Values, Inc. (Hardcover)
Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ben leans in and says in a hushed voice, “I once overheard him saying his favorite vacations are excursions so dangerous that someone could die.” He rises back up, smirking.
“Really?” Lisa says. “The CEO actually said that?”
Ben nods slowly, biting his lip. “Anyway, read this and come by my desk to sign an acknowledgment form before the end of the day.” He drops a small booklet on her desk before walking away, disappearing into the vast field of workstations.
Lisa turns back to face her new workstation, a bay of three monitors on her horizon. She picks up the booklet, “Code of Ethics.” She flips through several pages, finally settling on the section with the subheading “Values.” She begins to read.
We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance do not belong here.
We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot do something, then we won’t do it.
We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another . . . and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.
We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we really can be.
Wow, she thinks, this is great! I’ve never seen a company this serious about values.
“Hey, I’m Dave. You’re new here, right?” She turns toward the voice behind her. A stout man holds out his hand. She shakes it.
“Yeah, it’s my first day.”
“Cool. Well, don’t let that stuff psych you out,” he says, pointing to the page she was just reading. “The only part they really take seriously is Excellence. Have you heard about the performance reviews here?”
Lisa shakes her head.
He snorts. “It’s called ‘Rank and Yank.’ It’s not just your boss that reviews you; your teammates rate you as well. You’re rated on a scale from one to five with one being the top performers. Each department is required to fire fifteen percent of all the fives on the team every year, even if they’re decent employees. It’s pretty brutal, actually. But I was a one my first year and got a five-million dollar bonus. Not a bad gig for the winners, huh?”
He watches her expression, looking for a sign of approval. After a moment of silence, he continues, “Anyway, there’s only one thing we all want here: money. All the executives openly admit that’s their biggest goal too. If you’re willing to do anything, you can get filthy rich in this place. So, a word to the wise: Watch your back— there’s no such thing as friends here. It’s every man for himself.” Dave walks away.
That was strange, she thinks.
After Lisa finishes reading the booklet, she sets out to find Ben, her supervisor. When she finds his office, he notices her approaching his desk. “Did you finish it? Boring stuff, right?” He chuckles. “Here’s the acknowledgment form.” He slides it across his desk. “Sign this, work hard to impress us, and you’ll get everything you ever dreamed of. Trust me, this company is going places.”
He holds out a pen and smiles.
“Welcome to Enron.”
Although the characters and dialogue in that story are fictional, the facts are not. The company’s Code of Ethics, the aggressive performance reviews with mandatory 15 percent firings, the widespread and unabashed lust for money, the life-endangering adventures— all of them are true. It was CEO Jeffrey Skilling, in fact, who said that life-endangering adventures were his favorite. It was also Skilling who implemented the forced ranking evaluations at Enron.
To hear these things wouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who knew his character. At Harvard Business School, he was a successful and driven student who was once asked by a professor what he would do if his company produced a product that might cause harm or death to his customers. He replied, “I’d keep making and selling the product. My job as a businessman is to be a profit center and to maximize return to shareholders. It is the government’s job to step in if a product is dangerous.”
In one act of corruption, there was no attempt by the executives to conceal their greed. After it was discovered by internal auditors that a top-performing oil trader at Enron had secretly funneled $2 million into a personal account, instead of being fired or even reprimanded, the thieving employee was praised by an executive for misdirecting external auditors and was told to “keep making us millions.”
Today, it is apparent to everyone that the executives were never serious about their Code of Ethics. There were signs of the company’s blatant disregard for ethical behavior everywhere. In fact, Enron’s board voted twice to suspend the Code of Ethics when doing the legal and right thing stood in the way of large personal and company gains.
How could they not have seen the writing on the wall? What if they had been serious about their Code of Ethics? Would they have avoided one of the largest corporate bankruptcies and white-collar scandals in history?
At least one former Enron executive claims they would have. Andrew Fastow, former CFO, now admits, “I lost my moral compass and I did many things I regret.” How many companies and executives over the past decades have we seen venture down the path toward the same sad fate?
Without a doubt, I truly believe living out shared values is one of the key factors to a company’s lasting success. Thousands of successful companies around the world have a “code of ethics” or a “code of values” that has been embedded deeply in their culture. These codes are very similar to The Dwyer Group’s Code of Values®. But unless a company’s leadership exemplifies values in action, a boilerplate set of written values or ethics doesn’t contribute to or define that company’s success.
