This past week I finally got around to reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. I’ve known for a long time that I needed to read the book, and I flew through the pages as I learned more about the Zappos story and philosophy.
One of the things I loved most about the book was the way Hsieh describes the ten core values of Zappos and then illustrates them with stories from employees, customers, etc. It almost serves as a handbook for understanding the culture, which is something the vast majority of companies lack.
So, in an effort to make our L4M culture even better, I want to highlight each of our six core values over the course of the next week or so. My hope is that this will help lay out our story and why someone might want to join the company in the future. For me, I hope it will help clarify why these values exist (and potentially highlight what might be missing, if anything).
Our first core value at Living for Monday is ‘Live with Integrity.’ In my mind there are two big questions to answer regarding every one of our values:
- Where did this come from?
- What does it mean for the company and culture?
I’ve told the Big League Chew story on this blog before, but it is the most vivid memory I have of learning the value of integrity. From a very early age, I understood that doing the right things for the right reasons would pay off. Even when it doesn’t pay off directly, it ALWAYS comes back around. At least that’s my view.
After my experience with Big League Chew, the concept of integrity continued to grow on me. Every year something would happen that showed me that no matter what someone is always watching. Whether I was doing the right thing or doing things that didn’t always make Mom proud, it always came back around. Eventually, after plenty of heartache and unnecessary challenges to overcome I learned that it was far easier to do the right thing for the right reasons as often as possible than it was to try not to get caught doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
I think that doing the right thing for the right reasons is a great definition of integrity. It takes the concept at its most basic level and applies it to our decision making process at home, at work, and everywhere in between. But over time, integrity has come to be so much more to me. When I started this blog in August or September of 2010 (wow, now that I put it on paper, I can’t believe it’s been two years), I racked my brain for a name before finally settling on Living Values.
Ultimately, that name represents the next stage in my understanding of integrity. I could do the right thing for the right reasons without ever naming or understanding my personal values, and I could be a valuable, contributing member of society by doing so. But taking my integrity to the next level meant putting my personal values on paper, then on my blog, and ultimately constantly displaying them for the world to see. That’s a vulnerable place to be. It’s kind of like a 35 year old man having to hang his superman underwear out to dry because the dryer is broken – you’re revealing intimate information to the world.
I mean c’mon, my values are my beliefs – they are the 5 or so words that describe what means the most to me in. the. world. To openly state them to you is to openly welcome criticism and feedback when I’m not being true to those values.
But what I’ve learned is that putting those core values out for the world to see makes it that much easier to remain true to them. There’s no going back when you tell other people what you stand for. Yes, I can make shifts and my values may adapt as I learn more about myself, but by and large those values will remain fairly consistent. So the second stage in my understanding of integrity was to live my values and stay true to them through my actions and words. The same thing applies to a company. When we put our values out for the world to see, we take that seriously. They’re not just a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘plaque on the wall’ – they’re the way we do business.
My learning about integrity has had one final stage to this point. That third stage comes from my experience in taking my first job and then subsequently leaving my first job to start Living for Monday. Through that process I had a lot of heartache and a lot of questions in my mind. Why wasn’t I happy in that great job? What would I do if I left? How would I make money? Is it even possible for me to succeed in starting my own company?
When I thought about the answers to those questions, I realized several things. First, I had heartache and I was unhappy because I wasn’t taking my true self to work. I was molding myself to fit what I was ‘supposed to be.’ A suit-wearing, big-word-wielding, corporate junkie that solves problems to add money to the bottom line of our clients… but I don’t necessarily believe in all that. I don’t know that the one objective of corporations should be to increase the bottom line in the short term. I don’t necessarily enjoy wearing a suit everyday. And I didn’t think any of those things were going to lead me to the vision I have for my life.
That experience taught me about the third level of integrity, which is staying true to my dreams and vision. I could have made the right decisions for the right reasons in the context of my first job. I probably could have found a way to live most of my values. But what I couldn’t do is fulfill the vision I had for my life – the dreams I had for my future. Living with integrity means having the guts to take a stand, take a chance, and go after the vision I have for my life.
The third level of integrity applies every bit as much to Living for Monday. We have a responsibility to pursue our mission and vision to the absolute extent of our capabilities. There are a million ways to make money, but living with integrity means every way we make money should fuel our vision of the future.
At Living for Monday, we believe ‘Live Integrity’ means three things:
- Always do the right thing for the right reasons. If in question, use the golden rule.
- Make our values public and incorporate them into every single thing we do.
- Pursue our mission and vision with every ounce of effort we have. Don’t settle.
What do you think about our first value, ‘Live Integrity’? Do you have ideas for how we can incorporate our mission, vision, or values into our operations? Let me know in the comments!