Lots of business books and leadership books talk about the importance of values. For many years, I kind of gave lip-service to the importance of values but did not really know how to implement them.
After close to a decade, I noticed that the people I genuinely enjoy working with, who are most productive and successful in their jobs, and who contribute to a company I’m proud of being a part of have three qualities: being agreeable, conscientious, and empathetic. (In contrast all the people I have had trouble with – as customers, employees, or suppliers – are disagreeable, entitled and demanding). Yuck.
Darlo’s values are well known among our team. We strive to uphold the values of being Agreeable, Conscientious and Empathetic. While these are probably not the values you’d find among a lot of corporations, instead, you’d find something like ‘excellence’, ‘the pursuit of quality’ and the like, the values we hold are effective for us. We may not be the epitome of capitalistic pursuit; however, these values have been selected for many a reason.
In the past, in an earlier iteration of Darlo as a values-free vacuum organization, I thought that it would be great to have a deep respect for individual differences, and, importantly, try not to impose any particular values on to people working with us. What ended up happening is that the more domineering personalities would dictate the actions and behaviours of the team, start to lay down ground rules, and radically alter the creative culture I aspired to have. Moreover, I made many a poor decisions and worked with staff, suppliers. and clients that were unhappy people and were never going to be happy with us.
In reflecting on this over time, I noticed a pattern of values that align internally and externally to the company. I also began to value my own values and beliefs about the world, and decided to set the company in that direction (irrespective of the cost).
As such, I selected values that I personally hold dear, and that I thought would create a great degree of harmony and productivity. Agreeableness is often found commonly among women (and that’s okay), but I also see it is as an important value found in many Asian businesses. Being agreeable is not saying ‘yes’ to everything, it is not being happy all the time, and it is not not setting boundaries or accepting reasonable behaviour. What it is in the context of Darlo is being able to work together with other people, to value other people’s contributions, and particularly not being prone to argumentation. There are a lots of professions where arguments are important – law and politics, for instance. However, the ability to work with others and to support each other is paramount for us. Creativity is founded on safety.
Conscientiousness is also important. This means working hard, being committed to the team, and completing tasks in a timely manner. In my experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness are closely related. This is because people who just get on and do the work are less likely to sit around and moan and complain to others. Conscientious people are reliable too. They deliver on time, deliver what they promise to deliver, and most often deliver quality as a point of pride.
Finally, empathy was selected. Too many companies, in my view, are cut-throat, toxic and overly competitive. We see this sometimes with prospects who approach our company. It seems that they think they can say or do anything, provide unreasonable requests, dictate terms to us, and basically disrespect the organisation or our people. Needless to say our values transcend our team. It has been very common for members of our team to remind me that individuals, suppliers and prospects who don’t align well with our values, are not the types of people we work with. Living our values is important.
It’s taken close to a decade to figure out that values can make or break a company. I’ve experienced both.
The success of Darlo now is that our team has these values, are supportive of the mission, and really get along well with each other. The great thing is that whether we are hiring, qualifying a customer, communicating via social media, or completing a project, our values are the critical framework for decision making.
A source of pride for me is that people we hire – Darlovians – clearly hold these values – they come naturally and are not forced. When team members and colleagues share similar values, the world looks a like rosier, and working together is enjoyable and creative.
It makes all the hard work totally worth it.