The Values, Inc. Compass
Why did I title the book Values, Inc.? Our values define us. They are the signposts we’ve chosen for our lives, reminding us of the direction we want to go. Sometimes we follow our values; too often we ignore them. Inc., as you probably already know, is a business abbreviation that stands for “incorporated.” If we incorporate our values into not only our business lives but also our personal lives, we will have a compass that shows us the direction toward personal and professional success, that shows us the journey to happiness and gives us the ability to change our lives and the lives of those around us. Many times, our compass comes from a person who changed our life, someone we aspire to be like, someone whose values we share.
My compass was given to me by my father, Don Dwyer.
To many, Don was a man of great respect and integrity. As a child of the Great Depression, he was driven by a vision of success. When he earned the right to lead half of a carpet cleaning franchise in 1981, he didn’t pick the highest-earning franchisees; he picked the most honest and ethical franchisees. For him, a person’s success wasn’t defined by money; it was defined by character and values. He knew that in order to build a company that could create positive change in the world, he first needed people who shared his vision and values.
He once said, “The strength of a business’s foundation depends entirely on the values of the owner and of the people who operate the business.” He knew you couldn’t succeed in business or in life if you lowered your standards. To him, no amount of money or material things was worth putting the business at risk. So, how would he ensure that his vision of building a lasting, respectful company would outlive him? It began with the Code of Values he wrote and established within his first franchise company, Rainbow International Carpet Dyeing and Cleaning Company (today known as Rainbow International Restoration).
Don always said that his proudest accomplishment was when so many hardworking franchisees thanked him for helping them achieve their dreams. This was part of what made him an icon in the franchising industry. Changing people’s lives and helping them achieve their dreams changed his life and helped him achieve his dreams too. I believe that changing lives is the first step toward changing the world, and it all begins with values.
This story of success through values is not unique to The Dwyer Group, however. Others include Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Zappos, Disney, and Starbucks, just to name a few. These companies have reputations that instill trust in millions of customers. These brands stand in stark contrast to names like Enron, Lehman Brothers, and WorldCom. And it’s not hard to think of the reason why.
Companies That Change the Paradigm
On Valentine’s Day 2007, a JetBlue flight bound for Cancun, Mexico, was trapped on the tarmac for more than ten hours. The passengers were locked in a plane with no power, no food, inadequate lavatories, and no explanation for the delay. What made the whole ordeal even more infuriating was that the entire time, the terminal was in sight.
When the media picked up the news about the stranded passengers, the public response was a furor. Unlike many companies that would have put their public relations team into frenetic overdrive, JetBlue did not rationalize or excuse its behavior. Instead, the company openly admitted its mistake and apologized for the inexcusable delay.
But the people at JetBlue didn’t stop there. They immediately got to work on creating a “Customer Bill of Rights” to ensure the company held itself accountable for any future delays or unforeseeable inconveniences by giving customers vouchers for future travel.
That wasn’t the only time JetBlue’s character was revealed to its customers. In the company’s beginning months, there was a passenger suffering from diabetic shock. The plane had to be diverted for an emergency landing in order to get medical care to the passenger as quickly as possible. Realizing that the diabetic customer wasn’t the only customer on the flight, founding member and current president and CEO, David Barger, stood outside the plane and personally apologized to each customer, giving each of them his phone number so they could book a free flight anytime in the future.
JetBlue also focuses on its internal customers (employees). In 2008, when the cost of jet fuel began to cripple the airline industry, Barger took a 50 percent pay cut so that the company could avoid laying off or cutting the pay of any employees. To help employees avoid future financial hardship, the company founded the JetBlue Crewmember Crisis Fund (JCCF), to which executives have donated more than $3 million to help crew members with financial troubles. This spirit of caring has caught on with the company’s employees, who can contribute to the fund through an optional pay-period donation.
The company’s values are so important that Barger accepts the responsibility, as president and CEO, of communicating them. He spends more than half of his time talking one-on-one with employees throughout the organization.
How many airlines extend the kind of respect and courtesy to their passengers and employees that JetBlue has repeatedly shown? More important, does it really take much more to change the paradigm than instilling strong values in a company and showing that you care with unexpected personal acts of kindness?
