“It’s just business” is a phrase I have heard many people use in my professional career. For me, this phrase has become a red flag. In my experience, more often than not the individual using this phrase is signaling their choice to separate personal and professional values, a practice I believe has a broad and negative impact.
The good news is that there is a seemingly endless list of positive values that individuals demonstrate most comfortably in their personal lives. These include, but are certainly not limited to, authenticity, compassion, honesty, kindness, service, and trust. When asked, most people will say they live their values outside the confines of familiar territory. The bad news is that too often human behavior tells another story.
Too many of us make very different choices when in unfamiliar surroundings or when dealing with unfamiliar people. To maintain self-esteem, we become good at rationalization. One bad decision leads to another and soon we find that our actions contradict our values. I do not believe that the majority of bad decisions start with people who wanted to do evil, as the growing number of white-collar crimes might suggest. Instead, I believe many of these individuals merely started down the slippery slope of believing “it’s just business.”
We need more among us to act in a clear and consistent manner so that our values are never in question because they are apparent in all that we do. When our values are what get us out of bed in the morning and what help us sleep at night, everything about what we do, the people we connect to, and our relationship with ourselves will change. I have worked with many clients who have chosen to let their values lead their actions, and their results show it. To accomplish this level of alignment, there are several choices we must make.
First, we need to take time to consciously reflect on and become clear about the values that hold the most importance to us.
Second, we need to become far more comfortable talking about and displaying our values so they are clear to others. I recommend actively talking to others about our values—as opposed to keeping them to ourselves—as a way of reinforcing the important foundation our values play in all that we do. The unconventional practice of beginning each task, project, conversation, or transaction by first checking in with our values will continually raise the bar at all the right times.
Many notable and successful organizations have made the visibility of their values a top priority. Whole Foods prominently posts their values in each store. Zappos displays them on delivery packages. In business, we need to be sure that our values are not only prominently displayed on the wall, but that they are also included on the agenda—every single day.
Third, we need to practice carrying out our values in our day-to-day lives and to reinforce that behavior in others when we see it.
Our values must form the foundation of everything that we do in order for us to be effective and successful both personally and in business. When we are strongly rooted in our values, and when we make that commitment apparent to others, our positive impact in the world multiplies. When it becomes conventional for businesses and individuals to both more visibly talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to their values, we’ll all be better off.
This is the fifth of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements: