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The One Strategic Mistake Your Company is Likely Making

Do you know what your company’s core values are?

You know, those ten to fifteen statements that are supposed to be the guiding principles that dictate the behavior and actions of your company? The foundation from which you are supposed to be ‘Built to Last’ and help you make your most important decisions? Could you recite them out loud right now without looking them up?

I didn’t think so.

Chances are your CEO can’t either. And I think that’s pretty sad. It’s part of the reason why most companies are mediocre. Most people, like your CEO, would say that having core values in business is important. However, very few are actually living them… not because they don’t have any but because of the opposite – they have too many. People can’t remember them all and so they forget. And if you forget what your core values are then you aren’t making decisions using them.

Stop confusing people.

Steve Jobs said it best: “Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world… And so we have to be really clear on what we want [the world] to know about us.” And it’s not just about marketing. It’s everything. Your core value should be the lens through which you see the world and make all important choices. By having fifteen “core” values that nobody remembers, you’re needlessly complicating things for your constituents over who you are, what decisions are best for the business, and how to talk about your company. You’re confusing your team and everyone else around you.

What’s the solution?

Get it down to One Word. Whether it’s #Innovation (3M), #Love (Starbucks), or #Health (CVS), having a single guiding value helps communicate to your team, your customers, and the world what you stand for. It also helps make the big decisions easier like being one of the first big companies to stand up for gay marriage (Starbucks, #Love) or walking away from $2 billion in annual tobacco sales because it doesn’t align with your One Word core value (CVS, #Health).

This might be painful.

If you’re at an organization that hasn’t ever really dug into what’s most important then turning those fifteen core values from a plaque on a wall to an actionable, meaningful One Word, will be difficult. People will disagree. Some may quit. Others might be asked to move on. But until companies start looking beyond the resume, beyond the skills, and start looking at do our people’s values match up with what we stand for as an organization, then all the other strategies and tactics won’t save your business.

Get your One Word right. Apply it as the operating philosophy through which your entire company is run. Give your team, customers, and investors something to actually be proud of. And watch your culture, impact, and profits soar.


About the Author

Evan Carmichael is the author of Your One Word (December 6, 2016), and he also coaches entrepreneurs for peak performance. At 19, he built then sold a biotech software company. At 22, he was helping raise $500k to $15mil. He has been interviewed or featured as an entrepreneur expert in The New York Times,The Wall St. Journal, Forbes, Mashable, and elsewhere. He now runs EvanCarmichael.com, a popular website for entrepreneurs. He speaks globally and is based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter @EvanCarmichael.

StrategyDriven The Advisors Corner Article

The Advisor’s Corner – Can Ethics Be Learned?

Can Ethics Be Learned?Question:

Can you teach ethics, or are we ‘hard wired’ and born with or without ethics?

StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)

YES you can teach the principles and importance of ethics. YES, you can model the ethics you expect within your culture. And… NO, you cannot be sure someone will behave and act in ethical ways just because you’ve taught or modeled ethics for them.

NO, we are not born with a particular set of ethics of what is right and what is wrong in every context.

And here’s why…

Whatever society you live within, its culture, your family, your peers, and the reward and punishment experiences you receive from all of them, shape your ethics. For example, consider China’s one baby ‘recommendation’ versus the Catholic Church’s no birth control edict. Each entity, made up of people, operating within their own culture, thinks they are doing the ‘right’ thing for the ‘right’ reasons. Therefore, what’s ethical in China is not ethical in Rome and vice versa.

We are so quick to pass judgment on other cultures’ ethics and ways of living and being that we might even convince ourselves that ‘those people’ whomever they are, are dead wrong, period. The reality is, their ethics are wrong based on your ethics. It’s just not as simple as we’d prefer it to be. This makes judgment about what is right and wrong a very personal issue and that means we aren’t born with ethics; we learn ethics.

Our personal values are formed in early family life and evolve as we get older. We might challenge our parents’ or cultural values or keep them. We may have an experience that shapes us and alters what matters most. Different stages of life may affect what we will ‘fall on our swords’ for.

And those values, whatever they are, drive our behaviors, even unconsciously at times.

