First off, let me define for you what I mean by a “core value.” Simply a “core value” is a rule, a principle, a belief or a guideline (whatever, please call it what you will!) that guides, controls and directs you in all that you say, do and think during your day.
In this blog I want to share with you five key core values that I suggest you consider adopting in your daily life as a Middle and encourage your Teamers to do the same. Now I don’t what to be too “preachy” about all of this, but these are things that I have found and adopted over my five decades as a Middle and I suggest that you consider them. The key is displaying them; if you haven’t truly adopted them you can’t display them. Got it?
“The most powerful thing you can do (and it is very powerful) to change the world, is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people, reality, to something more positive… and begin to act accordingly.”
- Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization
Due unto Others
“Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.”
Again, I don’t want to get too “preachy” in presenting these core values to you and especially not on this one. My guess is that most of us heard about the Golden Rule in Sunday school or church. To “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is one of the foundational teachings of Christianity, or as some call it “the ethic of reciprocity.” But you may be wondering “what does this have to do with my work life” and my response is potentially everything!
One of my “hobbies” over the years has been to study religions other than Christianity and I’ve always tried to focus on the similarities and likenesses between them, rather than on the differences, and I found that this core value is present in lots of other religions. In fact, I find that no religion misses teaching this value entirely. For example, you find this value in Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Taoism and many other religions.
In Buddhism, this value is called Karma and is defined as the “actions of body, speech and mind that spring from mental intent and which bring about a consequence or result.” Hinduism also refers to this value as Karma and defines it as “a moral law of cause and effect that binds together the notions of free will and destiny.” My dictionary defines Karma as “action seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation.”
If all of this religious stuff is too much for you (and I understand), I suggest that you just try adopting the concept of “ethics” in your daily life. One of the definitions that I found for ethics is “the branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”
Again, call it what you want to – the Golden Rule, Karma, ethics or just doing the “right thing,” but I have always found it is best to treat the folks in your Organization (no matter how difficult) as you want them to treat you. You may find it difficult to adopt this core value in your daily work life, but I strongly encourage you to make every effort to make it a part of your daily work life.
“A daily routine built on good habits and disciplines separates the most successful among us from everyone else. The routine is exceptionally powerful.”
- Darren Hardy
Working in the “Flow” – The Only Way to Go!
“Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.”
- H. Jackson Brown Jr.
If you have ever participated in sports you most likely have experienced being in the “flow” or the “zone.” It was the best game, match, set or round of your life! Everything was right with the world! And it can be like that at work too for your Teamers if you help to empower them.
If you never had the chance to work on a project and get into the “flow” I have sincere sympathetic feelings for you. If you’ve ever worked in the “flow” you know that you have experienced the best possible working experience.
You must adopt this core value to always provide your Teamers with the best possible project definition and processes to enable them to have every opportunity to work in the flow. Make sure that you provide at least the following information and processes to your Teamers for all of the projects that you assign them.
- Clear directions and goals on what to do
- Real responsibility and authority to do the project
- A “panic button” to push if you or they get into trouble and immediate feedback on their efforts
- They are empowered to use their creativity and judgment
- The schedule for the project is aggressive but doable
- Balance between the challenges of the project and the Teamer’s skills
- Your Teamers should have no worry of failure
In other words, you must strive to provide everything needed to get your Teamers to work in the flow on their projects every day. Working in the flow creates a Teamer that loves what they are doing, actually often loses track of time while working on a project and typically wants to do more. If you can empower your Teamers to want to do the work because they want to, you can accomplish unlimited potential with your Teamers.
I strongly suggest that you read the book Creativity written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that describes the flow and the psychology of discovery, invention and creativity. It is an amazing read and provides many more insights and ideas on how to provide the environment and tools for your Teamers to achieve the flow and the associated creativity.
“Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’ And then do it.”
- Duane Michals
The “Client” Is Always First
“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
- Henry Ford
Note that I didn’t say the client is always right. They are not! But you and your Teamers must focus on providing “first class service and products that match or exceed expectations on a consistent basis” to your client to make them feel “first.”