Leaders Who Change the Paradigm
At five a.m. in Hampton, New York, the ringing phone ends the nighttime silence. Howard answers. It’s July 7, 1997, and he is told that several hours earlier three employees were shot and killed in a failed robbery attempt at a Starbucks in the Georgetown suburb of Washington, D.C. He immediately charters a flight to get there.
Upon arriving, Howard goes to the store to talk to the police. He puts out a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer. After he gathers information about the employees who were killed, he visits the homes of the deceased employees to apologize to their grieving families and share their tears. He stays for a week, attends the funerals of the employees, and announces that future profits from the Georgetown store will be given as proceeds to a memorial fund to help local groups working to reduce violent crime and help victims.
Who is this man?
His name is Howard Schultz, and he is the CEO of Starbucks. Rather than immediately putting the company’s public relations team to work, as most CEOs might be inclined to do, he booked the first flight to D.C. and spent a week doing everything he could to help the heartbroken community and families. He didn’t decide that there was nothing he could do. Instead, he acted without hesitation and gave his time and heart to the families and the community.
“I was stunned. Catatonic,” he says of first hearing the news. It’s obvious by his actions that the event left an indelible mark on him. He even dedicated his first book to those three employees.
When CEOs like Howard Schultz and David Barger act genuinely, out of love and kindness, it seems to take people by surprise. It’s sad that the unethical deeds of so many executives and politicians set the tone for what people have come to expect from their leaders. But when the tone is changed, it has powerful implications for society.
Why Values Are So Powerful
For the past several decades, the academic world has taken an active interest in the impact leaders have on companies. It turns out the impact is huge. Studies show that:
- 69 percent of American workers are dissatisfied with their ethical corporate climate
- An ethical corporate climate has a positive impact on employee retention and job satisfaction
- Job satisfaction, in turn, leads to organizational commitment
- An ethical corporate climate has a positive impact on the work engagement of employees
- Companies high in work engagement have nearly four times the growth in earnings per share (EPS) as companies in the same industry with low engagement
- Codes of ethics are crucial in influencing the ethical climate of companies and their employees
- When management sets the example of the code of ethics, it creates greater employee commitment than formal ethics training and leads to significant cost savings, improved performance, and increased profitability
- 73 percent believe that a code of ethics makes their company a better place to work
- • 62 percent say that a code of ethics has helped change their behavior and direct their decisions
- 82 percent report that they often apply the code of ethics on the job
- Only 4 percent report that a code of ethics has no effect at all
- Companies with codes of ethics have above-average financial performance compared to those without codes
The value of values and their sweeping implications is hard to ignore. If we remember how much of a negative impact the past two decades of corporate scandals have had on the lives of millions of people, isn’t it conceivable that if many of us implemented good values in our lives it could have an even greater positive impact?
Where Do Values Begin?
Values aren’t just for the workplace. We all pick up values from our experiences and interactions with other people throughout our lives. In a survey of business professionals, 68 percent reported that the values they learned at home had the biggest influence on them. It’s clear that how we raise our families has a far-reaching impact not just at home, but outside the home as well.
However, not all values are worthy or lasting. You may know people among your friends or family who live their lives in the sole pursuit of money, power, or fame. Their vision seems constantly clouded with material dreams, and they seem to devote much of their time and energy to these ends. They seem to value the material more than the intangible. Do these people seem less fulfilled, less happy, or less at peace to you?
Or maybe you are one of those people who have their values calibrated with money, power, or fame. If you look at your life and feel a need to change your values, it’s not too late. It’s never too late for happiness.
No matter who you are, you’re a part of an increasingly distracted and rushed world. Globalization and the rise of the Internet Age have allowed humans to connect with more of what’s out there in the world. The trouble with this is that we’ve forgotten to pay attention to what’s right here. We’ve become more exposed to other people’s values and allowed them to shift our own. We take part in other people’s dreams and begin to believe that ours aren’t big enough. People have become utterly absorbed in this new way of living. In the process, time has become a scarce commodity. These things have contributed to a decline in our connection with others.
Whether in the workplace or at home, we all set the tone. When the tone becomes negative or self-centered, it changes us and how we think and feel. Many of us see the effects of this in the world today and know it’s time for change. Sadly, most people feel the problem is too large and think that change takes too much time and effort. But as Hyrum Smith says, “When people say, ‘I don’t have time,’ what they’re really saying is ‘I value something else more.’”
