Guest Post by Rocky Romanella, author of Tighten the Lug Nuts: The Principles of Balanced Leadership.
Your character and reputation are a direct reflection of your values
When I was young, I never really thought in terms of honor codes or values. I just knew there were certain things I needed to focus on; to do and to achieve. A very simple and unassuming man with great integrity and character, my father, Pasquale Romanella, turned a common phrase into a meaningful life lesson by reiterating to my siblings and I as we were growing up, “It’s what you do when no one is watching that counts.”
As I young man who sometimes got off track, I would say, “Dad that is the best part, no one is watching.” Yet, today it is the life lesson and standard by which I judge myself and strive to instill in all that I come in contact.
As I grew in age and experience, I took on more responsibility and became hopefully a mentor and role model for others. I came to understand that leadership, integrity, and honesty of purpose is what you do when no one is watching. It’s the essence of your reputation. It is a simple message reinforced by a simple man, with a very powerful meaning.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all here to determine what our real intent is in life. For me, it is being a great father – like my own – and mentor to others I am lucky enough to work among. That’s why teaching others about values is so important to me, and to our current business climate that’s strife with headlines of compromised values.
Customers are a Good Judge of Character
Whether institutional or personal values, customers are drawn to organizations and people who share similar beliefs. These principles make up the foundation of your mission and reputation. Take it from me, they are not merely words. They will become part of your character over time. Character is one of the most important traits of a leader and a company, and one that customers gravitate to or stay away from when given the choice.
As reported by Rebecca Burn-Callander on January 6, 2017, for The Telegraph, a company’s reputation is proven, measurable and valuable. And, it’s often ignored until a crisis hits. Even long-standing brands can quickly lose customer loyalty. Following their emission scandal, Volkswagen not only saw sales in the U.S. fall by 25% in November 2016, so did their relations with dealers, suppliers, and employees.
Embracing these values early in your life will serve you in ways too numerous to count over a lifetime. The truth is you and your organization are going to have to work diligently at whatever it is you hope to achieve. But, it is how you face it that speaks to your character.
Being a Balanced Leader
I believe companies enhance their growth momentum and reputation when they focus on three key constituents: customers, people, and shareowners. My principles of Balanced Leadership™ are:
- Think like a customer by approaching each challenge as a true solutions provider.
- Feel like a valued contributor by knowing their work matters and never compromising on safety or values.
- Act like an owner by creating an environment where every member of their team understands the business plan and what leads to success.
A simple formula I use to establish both personal and organizational values that will solidify your reputation, character, and your customer experience is to define, articulate and institutionalize:
- Who you are,
- What you stand for, and
- What you will never compromise.
Defining these values are essential in establishing your customer experience. They work wonderfully as platform for creating your culture and articulating important customer touchpoints as you develop your journey framework – a highly useful tool to align a values-based customer service organization.
Defining Your Individual Purpose When No One is Watching
Your true character is defined by your honesty of purpose. Your purpose is sacred and authentic. Honesty is what is at the core of your moral character. It is being trustworthy, loyal, fair, sincere and true, even when it is difficult to be. It is not only how you create your values, but also how you add value to the lives of others.
Academic excellence, character development, personal motivation, physical development and leadership all require you to perform at your best – with honesty of purpose. You cannot develop your character, motivate yourself or lead others unless you have truly defined your purpose – your intent.
This does not necessarily mean you must know your calling in life or exactly what you want to be along every step of your career, but you do need to be clear about, and strongly aware of your values, goals and character.
Company Integrity Creates Customer Loyalty
I was blessed to land my first job with UPS – a company that provided a lifetime of career opportunities through its “promotion from within” culture. UPS has policies and codes that define the character of its people. UPS is known for its drivers and meticulous business processes that still today, shape the culture and character of its global workforce. In fact, on March 13, UPS was recognized by the Ethisphere® Institute as a World’s Most Ethical Company for the 11th consecutive year. These priceless UPS values help solidify customer loyalty as evidenced by their 1.6 million pick-up, 8.7 million delivery customers worldwide – and shaped my character and it is what I hope to pass along to others in my charge.
Shortly after retiring from UPS, I was recruited to take on a new challenge as CEO of a mid-cap telecommunications solution company. Little did I know that I had a lot more to learn about honesty, culture and purpose.
One of my first observations was the need to articulate a vision and mission, then define the company’s values. Honesty and trustworthiness became a major factor in creating a new culture needed for this organization and I needed to be an honest and trusted leader in order to establish a vision, mission and values so that those in the company would trust me enough to follow.
Purpose-driven people put their morals, character and honesty first. Without purpose, we drift. With purpose, we steer. As Jeanne Bliss echoes, a company core values list absolutely matters!
In my book, Tighten the Lug Nuts: The Principles of Balanced Leadership, I discuss how leadership is about building a bridge to the future. Your values are the foundation of that bridge, which connects vision and strategy to your go-to market product or service. By hiring individuals with strong core values and training your team on who you are as a company, what you stand for, and what you will never compromise, you equip them to institutionalize your values with every interaction.
Don’t Succumb to Pressure
Even when there is pressure to perform – to hit internal Key Performance Indices, custom Service Level Agreements, or quarterly financial projections – you have the responsibility to yourself and to others to use your best judgment, weigh your options carefully and make the right decisions – even if they are not the most favorable or popular – even when no one is watching.
When you do that you honor yourself and your values. Wherever your path takes you, know that your trustworthiness is your highest honor. For if you are a trusted leader, others will believe in your vision, mission and values, and trust in you enough to follow you, whether in business or on the battlefield.
One of the biggest differentiators between good and great is the superior customer experience that is provided on a consistent basis. During every customer interaction, your reputation is on the line. That’s why values matter!