Perhaps you are thinking that “I don’t have clients, we do this work because the boss tells us to.” You are wrong. Everyone has a client. Perhaps it is the future user of the software system or a potential job candidate that will use the benefits collateral that your team is developing. Internal or external, you and your Teamers have clients; you just need to look for them and recognize them.
I remember asking one of my Seniors (thank you Senior Ron) why he always called our clients “clients” rather than “customers” and he replied “seems to me that hookers have customers, I prefer to work with clients” – enough said! “Client” is a much more polished and respected term, which may also help make your client feel like they are number #1.
Always encourage your Teamers to deal directly with your clients. You can only be in one place at a time, so delegate and encourage direct client interactions with your Teamers to provide projects and services that match or exceed the work requested by the client on a consistent basis.
“So I think instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.”
- Scott Cook
Run It like Your Own Business
“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
- Zora Neale Hurston
I got this core value from two printers (my thanks to Teamers Vince and David) that I had the privilege of working with and learning from for several years, but first a bit of background.
I was the Middle for a marketing communications team that created marketing collateral for internal product marketing managers within the Organization. We were having problems with the “turnover” of the electronic publications from the graphic designers in my team to both internal and external printers that were outside of my team. Now the printing was managed by one of the “facilities managers” that took care of printing, purchasing, copiers etc. We seemed to have a communications problem with the printing specifications for the publication between the graphic designers and the printers. I reasoned that this was due to the fact that they were positioned in two different teams and perhaps “marching a bit to different drummers.”
I suggested to my Senior (who also led the manager of printing) that if the designers and printers were in the same team the problems would go away. The creation of the marketing collateral would be seamless, from writing and design all the way through to the actual printing. The next day the internal print shop and outside printing were moved under my direction (my thanks to Senior Bill).
My first step was to call a meeting of the graphic designers and the internal printers and explain the reorganization, and then challenge them to work more closely together, improve the turnover process and printing requirements for each publication, and talk with one another if they had questions to reduce cost and improve the overall quality of our print collateral. It worked like a charm.
But the real secret was that these two printers had previously worked for commercial printing businesses and their values and attitudes were much different from most folks that I had worked with. They often told me that they “wanted to run their internal shop like an outside business” rather than just a job. And they displayed this goal with their daily focus being on not wasting supplies, meeting and often exceeding their internal customer’s expectations and making sure that their internal charges and quality were competitive with outside printers to make their services attractive to their internal clients. I saw the benefits immediately and encouraged all of the rest of my Teamers to think like this. What a concept! This switch changed everyone’s attitude and direction and my leadership style. You win, your Teamers win and your Organization wins.
“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”
- Mark Caine
Provide Vision, Direction and Leadership Daily
“I continue to find my greatest pleasures, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”
- Thomas Edison
First, you must accept and realize that you are the most critical ingredient in becoming the leader of the team that you always wanted to lead. You must provide vision, direction and leadership to your Teamers each day. This can be very difficult for some Middles, since they are used to just hearing what their Senior or Organization wants done and just retelling their Teamers what they have heard. But really effective middle management requires that you translate and properly define the project and the overall goals for each project. This requires that you develop the abilities to provide vision, direction and leadership daily to your Teamers for each project they accept. Some definitions are needed.
My dictionary defines vision as “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be.” Vision is the ability to see what’s coming and be right most of the time, and help your Teamers respond and plan for upcoming, potentially unseen changes. Vision is also the ability to be flexible, sort of like a coach that sees problems with the team’s performance and changes the defense based upon what the other team is doing.
My dictionary defines direction as “control, guidance and supervision in overseeing during execution or performance.” But direction is also setting guidelines on what to do, what not to do, and always providing your Teamers with clear goals and expectations.
Leadership is always asking how can I help. How can we improve? What should we stop doing and what should we change or start doing? Leadership is also “coaching” that is giving daily, even hourly attention and guidance to your Teamers by talking with them to find out their problems, questions and concerns with their projects.
As mentioned, this can be a very difficult core value for some individuals to develop and adopt. You must develop the abilities and trust in yourself to translate the goals and expectations that come from your Senior and your Organization so that your Teamers can truly know what to do and what is expected of them. You are the only person that can do this.
“To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world”
- Ebony Mikle