When it comes to protecting company culture, I think the biggest mistake a CEO can make is letting employees stick around that have values or a vision that doesn’t align with the company’s. It’s so crucial that a company be consistent from the roots to the surface, and for that to happen, a company has to know what it stands for- and why. For that reason, I think one of the most important questions any entrepreneur or individual can ask himself or herself is “What are my core values?” AKA- “What am I absolutely unwilling to compromise for? At the end of the day, regardless of how much money is in the bank, what do I care about? What do I stand for? What is the very most important to me?” I promise, our answers are probably completely different, and that’s totally fine. The most important part is that you know what yours are- and that you don’t compromise on them.
Value #1: Intimacy
Whenever I tell anyone my top value is intimacy, I am almost always met with a look of confusion (with a quick attempt to then cover it up). However, I’ve evaluated over and over again, and this is the value that always comes out on top. There are two reasons why. 1. I live off of human connection. There’s nothing I love more than having a conversation with someone and finding out we find some random childhood memory or favorite meal or secret belief about the Universe in common. For me, human connection is what makes the world go round. I’m a pro at networking events- mostly because I go in so insanely open-minded that I don’t ever run into the issue of “pre-judging” someone. Do I occasionally spend too long talking to someone who has absolutely nothing to offer me or my company because I liked his or her ice breaker? Maybe. Do I always remember the icebreakers so I can steal them? Absolutely- and I don’t feel a tad guilty about it because I paid my dues. Interacting with people gives me energy, connecting with them gives me life. 2. For as long as I remember, I have felt like I have an obligation in this life to become the very best version of myself and to help as many people as possible become the best version of themselves possible. In order to do this, there has to be a level of intimacy established first. I can’t help someone become better if I don’t truly understand where we are starting and what we starting with. There’s a needed sense of vulnerability and openness, and the word “intimacy” is how I describe this interaction. I’d prefer someone coming to me and say “Hi, I’m 24, 2 kids, broke and 2 credit cards overdue- and I missed the car payment last week- I want to start over. I’m willing to work as hard as I need to. Can you help me get started? Than “Hi, I’m 24, majored in strategic communications, I am an entrepreneur at heart and love sports because I love to win. I’m interested in applying for a job” ANY day. The first person told me what I needed to know to know how to help. The second person strung together a few clichés that let me know absolutely nothing about who they are as a human being. What I’ve found is the trick to making sure my “intimacy” value is being fed on a normal basis is to constantly put myself situations when intimacy can arise. Again, that may sound bad- but it’s the truth. If I want intimacy from others, I know that sometimes I have to ask for it. I may have to ask what’s wrong. I may have to ask why they believe a certain thing. And I always have to willing to be vulnerable myself. I may have to ask for help. I may have to admit I’m scared.
Value #2: Tenacity
I love tenacity as much as I hate it’s opposite. It’s why I love underdogs and hate layups. It’s in my DNA. I don’t have any respect for the easy path- it’s probably why I’ve forced myself down the hard one so many times, only to come out bleeding and out of breathe on the other side, but out nonetheless. When I’m considering business partners, one of the first things I look for is someone who I know won’t go running when things get hard. I want someone who loves the rough patches as much as I do. Whose adrenaline pumps at the “storm warning”. Who understands that rocky seas make much better sailors than the smooth seas do. There is nothing I respect more than someone who can take a beating and get back up in the midst of their shame and get back on their grind without saying a single thing. It’s the perfect combination of desire, discipline, and determination.
Value #3: Vision
I’ve always been a “dreamer”. Always. I’ve spent my entire life getting told to “be more realistic”. Do you know where it’s gotten me? Everywhere I’ve gone so far. I knew I had the heart of an entrepreneur, so when I was 18, I opened my own business. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had $500 to start with from a car insurance payout, and I had a vision of what I wanted my life to be like- and it started with me taking things into my own hands. When I watch basketball, the players I enjoy the most aren’t the ones who hit all the three’s or go for the foul- they’re the players that see the plays before they happen. Whose court sense is so on point, they can pass the ball with their eyes closed to an empty spot on the court and tell you who is going to catch it. It’s why I first loved Kobe. It’s why I loved watching him and Nash. When someone has vision, they understand the game on a deeper level- and they know what they need to do without every being told because they understand they’re still writing their legacy with every play they make.
Value #4: Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is still an interesting concept for me. I don’t think I had any idea it existed until I started working with people on an everyday basis and learned that, in order to help someone, I have to be able to communicate with them. And this doesn’t just mean in English- I have to speak their variation. I have to speak their language. In sports, it was easy. Almost everyone is motivated by 1. Being the best (and recognition for it) 2. Beating the competition. In real life, what people are motivated by can totally differ based on how old they are or what stage of their life they’re in or who they are as a human being. Developing emotional intelligence helps a leader not only tap into this, but also know how to respond. For instance- because I have developed some sort of emotional intelligence, I know that if I have a “yellow” on my team- someone who is naturally more emotional and sensitive- they probably won’t be as motivated by incentives- and even less by challenges- but will react great to positive feedback and, if I develop a strong relationship, will put forth their best just to help the team and make me proud. I could have never concluded that four years ago, even though I’ve lived surrounded by yellow’s my whole life. Emotional Intelligence is crazy and quite possibly the biggest key to success other than hard work.
Knowing my values helps me understand my everyday life. If things are going good in my professional life but I don’t feel satisfied, one of my values likely isn’t fully met. Or maybe it’s conflicted. Whatever it is, knowing what I care about helps me making everyday decisions with a little bit more ease. So know that you know mine, what are yours?