Driving Authentic Concern Through Your Organization
For more than a year, I have been writing about the power of Authentic Concern. I’ve deemed it the key ingredient in delivering an excellent customer experience and explained how it can lead to customer loyalty and better margins. However, I’ve left out something big.
I’ll start by stating that I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Richard Branson, English business magnate. He says that the only way to deliver a world class customer experience is to deliver a world class experience for your employees.
When I took over at Parker in 2016, that was easy to do. We were a very small company, and it was easy to touch every employee personally to make them feel special. With a concerted effort, I could (and still do) try to “touch” every employee. Fast forward nearly five years, and Parker is five times bigger. Now, it’s a lot harder.
As we grew, we needed a way to normalize what good work looked like, so that each employee would not need to run every decision by their manager to know if they were doing the right thing for our customers. We needed an operating system that could reliably and repeatedly deliver our service with high quality. Enter Authentic Concern.
A culture of trust further requires a set of values. These are shared across the organization, are the standard by which we measure performance and the framework we use to make decisions. As a leadership team, we undertook an exercise to settle on the values central to our culture – our core values. At Parker we have six. It is through these six core values we hire, fire, coach and praise. We don’t always get it right, nor do we always stick as closely to our core values as we should, but by and large, our company’s success and failure depends upon executing our core values more often than not.
How did we determine which core values were most important? Our leadership team filled a whiteboard with values each of us thought were important. We then went through an exercise to narrow those 50 values to a list of 15. Next, we each approached the whiteboard, grease-pencil in hand, and voted for the five most important values. After the votes were counted, and a vigorous discussion of each final value concluded, we found our six core values: honesty & integrity, excellence in communication, servant’s heart, going above and beyond, noble intent and critical thinking.
Now, when we hire someone, we square the candidate’s past behaviors against these core values. If they score a negative on two of the values (in other words, they don’t have that value), they are politely told we are going to pursue another candidate. In fact, I used the criteria just the other day to move on from a candidate for a key leadership position we are trying to fill. The candidate had outstanding technical skills and business experience, but when I assessed them against our core values, they fell short on at least two of the six. I knew that when tough decisions needed to be made by (and with) this future leader, they needed to come to the table with noble intent and not selfish intent and they needed to think critically about all perspectives at the table, not just their own. What’s most important is that everyone in the organization, top to bottom, values the same things and forms a bond through those shared values.
In total, a team acting with Authentic Concern through shared values builds trust and sets the foundation of the culture of the company. For us, a strong emphasis on service delivery, by going above and beyond and keeping a servant’s heart, is what makes our company tick. These values are also central to ensuring our leaders spend as much time serving our employees as they do worrying about what our customers need, because we know if we care for our employees, they will care for our customers authentically.