Posted by nyssa on June 11, 2012 in , , ,

Recently, I had a meeting with my senior management team where the newest member of the group asked me what our mission statement was. The other three (intelligent) members of the group sat in “stoney” silence before I tried to cobble something together about working with selected clients and candidates to create solutions. It sounded good at the time and we all progressed to the next part of the session. However, the same person (our new General Manager of Perth and WA/Asia who I have taken about ten years to entice to join us) continued to ask me about values and asked me what is our purpose of existing as Optimum Recruitment? Thankfully I was quick enough on my feet to give a pretty shallow answer but his persistent (and sometimes annoying) line of questioning got me thinking; why do businesses spend so much time and effort on things like mission statements and core values?

When I started Optimum almost ten years ago, I sat down with my founding team and we agreed on values such as humility, honesty, fun and a couple of others that I cannot remember at this time. We developed a mission statement as mentioned earlier and we all felt good about it. But what did it actually mean? How did it translate into everyday behaviours? While I do believe that the Optimum culture has remained strong and faithful to these principles, would it have done so if we had not gone to the trouble of developing them? Sadly (and honestly) I cannot answer these questions with any certainty.

Since this meeting, I have spent quite a bit of time closely examining companies (including some competitors) and talking to them about their mission and values. The most common words used include honesty, integrity, passion and fun. Some companies have gone to a great deal of trouble to develop mission or purpose statements and these regularly focus on building long term client relationships. One common statement (and one familiar to Optimum) is to under promise and over deliver. But, do most businesses practice what they preach?

To answer this, let me focus on the phrase “under promise and over deliver”. The common belief is that if we do this, we will never have unhappy customers. We also may never have the initiative to go out and convert challenging clients or situations, but we will always be safe and our customers will not be disappointed……but will they ever be “wowed”? In every job, there are times where we disappoint our clients despite our best intentions, it is misguided to expect that we will fill every single job order and place every single candidate, no matter how hard we try. However, if we have the limiting belief that we must never over promise and under deliver we may never take a risk due to the fear of failure. To me, this can be a counter-productive value or core belief.

So, this leads me again to my new General Manager in Perth. It made me chuckle to myself when he sent me a list of his agreed core values. There, as number one, was “that we will under promise and over deliver”. It was surrounded by some really innovative ones such as “every customer touch point will be awesome” and we will be a recruitment firm who “strives to go beyond the transaction to build valuable long term consulting arrangements”. I respect and admire him for getting this done so quickly and am extremely confident that he will prove to be one of the best things that have ever happened to the Optimum Group. However, I look forward to holding him to account to his value number one; that he will never leave a customer disappointed. I hope that he proves me wrong (he is smarter than me and usually does) and convinces me that these values and mission statements are valuable and help provide the cornerstone of my business. Does this apply to your business?

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