It’s springtime in New England. The trees are beginning to bud and soon it will be time for my teenage son to start mowing the lawn again.
I need to find a new tree service company. I fired my old one last summer.
My son mows our lawn every week. The tree service company comes only a few times to spray the trees. Last summer they unexpectedly showed up one day while my son was mowing.
Returning from work I noticed them as I drove up my driveway. The sprayer was aimed at the dogwood tree, but the wind carried the spray directly toward my son who was working his way across the other side of the lawn.
I jumped out of my car and ran to the man who was spraying.
“Watch out!” I yelled as I ran toward him. “Your spray is blowing on that boy!”
He stopped spraying as I approached him and smiled at me patiently. “I know,” he replied in a reassuring voice. “I asked him and he said he didn’t mind.”
The boy didn’t mind. But his mother sure did!
Who did I hold responsible? The tree service company.
What was the problem? Lack of clear organizational values.
What are values?
Values are guiding principles that provide broad guidelines on how to behave on a day-to-day basis as you fulfill your purpose and pursue your picture of the future.
Why is it important to articulate clear values?
When organizations don’t articulate clear values, individuals are left to their own devices to determine which values should guide them. In the case of my tree service, the nice gentleman spraying my son with chemicals was guided by a value of courtesy. He had quite nicely asked my son whether he minded, and he was as nice as could be when he explained to me that there was no problem.
Tips to identify your top values
A business imperative
I wish my tree service company had articulated a value around environmental safety. If they had, the sprayer might have knocked on my door when he arrived and suggested that I shut my windows. He might have noticed there were children’s toys in the yard and move them before he sprayed. And he certainly wouldn’t have sprayed while the wind carried the mist onto a young man who was mowing the lawn.
If they had identified and clearly communicated their values, I wouldn’t be looking for a new tree service.