Be aware of yours, and manage their impact
We are all driven to a greater or lesser extent by what we value, by our inherent values.
And whether we like it or not, those values influence what we notice, what we are curious about, and therefore what we recognise as problems.
It’s worth remembering that our values are
reflected in the things that we become curious about,
and the problems we want to solve. -Carol Stimmel
Those values go on to influence how we go about solving those problems as well.
As entrepreneurs, we are driven by our passion and guided by those values to design and create solutions to those problems, including the teams we build to help us see them come to life.
As a founder and therefore a leader, you leave your
mark on your product as well as your team.
Values leave a mark on your product
When I work with aspiring entrepreneurs who want to have their own startup, the question I get asked the most is
“How do you come up with a good startup idea?”
My number one piece of advice is “observe observe observe”. Observe people’s pain points and pinch points, and use your industry, design, and/or tech knowledge to solve them.
But in addition to a solution showing your own observational abilities and knowledge and skill areas, those solutions show your values.
When observing, you will notice things that are important to you.
For example, I am obsessive about efficient and logical processes. Anything that includes clunky or unnecessary steps drives me bonkers. I am compelled to design the kinks and inefficiencies out.
The value of saving time, energy, money, and generally ridding the world of process frustrations is one that is so inherent to me and that I am so passionate about that I couldn’t change it if I wanted to.
However, I’m not particularly driven by aesthetics, or by a desire to see new or impressive tech in action for the sake of it.
I know this is important, but it is not one of my inherent values. I just want things to work better, smarter.
To mitigate the lack of urgency I feel when it comes to things looking good superficially, I know that I need someone who ‘sees’ and appreciates aesthetics in practical design, and who can of course do something to improve how our product looks.
Ugly yet functional doesn’t bother me, but I know it’s not a great way to sell solutions. And I know it bothers other people!
As long as you are aware of what your values are, and acknowledge that they do have an effect, you can make adjustments to ensure that they don’t negatively impact your product or your team.
And I want my teams to reflect my values while they are building the solutions.
Values leave a mark on your team
These values, what you are interested in, what you notice, are a big part of the creation of your company or team culture.
Just like your values influence what you are curious about, and what problems you want to solve, they also impact how you go about solving them.
This includes how you build and lead a team, and the culture you create in your company.
I was speaking recently to a team at a local startup that is doing fantastically well. Every member seemed cheery and happy to be a part of it.
They were describing what a great place it was to work, thanks to the leader. But, they said, it wasn’t perfect.
They went on to describe how some of the leader’s values didn’t reflect what was important to the rest of the team. But he had created a culture in which the team had licence to take action they needed to in order to mitigate the negative effects of his values clashing with theirs.
One example they gave was that this leader didn’t value social time for the team. He knew it was important to them, but couldn’t get “curious about” it, or see it as a problem that needed a solution.
But he took the team’s word for it, and let those team members who valued making time and space for socialising as a group take the lead.
Little things like getting people together, planning events, or even just acknowledging birthdays became a part of the culture because the leader made space for it despite his own inability to value it.
Of course, this is what it is like to work for a real, imperfect human.
It’s ok to accept our humanness and flaws, it is another to let them run unchecked and just say “deal with it”.
Getting the team’s input into solutions for mitigation can help make that values imprint become more “team shaped” rather than just strictly leader shaped.
But the level of awareness that that imperfect leader has about how his values create challenges for his team makes all the difference to the degree to which they negatively affect it (or don’t!).
This can impact recruitment and retention, reputation, and productivity.
From startup idea to leading a team that is building your solution, know the impact your values have so that you can work with or around them.
Both your team and your product will be better for it.
My first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams is out now. You can find access to a free pdf workbook that accompanies it on my website. If you do read my book, I would love to hear your comments.
I write about my leadership and management experience of 20+ years, and all I have learned as a founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience. You can see more here.