Musings: Values, Vanity Cases & Dumbbells
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
To say it has been an interesting few weeks doesn’t even capture the essence! The brand identity & website got generous & helpful feedback; the executive management students asked intelligent, thought-provoking questions & the entry-level management trainees amazed me with their retail audit insights. And finally, a visit to the Royal Fort had me face-to-face with a ‘dumbbell’ placed right next to a vanity case; conjuring the most amusing images in my mind as the kind old guide rambled on.
Driving through cities in India has always been so intellectually stimulating but more so now. The positive ambition, optimism is palpable as is the unnatural addiction to selfies & social media. Are we becoming so obsessed with how we present our outer self that we have neglected to fuel our inner?
An important aspect of my consulting with companies has been around defining the brand & culture accurately as you scale. And really, the first step is to ask yourself, what is important to me? What is my value system? This is as true for an individual as an organisation; any dissonance in the stated value system and the actual conduct can have devastating effects.
When words like value system are used, it sounds so important & lofty. But it is nothing more than actually asking what do I believe in? What will I do as easily as breathing? What will I never do i.e. what is my non-negotiable?
Have you noticed the minute you say values; most people say integrity. And then when you dig deeper, you find very little clarity and a lot that can be open to interpretation. So is it wrong to let a vendor partner pay for your coffee, is a gift of a silver coin okay on Diwali; what about a gold coin or a fancy luxury watch? When people say I have high integrity unless you define the parameters; when a situation arises, you will act as you feel at that moment, it won’t be hard coded within the system. If you decide to play it by ear every single time; guess what happens to your culture? Each person is now defining standards for themselves and soon you have a confused organisation culture pulling in different directions. That is why we start with defining the value system. It is important to know where you are at; this framework is key for you personally and for you as a leader.
It is not about using words like innovation or passion; it is about defining your own rules of engagement. You could state that "As an organisation, we will always be consistent - in product quality, in process adherence, in delivery". Or as an individual you state "I will never get ahead in my career by harming someone through deceit or lies but I will outwit people through my intelligence and that could at times be misinterpreted". It is this thinking that starts putting things in perspective; the first step that then leads to what is your non-negotiable in business and in life.
Today, defining your value system has increased in importance with the very visible changes in aspirations or increased focus on 'having it all'. Amusingly, what hasn’t changed is the surprise on people’s faces or the twinkle in my eye as I state “No, this isn’t my first visit to your town, I used to sell trucks here”.