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5 Things a Set of Values Can Do For a Business

You may have heard of the legendary basketball player and coach John Wooden. He died in 2010, just a few months short of his 100th birthday.

He was most famous as the Head Coach of Basketball at UCLA – the University of California, Los Angeles and set many records during his time as their coach.

One of his famous quotes is: “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

The quote reminded me of a story I heard about Wooden. Apparently he seldom made visits to view prospective players, however, he did make the occasional exception such as the time he went to watch an extremely talented prospect who had great potential and would be a great asset to his team.

Wooden had every intention of offering the player a scholarship that evening. In fact, all the necessary paperwork had been drawn up and he had it with him in readiness. But, when he left the prospect’s house later that evening, the offer of a scholarship was still in his pocket unsigned.

What had happened to change Wooden’s mind? His decision had nothing whatsoever to do with basketball. Undoubtedly, the prospect was a great player. But, as Wooden watched the young player interact with his mother, he was troubled by what he saw as a distinct lack of respect.

He surmised that a young man who spoke disrespectfully to his mother probably wouldn’t respect the coach or his teammates either. That was enough to keep Wooden from offering him a scholarship and a place on the team.

On recounting the story some time later, Wooden said that he had often passed on exceptional talent if the player lacked good values. “What I have found is, just because the talent is there doesn’t mean you’re going to be able, as a coach, to bring it out of them,” he said. “But if their values are there – the right ones – you can bring the best out of them every time.”

This story is a great illustration of an important teamwork concept within a business: Values – those guiding principles that influence and guide behaviour within your business and determine the foundation of your team.

When the members of a team are guided by such values as integrity, respect, excellence and other such positive attributes, the foundations of the team are strong. Their shared values provide stability for the business to build upon.

Here’s 5 things a strong set of values can do for any business:

  1. Values are like glue. They hold an organisation together
  2. Values are like a ruler. They set the standard for a team’s performance
  3. Values are like a compass. The give direction and guidance
  4. Values are like a magnet. They attract other like-minded people
  5. Values provide an identity. They define and identify the team

Of course, it’s easy to talk about values in a generic sense. But it takes a bit more time and effort to identify the specific principles and values that you want your business and your team to live by, and even more discipline to communicate them.

And if you are a sole trader, you can still have an articulated set of values that you live by and is the basis upon which you operate your business.

I’ll come back to looking at values again in future blogs, but for now, my suggestion is take half a day away from the business and work on the core values that are important to you and that you live by and would therefore be central to how you want to run your business.

And then articulate them to colleagues, team members, customers, suppliers and so on. You’ll be amazed the impact a set of core values can have to a business.