I had an absolutely full-on, hands-down, strobing-disco-lights, 21-gun-salute, ‘aha’ moment a few months ago when a client I have worked closely with for a few years now (let’s call him BH22) asked me to help him write a values statement for his business.
The brief was well, brief. BH22 gave me an outline of the sort of thing he was after via a couple of sentences in an email, with a view to it underpinning future recruitment exercises. Oh and while you’re at it, make it fun and easy to read!
So what to do when the brief is as lycra thin as Borat in a mankini? Firstly, I had to bring out that little guy that lives deep inside me somewhere called self-belief. Intellectually, I know that I have the talents and abilities to do what I do, but bugger it if my fear of not meeting expectations doesn’t raise its ugly head when it’s not bloody invited. Self-doubt is the gate crasher of creative talent, and it probably drinks light beer. Don’t be afraid to tell it to piss off and go home.
So I knew I had to get writing, but what did I have in my arsenal? (Ooh, I just love starting a sentence with a conjunction. Take THAT Mrs Taylor. Arse is in there too.) I have a bit of a talent, and it takes the form of being able to get into people’s heads and prise the information I need out of them. My mother always said I should have been a barrister due to my skills in verbal interrogation. (Read that as: I was a belligerent little shite.) This skill comes in really handy when I want to write authentically from someone else’s personal perspective and from the perspective of their brand.
Anyway, back to what I was talking about. The rationale behind writing your own values statement alone is really worth exploring if you’re running your own show or about to set foot into the big old world of flying solo. And to be honest (conjunction again Mrs T), this is a great philosophy to underpin your work (and your life for that matter), no matter how big or small your endeavours.
Cue light bulb. This is where it started to seriously hit home for me. It was no coincidence that I was being asked to write about this. The values I chose to write about for my client, were really a statement of my own values. I wrote those one thousand, one hundred and eighteen words like butter melting over hot toast. The words, the messages, the story just spilled onto the page. It had become intensely personal. Not only that, but as it turned out, the values I chose to write about were exactly those that BH22 would have chosen. To this day, it has been my favourite piece to write.
You may be wondering why did BH22 want a values statement to underpin recruitment exercises? Somewhat turning traditional bureaucratic recruitment practices on their head, he firstly looks to recruit an attitude, a work ethic, and a set of values. The pieces of paper are ok, and the job history is considered, but the core beliefs of a person--and how those play out through their work--are fundamentally what he looks for. Call it recruitment based on an element of gut instinct if you like. How you can put that instinct onto paper is to write a statement of your values. In BH22’s words (from a biographical chapter I wrote about him in Kizzi Nkwocha’s 2015 book The Entrepreneur:
“Your values should be reflected in your business, but your business shouldn’t change you or your core beliefs.... It’s really important to be clear on your values, because recruiting staff with the right attitude, and who share the same values, can be a game changer. To me, the right attitude is more important than whether you have the actual skills for a specific job. When you find the people that are a good fit with your values, invest in them. If you stick to your values, you attract people with the same core beliefs. If employees have the same values, then they are more likely to support your vision for the business.”
There are some red-hot tips here from BH22 to take home and think about. (And yes, I really did use a four-dot ellipsis back there.) Let me put them in a doggy bag (you won’t be putting these in the fridge until they go off):
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get it down on paper. Don’t underestimate the importance of doing this. If you know what you’re looking for in your relationships and interactions, identifying and finding the people who are the right fit for your business will become so much easier.
If you’re still not convinced that writing a values statement and letting everyone know about it is a bloody good idea, ask yourself (as I often have) “what would Oprah do”? Jenna Goudreau writing for Forbes puts it like this when discussing the reasons she is one of the world’s most influential women, “Oprah’s personal values and those that she’s injected into each arm of her business represent the foundation of her success.” In Oprah’s own words, “Always take a stand for yourself, your values. You’re defined by what you stand for.”
As for the values that define me, my top 10 would have to be these. Integrity. Gratitude. Passion. Purpose. Innovation. Creativity. Humour. Tenacity. Intuition. Candor. Read about my values here.
Want to see what BH22 values? Check it out here.
Fiona waxes lyrical about whatever takes her fancy. Some stories, some tips, call it a blog if you like.