Are Values Useless for a NonProfit? - TurnAround Executive Coaching


Does Your NonProfit Support Putin’s War?

Possibly, if you buy Ben and Jerry’s, Lifebuoy Soap, Vaseline, Axe, Dove, Pellegrino, Cheerios, or others of the 600 brands of Nestle or Unilever. They are among the 47 global companies that never left Russia after the invasion started. What were they thinking?

In Scaling Up, we like to say that agencies hire for skills but fire for values. Core values often help staff members to do the right thing when their supervisor is not there. And they almost always prevent your staff from doing the wrong thing when you’re not there. Sadly, most companies have never defined their core values or have created core values that exist only for the marketing department.

Let’s look at core values that didn’t work. Sears valued ‘honesty’. Really? Was JC Penney lying all these years and Sears was the only honest one? This core value took less than 2 minutes to create. Cushman and Wakefield are the real estate appraisers in New York with ‘A culture where everyone belongs’. It apparently included real estate appraisals that Donald Trump liked too! And what about Unilever with  ‘honesty, integrity and openness’? Or Nestle with ‘full legal compliance, honesty, fair dealings, integrity, and respect’? They’re very convenient values if you want to work with Putin in Russia. Just do it with honesty!

Core Values matter

Core Values guide staffing decisions, corporate culture, and client choices. They have 3 qualities. They need to be specific phrases, balanced between external core values for customer experience and internal core values for the staff, and measured with actions to live by. Core values need to have a verb. The favorite core values of companies that are meaningless typically are nouns by themselves – Honesty, Integrity, Leadership.

Southwest Airlines ‘Act like an owner’ gives a lot of more information about the company expectations. It would be easy to add some actions to live by to that core value. I would expect that every gate agent can give a $50 voucher when the company makes an error. That’s what an owner can do.

Core Values matter

What about nonprofit core values? Nonprofits are service based and prefer internal core values. We want to offend no one and serve all. But in the poisonous atmosphere developing in the USA, core values can attract more than they repel. People want the truth and the clients you want to serve will trust you more if your core values are plain and meaningful.

What are the internal core values that are critical to your nonprofit culture? Have you fired a staff member for violating them? One nonprofit has ‘Children are why we’re here’. Powerful phrase. That leads so easily to actions to live by. One action could be that staff have to create quality activities instead of TV and a cookie. Another action to live by can be that cell phones are never used in class. Behaviors to live by are easy to create for that core value.

Core Values matter

And then we get to external core values. Two of my core values are external and they are to embrace diversity in my coaching and empower outsider directors. The world is unsettled on these values such as LGBTQIA, ethnicity, women’s right to choose, and critical theory. I choose to have external core values.  I’m gay, I don’t believe there are any illegal people, I support women, and use critical theory. In one sentence I either drew you closer or pushed you further away. In both cases, you trust me more that I tell the truth.

Now I can tell you my two internal core values and they’re more believable. The first is Stay Fair – I only continue contracts where I add value. And the 2nd is Lifetime Learning. I commit to reading a book a week on average so that I’m prepared for your unique leadership situation.

Core values are not simple and usually get revised several times. I’m in coaching but my core values wouldn’t be appropriate in a fire department. If you needed rescue from your burning house, could I refuse to help if you voted for Trump?

Core Values matter

There’s a lot of fake news going on in the world. We need to hear the truth, Core values are your truth. They define how you put your staff team together, how you work together, and how you relate to partners and clients.

If this makes sense to you, check my website for resources and ways to grow your agency and increase your impact. I use the TurnAround Performance Platform. Contact me today to take another step!

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