Twice a month I attend and help run a local networking group for small business owners. The key focus of the meeting is to discuss topical issues, share challenges, knowledge and support each other.
This morning we talked about authenticity and business leadership values, a topic I cover in the first chapter of my book 'Soft Skills for Strong Leaders'.
What is it that drives our behaviour in our day to day dealings with clients, suppliers, colleagues and fellow networkers? How do we come across to others, and what is it that we do – or don’t do – that motivates people to want to do business with us, and to help us succeed?
I facilitated the session to encourage fellow business owners to recall people from the past and present day, who have had some influence on the way they do business. Some mentioned ‘dreadful’ bosses who were unapproachable, were poor communicators, and led by the stick rather than the carrot. Others talked of inspirational role models who they aspire to, from the likes of Richard Branson and Clive Woodward to first time bosses who took the time to listen, to challenge, nurture and instilled a strong work ethic.
Following on from this discussion, we each then explored our top five ‘business leadership values’. What kind of business leader/owner are we? What do we stand for? What is important to us about how we do business and come across to others? What have we taken on board, either consciously or unconsciously, from our role models?
There were many familiar terms, such as trust, integrity, honesty, transparency, respect, giving back and professionalism. There were also values including; profit, success, structure, inspiring, adding value, fairness, knowledgeable.
What I always find interesting is our personal interpretation of each of these words, What does ’trust’ mean to you? Or 'transparency'? You can bet it means something different to each of us.
There is also the assumption that what is important to us is also important to everyone else, but this exercise demonstrated that despite our similarities, it highlighted our uniqueness in what specifically is important to each of us, and the reason why.
So, having given some thought as to what is important to you, what actions do you take on a day to day basis that demonstrates you are fulfilling your values? You may say that honesty is important to you, but are you shying away from giving honest feedback to a client or supplier?
It’s also worth considering (and actually finding out) what the values are of your clients and suppliers. What is important to them – and what can you do to fulfil those values?
Just thinking about what is important to you and to others can help you to reflect upon, and to influence how you conduct yourself at home as well as at work each day. When you are living and breathing your values, whether they are your work values or core values (which apply in any context), you will be able to be more authentic and genuine.
The result is that you will gain more trust, enjoying deeper and more rewarding relationships with those around you.