When I was in school it was not uncommon for teachers and professors to begin the school semester by presenting the class with what was to become a mutually agreed-upon contract. The purpose of the contract was to establish what was expected from all of us, and laid out the essential elements of how we would work together to achieve our common objectives.
The same principle can be applied in our business and it is referred to as a Core-Value Pledge. Many of us have a Mission Statement (also called Core-Value Statement) for our businesses. It is important to understand that a Core-Value Pledge is different. It is a direct, signed agreement between the business and its employees. The purpose of the signed pledge is to insure that everyone involved in the business knows what it is that we are committed to as individuals and how it affects us as we collectively work together for the good of the company.
The model Core-Value Pledge provides a clear basis for proceeding in a solidly productive way. A mutually agreed-upon contract goes a long way to providing a common approach. The central concepts of honor, integrity and civility in our work lives certainly have resonance for our lives in general. During these often difficult and complex times, when many on all sides of the political fence are dubious about making things in our society work, the Core-Value Pledge offers us a path to a clear and constructive approach to our daily endeavors.
Once a very prominent American corporation put forth the four key values that defined their corporate culture. These values were: communication, respect, integrity and excellence. The company was Enron! Subsequent events show that words are not enough; they must be backed by actions and credibility on the part of all involved.
Tuchman Advisory Group members David Makepeace, President, and Lee Makepeace, Vice-President of Medlin-Davis Cleaners/North, located in Raleigh, N.C., have developed a perfect example of a Core-Value Pledge. They were inspired by an experience that led them to write one for their drycleaning company. David explained, “I graduated from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. A few years ago, I attended a seminar there about how President Washington and General Lee used honor, integrity and civility to guide how they conducted themselves professionally and personally. As you well know, both of these gentlemen are held in high regard and enjoy excellent reputations. My wife Lee and I immediately wanted to apply this principle to our company.
The Core-Value Pledge is the outcome of that desire. We have every employee read it and sign it at the time of their being hired. We continually reinforce the pledge with our managers and have them ‘set the example’ around our employees.”
Medlin-Davis Cleaners Core-Value Pledge
Honor, integrity and civility are important values in a person’s public and private life. At Medlin-Davis, it is vitally important for all of our employees to live up to these standards in their everyday interactions with customers and other employees. All relationships, whether business or personal, depend on mutual trust to be successful. For example, if a customer does not trust us to take excellent care of their garment, they are not going to use us. If we do not trust a customer to deal fairly with us and pay for services rendered, we will not want to do business with them. If an employee is not truthful in their interactions with customers or employees, the relationship breaks down and that employee becomes ineffective. If you conduct yourself with honor, integrity and civility, you will preserve that valuable trust among friends, customers and other employees and enjoy the rewarding relationships that come with it.
Honor, integrity and civility aren’t just for people, all of this is true for corporate entities as well, such as Medlin-Davis Cleaners. Our success to date has been built on the trust that we have developed with the community to do excellent work at a fair price and to deal with our customers fairly and honestly. As you well know, companies are not living, breathing entities; they are a collection of people providing a product or service. If our employees do not project honor, integrity and civility inside and outside of the entity, then the value standards for the whole company break down. As a result, it is imperative that all of our employees conduct themselves in a manner that upholds these core values.
What is honor? Honor is the product of being truthful and trustworthy, thereby gaining respect among your peers and associates. It is a very fragile code that can easily be broken and never simply repaired. Honesty is about what you say.
What is integrity? Integrity is a modern definition of honesty but with a twist. Where honesty is about what you say, integrity is about what you do. Remember that old saying “actions speak louder than words?”
What is civility? Civility is the act of showing regard for others by being polite. However, it is more than just being nice to each other because treating one another with respect is requisite to effective communication, community-building and finding common ground.
Honor, integrity and civility sound complicated, but they are not if you just remember and follow this simple code: Never do or say anything that will violate the community’s trust. The community is the people you surround yourself with: customers, employees, friends, family, business associates, etc.
I understand the code of conduct that is expected from me while at Medlin-Davis Cleaners and I pledge to uphold the sacred core values of honor, integrity and civility so as to never violate the community’s trust. Also, I will report anyone that I see do so.
A wonderful process for writing your own Core-Value Pledge has been developed by Allison McCalman. She holds a BA in broadcast journalism with expertise in business, media and intellectual property law. McCalman writes for numerous publications including bizfluent.com. This is her 11-point formula (with emendations) for the development of a pledge:
1. “Create a well thought-out pledge that is specific and clearly worded. Formulate a document that addresses issues the company wants to improve on, and the goals to be reached as a result of signing the pledge.
2. Compose a short pledge, no more than a page or two long. Employees need a pledge short enough to absorb after reading it through twice. A long pledge will turn them off and make it less likely they will read and apply.
3. Have a meeting attended by all the employees to discuss the pledge. The meeting could be in one day or a succession of days within a week depending on how much time is needed. Introduce the document to all employees and distribute a copy for everyone to read and sign.
4. Explain the purpose of the pledge, and benefits and advantages of signing the pledge. Let employees know what is in it for them, and how it will benefit them in their work and service to the company and its clients or customers.
5. Let employees know that it is a team effort and their willingness to sign the pledge is a sign of their commitment to the progress of the company and the achievement of its goals.
6. Present the pledge in a friendly and persuasive manner that sells the idea of it as a company-wide effort that everyone should be involved in. This can make employees feel motivated rather than obligated to sign the pledge.
7. Review entire document, explaining each measure to ensure that the objectives are clearly understood by every employee; otherwise this is a waste of time. People cannot agree to do something they don’t understand.
8. Open the floor to employees who have questions, this creates an atmosphere of trust and cohesiveness as they come to feel part of the process.
9. Answer questions directly and clearly, ensuring that the employee understands your answer. Allow them to offer suggestions. People rarely object to something they feel they are playing a role in.
10. At the end of the meeting ensure that everyone present signs the pledge. Putting pen to paper as a group instead of individually adds to team-building and enforces the validity of the pledge and each employee’s commitment to the company’s overall progress. A pledge signed as a group will make each employee feel accountable to the company, and each other.
11. Ask new hires to sign the pledge. If the pledge is being used for new employees, have them sign it upon acceptance of their employment at the company. Otherwise follow the steps above for employees who are already working for the company.”
Please post your ideas, suggestions and examples of your Core-Value Pledge in the on-line comments section of this article. If you are interested in joining or would like more information about Tuchman Advisory Group, please contact Ellen Rothmann (firstname.lastname@example.org).