How Values Set You Free

“We screwed up my biggest account. What should I do?!”  

Sarah, one of my younger employees came to me early one Thursday morning in a panic.  I had to quickly decide how to react. Should I micromanage, decide for her, or risk losing everything?

Big picture, how can you train your team to handle the infinite number of problems that can emerge every day? The answer is simple: You can’t.

That’s right. There is no possible way to train you team on everything that might come up, especially when technology, markets, and customer expectations change so rapidly. And even if you could, people leave. Teams grow, people are promoted. The training process begins again.

Values will set you free.

When I talk about the critical nature of values with new coaching clients or students, they look at me like I’m crazy. I can tell they are thinking, “How on earth will inspirational posters and fluffy catchphrases give me more freedom?? I need results!”

Values are so much more than feel-good fluff.  Back to Sarah.

I sat down with Sarah and asked her what she thought we should do.  She told me about her plan in a tentative voice. Then I asked her to list our company values. She looked confused but decided to humor me. I asked her to go through each value, one by one, and see if her plan was consistent with it. Yes, yes, yes, no, yes. We figured out how to adjust the plan so it was a yes across the board.

I told her that her plan seemed solid, and I would back her up regardless of the outcome. Her panic returned, but I assured her that I was serious, and this was an important part of learning how we do things around here. She bravely executed the plan (and I bravely let her), and over time, she realized I was serious. And the best part was that she needed to involve me in her decisions less and less.

I have learned that the success of values-based decisions (and my freedom) relies on being consistent, repeating the values, and teaching them in context. The results aren’t always perfect, and neither are the plans. Over time though, the plans get better, the team gets more aligned, and I can focus on other things.

The more you do this, the more comfortable you'll get.  While it’s technically letting go, you won't feel out of control.  You'll be confident that not only will more of the decisions be made the way you want them to be, but also that your team will adapt to new situations you haven't thought of, which is a huge relief, and pretty Awesome too. This is how values set you free.

Be Awesome,

Next Time: How values are also your secret weapon to scale your business.

Andrea is one of the instructors for our Getting Focused for Entrepreneurs course and CEO of The Awesome Institute.

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