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have time,” what is it that is more important than taking part in a realignment of personal and cultural values? Our friends, our families, our workplaces, our society, and our happiness depend on it. Are the things you’ve been making time for really more important than these things? This is precisely the reason my father asked his family to hold ourselves to high ethical standards and to the pursuit of worthwhile endeavors.
Operating with a clear code of values is essential to building great organizations, thriving communities, loving families, and peaceful nations. When leaders focus on a set of values—especially written values—they establish signposts, daily reminders of how they strive to live their lives. These values are signposts for vision, strategies, and choices. They are guidelines for behavior and benchmarks for performance. But most people have not taken the time or even entertained the idea of having clear, written values by which to make their daily decisions. And most organizations that have taken the time to identify their values do not make the commitment to put them into action.
The Dwyer Group Code of Values®
Everyone’s values can be stated in many ways, but the core aspects of the values held by ethical people are nearly all the same. In several studies carried out by the Institute for Global Ethics, respondents across multiple surveys collectively said that the four values most important to them are:
Are those values important to you also? My guess is that you, like most people, would agree that they are. Do you treat your family with these values? If so, do you also use them at work? The Code of Values established at The Dwyer Group by Don Dwyer has guided the company toward success for more than thirty-three years. In 1994, at age sixty, my father passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. His death blindsided my family and was a huge blow to a company that had just gone public in 1993. But we wanted to ensure his legacy endured and that his spirit of values lived on within The Dwyer Group. What better way to do this than to reinvigorate the company with values defined by a new era of employees?
In 1996, we expanded the original Code of Values to a more clearly defined operational set of standards. The updated values would help us to more accurately define and measure the success of our company. After several months of collaboration, here is the Code of Values we follow to this day:
We live our Code of Values by. . .
. . .treating others as we would like to be treated
. . .listening with the intent to understand what is being said and acknowledging that what is said is important to the speaker
. . .responding in a timely fashion
. . .speaking calmly and respectfully, without profanity or sarcasm
. . .acknowledging everyone as right from their own perspective
. . .making only agreements we are willing, able, and intend to keep
. . .communicating any potentially broken agreements at the first appropriate opportunity to all parties concerned
. . .looking to the system for correction and proposing all possible solutions if something is not working
. . .operating in a responsible manner, “above the line . . .”
. . .communicating honestly and with purpose
. . .asking clarifying questions if we disagree or do not understand
. . .never saying anything about anyone that we would not say to him or her
. . .continuously striving to maximize internal and external customer loyalty
. . .making our best efforts to understand and appreciate the customer’s needs in every situation
Having Fun in the Process!
Sometimes when I share our Code of Values with people who have never read them before, they ask me why it’s so detailed and specific. I explain that it’s better to set a high bar of values for our lives and meet them most of the time than to set a low bar and meet them all the time. When we define exactly what “respect” and “integrity” mean for us, we are on the same page and can share a common understanding of how we should interact.
This Code of Values has led our company to the success that we enjoy today; it is the foundation of the company. But more important than success, it has created a culture in which people aren’t treated like capital or resources; people are people. Although this specific Code of Values is unique to The Dwyer Group, the words aren’t what have contributed to our success, it’s the basic values behind them—values shared in common with most people.
When most of us spend the majority of our lives at work, shouldn’t we spend our time with those who treat us like a second family? Shouldn’t there be mutual respect and integrity among teams who strive toward internal and external customer loyalty? Shouldn’t there be an atmosphere of fun? Shouldn’t there be room for love?
Ultimately, we gain these things through the expression of these values in our actions and words. This holds true for anyplace relationships are a focal point—work, school, church, or, most important, with friends and family.
Because our Code of Values has been so successful for our company, the following chapters of the book are individually centered around each of the values. But how do we apply our values to our personal and professional life? It all begins with authentic leadership.
Leading with Values
Leaders are everywhere. Leaders are your mother, your father, your teacher, your boss. They are your pastor and your hero; they are your friends and your family. Yes, even your enemies are leaders.
Leaders are defined as people who have an influence on the lives of others. This includes you; you are a leader. You have an influence on someone, whether you are a CEO or an intern, someone’s parent or someone’s child. In one way or another you lead with your actions. More often than not, a person’s actions say a lot about whether or not his or her compass is calibrated by values. Good leaders lead with values in action; bad leaders lead with values missing in action.
What direction will you lead?