For example: if integrity is high on my values list, I will pay far more attention to ethics than if my highest value is wealth. It’s that simple. And… If integrity and wealth are both on my top 5, then I will behave very differently in my business dealings than if they are not together in the top 5.

One more example:

Think about the ‘mafia.’ There are entirely different sets of ethical standards and ‘rules’ driven by different values and relationships. For ‘family’ life is precious. For strangers, life is indifferent. For enemies, life is worthless.

I believe we all know right from wrong within our own system and culture unless we have a very real mental health disorder that distorts reality. It is also clear that what is right for one culture, family, or society can be totally wrong for another. So if we are going to talk about ‘ethics’ we need to consider ethics within a cultural context and determine how much flexibility the culture we live within is going to permit before we deem something unethical.

In our workplaces, what is not acceptable behavior needs to be very explicit to everyone for all of the reasons we’ve just considered. If you want a workplace where your values and principles are honored and matter, then you must be crystal clear about what that means in decision-making, communications, and for managing relationships with people both inside and outside the organization.


About the Author

Roxi HewertsonLeadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.


The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

Breathing Life Into Your Values-Based Culture

What does your company’s culture look like? Can you clearly define it and how it contributes to the overall success of your business? Could your culture benefit from some special attention? Throughout my 25 year career, I’ve admired certain companies that consistently outshine their competition. What is their secret ingredient? I’ve arrived at an undeniable conclusion? company culture.

But when it comes to building and establishing that culture, where do you start? I’ve learned that one of the most essential steps is determining the difference between your company’s priorities and values. Priorities are the day-to-day demands of our jobs. They can shift and change constantly. In contrast, values are the glue that bind us together. Our values must not change; they are non-negotiable. Our daily decisions are grounded in our values, and the key is discovering what is most important to us. I learned where my values lied when I was working for a former employer. My boss was a headstrong individual who would lock in on an idea, lobby some employees to join his cause, then push his ideas on everyone else until he got his way. His behaviors led to some ill-conceived and financially dangerous decisions.


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About the Author

Brian Fielkow is the author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Company Culture and owner of Jetco Deliver. in Houston, Texas. He and has presented to thousands of people across the country on how to establish a healthy culture. To continue the conversation, contact Brian at [email protected], and learn more at drivingtoperfection.com.

What Your Office Says About Your Company (And Why You Should Care)

If there is one thing we have learned through the economic twists and turns of the past decade, it is that people make our companies run. Even at the depths of the economic downturn with the high unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, there were 3.8 million jobs in the US that went unfilled for more than six months and that problem only gets worse as unemployment drops. Consequently, attracting and retaining high quality employees is ‘job one’ in 2014. Is it any wonder that CEO’s and their HR departments, are scanning the horizon for any new idea to help fill those positions? Enter stage left, the open office concept.

The open office concept has its detractors and there is actually much to be said for the traditional office with its spaces for privacy, learning, and focused work, but an open office strategy, when thoughtfully deployed can create environments that support employee attraction and retention.


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About the Author

Kristine WoolseyKristine Woolsey is a business strategist, speaker, and author. She is a transition specialist, helping organizations reshape themselves during times of change including mergers, extreme growth, and adaption to today’s changing workplace. She works at the intersection of organizational behavior, brand alignment, and facilities. She guides leaders to understand the power of leveraging natural behavior patterns using research based strategies with measurable results.

Kristine was trained as an architect and then moved into the business arena. Now, she teaches and speaks about the future of work and behavioral strategy to groups and conferences nationally. Kristine consults for medium to large companies, helping business leaders use behavioral strategies to adjust their value proposition, identity/brand, organization structure, and facilities to create the most direct path through any organizational transformation. For more information visit: www.kristinewoolsey.com.

Diversity and Inclusion Best Practice 2 – Performance Measurement

Establishing and maintaining and organizational culture supportive of a diverse and inclusive workforce requires deliberate ongoing action communicating the importance of and support for these principles. Consequently, leaders need insight into employee behaviors such that appropriate corrective actions can be taken when necessary as well as visibly reinforcing their commitment to the principles of organizational diversity and inclusiveness.


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