“The Catalyst Way is defined by its business philosophy that incorporates management by values, strong internal systems that drive the business, a positive teamwork culture, and a solid results assurance program that maintains the integrity and the delivery of the product or service.” That was a very long statement that we made some 14 years ago when we first formed Catalyst. While it is still true today, we have learned so much about how to accomplish it, we can break it apart into easier to execute pieces. This entry will talk about the first step in that execution.
The foundation of the Catalyst Way is made up of values. Our beliefs and experiences drive these values. It makes no difference if we are talking about a business or our life; the foundation is made of values. So, step one would be to determine what values we want.
It is easy to live by values when life is good. It is hard to keep those values when life is not so good. Having values that you do not violate is the very anchor you grab on to when you have to make hard decisions, or you are faced with an unsolvable problem. Simply put, a value is something that is non-negotiable in your mind that defines that type of person you want to be.
Once you decide on your values, remember they are non-negotiable. Now you apply these values to any situation where you are struggling with a decision, a lifestyle, a career, or even how you treat your family.
Values do not need to be lofty. Almost without fail the first value we I hear about is honesty. I disagree that honesty is a value, it is a policy. You will violate the “honesty” policy based on the circumstances. If your spouse is wearing the worst looking piece of clothing you can imagine and is excited, we defy you to tell the truth. You will find a way to make the person feel good. So, you negotiate when to be completely honest. In this example honesty is not a value.
Where do you start? Values are traits that you intend not to violate. They could be based on a religion, your experiences, the culture you come from, or some other teaching. There is no right value or wrong value. Society or the culture you are in will determine if the value is acceptable or not. If your values are in conflict, you will feel it.
It is important that your values be yours, and you are willing to use them when you need to make a decision. For people to trust you and work with you, they want to know who you are. They will determine your values by your actions.
Here is a quick way to get started with your values. Make a list of ten character traits you like. Do it in 60 seconds. Then walk away for five minutes and come back and rank them 1 through 10 with number one as most important. Now remove the least important and walk away for a while. Come back and re-work the ranking and again remove the least important. When you get to five, you should have a good list.
Once you think you have five strong values, write a definition of each and play “what if.” What if this happened in my life, could I apply my values to the situation and make a decision. Now, clean up your list. These values will become the foundation for your life and any business you create. You may get some surprises. I have seen people do this exercise and discover something about themselves they never considered.
Now for some fun. Invite partners, employees, significant others or even close friends to do the value exercise. Now compare your list of values to their list. Did you learn anything interesting?
If you want to win the game personally or professionally, surround yourself with people of similar values. In our book Gone for the Gold, Be Right Back we make a strong case for surrounding yourselves at home, work and play with people of similar character values. This does not mean you surround people who ‘think’ like you do. Diversity of thinking enriches us. Rather, we refer to that deep down core value that is there when things are good and more importantly when things are not so good. Believe us, been there, done that, and life becomes richer.
Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc. He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls. Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.