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Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    Developing Leadership Perspective: Fact vs. Reality

    Business People Analyzing Statistics Financial ConceptThere’s an old fable about three blind men who touched an elephant to find out what it was like. One man touched the leg and declared that the elephant was like a tree trunk. Another touched the elephant’s tail and declared that it was like a snake. The third man touched its side and declared that it was like a wall. A disagreement ensued as they each defended their perspective on the animal. After all, they knew what they felt.

    Were each of them right? Yes, and no. They each experienced a part of the elephant, but none experienced the whole. They each described the elephant from their perspective, but due to limitations in their vision and space, none of them could see it in its entirety. Only when they began to compare notes, and to walk around the elephant feeling different parts of it, could they begin to piece together a view of the entire animal. They had to experience it from different angles. Later, a sighted man came along and immediately saw the entire elephant. He quickly walked around the animal, sized it up and fully described it to the men. Their facts were not the same as reality.

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    Business Values Add Value

    A recent interview with Jack Dorsey, the billionaire founder of two well-known tech companies, Twitter and Square, in the November 5, 2012 issue of Forbes, provided insight into one of the keys to his success as an entrepreneur. Twitter has 500 million members communicating across the globe.  Square has changed the way 2 million businesses handle financial transactions, and Starbucks is expected to exclusively use that technology in their U.S. stores in the near future. At Square’s San Francisco headquarters, employees work at rows of desks in open spaces, or at tall tables; and conference rooms are glass enclosed. Dorsey spends 90% of his time with people who don’t report to him, and does a lot of his work at these tall tables in an open space so that he’s easily approachable. He also requires that at any meeting where more than two people are present, one of the attendees must take notes and send them to all the employees. This open style of communication and interaction is important to Dorsey because he believes in serendipity; that his team learns just by spending more time around each other. This has become a core business value for his companies, and drives how they operate.

    Sign with the word VALUES highlighted over many other wordsCore Values

    Bruce Gibney and Ken Howery identify core values as one of Four Things to Get Right When Starting A Company in the May 9, 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review. In particular, they state that when teams develop, they must quickly decide how they want to do business, because culture seems to become entrenched after about 24 employees are hired.  Coherent and clearly communicated business values improve the quality, efficiency and consistency of decisions throughout the organization. Founders, leaders and employees are able to use them as a basis for ensuring alignment and proper direction when considering different courses of action.


    For new and developing businesses, values are best developed up front along with the business concept and processes. They should be the guiding force, not the lagging afterthought that explains how they do business. Not only is this important for the individual entrepreneur who may be the sole employee (solopreneurs), but as the business grows, that entrepreneur must be able to clearly identify and communicate core business values when interviewing prospective employees, and establishing business processes and organizational norms. They are communicated to others through marketing and branding strategies, policy decisions, workplace norms and customer interactions.

    The process of identifying and developing core business values requires thoughtful discussion among the founding leaders of a growing business at each step of the process.  Solopreneurs might have these discussions with a business coach or consultant. The point is to think through all aspects of the business process and how the business promise will be fulfilled and aligned with the business values. They are typically very personal based on the priorities and preferences of the individual leaders.

    Such discussions may be ongoing as the business evolves and grows. Throughout the process of adding more employees, customers and stakeholders, these values are communicated through behaviors and decisions.  Just as leaders are at the core of establishing business values, employees are at the core of fulfilling the promise of the business values. Thus it’s important to engage them in understanding how their behavior contributes to and support values.

    Start the Discussion

    Consider the following questions.

    • How will my product provide value to my customers?
    • What are my quality standards and how will I ensure that they are reinforced?
    • What criteria will I use when deciding who to collaborate with or to do business with?
    • How do I want to serve my customers? How do I want them to remember me?
    • How and what should my employees communicate with one another, and how do we establish our work processes and environment to support that?
    • What are our financial resources and options?
    • What are my leadership styles and attributes, and how will I make sure that my employees are motivated and engaged?

    Gibney and Howery cite Facebook’s “focus on impact” as an example of explicit business values or principles guiding a company in a more successful direction. Facebook’s 5 core principles are Focus on Impact, Move Fast, Be Bold, Be Open, Build Social Value. Theirs is almost more of a social mission than a business focused on revenue.

    Whether you lead a business, non-profit organization, work team, volunteer organization, or your family, take the time to think through your core values. Define and discuss them with your stakeholders, and ensure alignment in all your decisions.  As you collaborate with others, ensure that they share similar values. Clearly defined, shared values are a critical part of your personal and professional success.

    Read the Forbes article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/10/17/jack-dorsey-the-leadership-secrets-of-twitter-and-square/

    Read the HBR article at http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/05/four_things_to_get_right_when.html

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