Thursday, November 26, 2015

Do your values define your business?

When you say someone is professional, what do you mean?  We had quite the discussion about this at one of our meetings this week, when two profs from University of Guelph came to ask our opinion.

Knowing they were coming, I’d actually given the topic some thought and found it interesting, that it was far easier for me to come up with what is unprofessional – like being late for a meeting, neglecting to say thank you when you’ve received some help,    being indiscreet, or crossing boundaries from professional to personal.

When we delved into this further, there was much conversation about social media,  and Facebook in particular, being the downfall of some folks, who reveal and share way too much personal information, and thereby diminish their standing and regard by others.   Employers just have to check out their Facebook page, and jobs are lost or careers railroaded.

So what does professional behaviour look like?  We felt it was about respect, and not just how you treat people, but the environment and how you communicate with others.
It’s about follow up – delivering on your promises.  It’s having and holding true to a high standard in your career. It’s acknowledging the contributions of others.  And it’s also how you show up in the world – as a person and yes, in how you dress.

The consensus was that Casual Friday has done nothing to enhance the professionalism in the workplace.  In fact, someone remarked that we’ve lost our sense of occasion – when we’d dress up to go out for dinner or a birthday party.

This whole dialogue was a prelude to our next topic – one on values and how our values impact and need to reflect our brand.  Two fairly connected topics in a way, as both hold us to our intentions and as women, often our need to be authentic.

But values are not something we likely give much thought to as we embark on this world of entrepreneurship, and yet we can quickly discover that they impact what we do and won’t do within our business.  It therefore behooves us to think and reflect on what values we hold close and which would be deal-breakers.

I know for myself integrity, honesty, respect and ethical behaviour are all strong values for me and I’ve been in situations when that line has been crossed, and I’ve had to make tough decisions.  In one instance, I quit the project because I did not want to be part of what, in my view,  was unethical.   On another occasion I ended a business partnership as I didn’t like the way she treated my team.

But the other part of digging deep on your values, is that they may well be the deciding factor for a potential client on why they want to go with you, rather than someone else.  So your marketing, your brand and your website presence needs to convey what you hold near and dear.

How do you do that?  By using the words that describe your values in your marketing materials.  By being the leader and role modeling your values to others.  For example, if giving back is important to you, showcase what you do in the community to make a difference.  Have giving back be an integral part of your website. Foster it in your employees – give them time off to volunteer.  Involve them in your philanthropic activities.

We covered a lot of ground in two hours, and I know we all left with plenty to think about, and to do in terms working authentically, professionally and with integrity within our businesses.  

Self-awareness is important – it’s time well-spent.  I encourage you to delve in and reflect. Ask yourself about your values?  How do you convey them to the world, and are you true to them?  What does professional mean to you?

Let us know, it would be fun to keep this dialogue going.

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