grow back to even close to where they had been (and forget profitability!) so he sat with his people, gave them the facts, and asked for suggestions as to the way forward. He made it very clear that dismissals were an option but not one that he wanted to take. A range of solutions were suggested and implemented and no-one was laid off.

Unfortunately things haven't yet improved. Customers are buying the bare minimums they need and crunch time has come. He is grappling with taking actions that will ensure his survival but which will hurt people about whom he cares and who have given him years of service. How can he reconcile his concern for his family with concern for his employees - all of whom he also considers to be friends.

Sometimes leaders are confronted by situations which challenge their values. They find that values which they thought were very simple are actually conflicting - as is the case with my friend. Like many people I know, my friend had never before confronted the question of his core values - he simply took them as granted and thought that everything would work out ok.

Right now we're going through the exercise of really understanding and enunciating both "what are the values?" and "what does this mean in practical everyday behaviours?"

When did you last really think about your values and how they impact on behaviour whether it is at work, in the home, or in your social life? What happens when there's a clash and survival becomes an issue?

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com/

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