As a company, we talk about values and principles a lot. We discuss it with each other and we discuss it with customers. It is more of a hot topic today than it has been for some time. The definition of company values and principles is important. Understanding the driving principles for you in your role and your company is just as important as the company’s mission statement and charter.

What you say you believe will impact how you behave and once you’ve put it out there for all the world to see in writing or etched on the glass of your conference room, then it is even more likely that you will need to remember them. A colleague of mine that presents to companies often on the topic of change and transformation often begins his presentation by showing a slide with our company’s values and principles on the left hand side. He then asks the audience if they can share what their company values and principles are. Each time I’ve witnessed him do this the result is the same; the audience shouts out some of the values and principles but typically it stops after 2 or 3 are mentioned. Each time it is obvious that they don’t really know them well.

At this point, my colleague will press one of the keys on his computer to bring up the right side of the slide that shows that company’s values and principles, something he got either off of their website or annual report. Again, each time the response is equally the same; quietness in the room and everyone is now at full attention. It sounds rather parochial but the impact is quite dramatic. It proves that being is very different from doing.

There are two important principles I want to mention that we as a company and as a team look to apply consistently. These two don’t define all that we look to be and do but they are two that come up often in conversation and are worth describing briefly.

Ask forgiveness not permission

There are things that this principle implies and things it does not imply. First, it does not imply that doing whatever one wants is the way to work nor does it imply that it is okay to do anything that could be questioned from either a moral or ethical standpoint.

This principle implies that we desire to be an integrity-driven organization. To do that, it means we want people to be more than just empowered, we want them taking initiative to do the right things in the right way. We want them to take risks (sometimes calculated, sometimes not) if they believe it will benefit the customer. It means we are willing to say we were wrong and reset expectations rather than not having tried to begin with.

It also means accepting that we won’t always get it right but that we need to explore every possible option, be truthful even if it risks a relationship, be clear even if it means that ambiguity is a better option.

The smartest and most creative people in the room are those who are willing to be in the room. While we have structure and some hierarchy as an organization, we believe that the best results come from establishing a culture of courage and initiative to just get stuff done.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care

While this statement has been used in many different contexts, it has come to mean something very specific for us. We are privileged and fortunate to employ some of the brightest people in our industry. We are also privileged and fortunate to get to work for some of the best companies in the world. In both cases we work with people everyday who want to make a difference and don’t simply want it to be just another day on the job.

Especially in the current economic climate, the appreciation for employment is even deeper. With all that, it can still be challenging and frustrating to work in an organization if you don’t feel appreciated or respected. We all have a need to be appreciated, to be told we are adding value and doing a great job.

While I completely understand the thinking behind the now famous phrase “today, perform random acts of kindness”, I would change this to say “today, be deliberate in demonstrating you care”.

Compensation is a large part of the satisfaction we get from work but it isn’t the largest part; appreciation, respect, value and worth play a very big part in how people view themselves, their employer, their customer and their contribution.

We believe being deliberate in communicating is the best way to share feedback, further results and remove that ambiguity I mentioned earlier, that often sends the wrong signals to people.

Yes, we believe in a few more values and principles but these two are so vital to the integrity and life of the organization.

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