What are core values anyway? I bet many of you feel like me, sometimes, and wonder …. do I really need a mission statement or a declaration of core values? I mean is this just busy work? Kumba ya circle-sitting and hand holding? Who’s got time for that? Will anyone ever see these values or even care?
Our team decided to put together a list of core values during our first retreat… because we were told it was the thing to do. Despite being a little skeptical of the process, we dove in with full Absolute Charm gusto. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to find the team became quite engaged… even energized… by the idea of trying to sum up the spirit of Absolute Charm Real Estate into 3 or 4 words or bullets.
It was actually more difficult than I had expected. It wasn’t hard to come up with phrases… it was hard to STOP coming up with them! We began by brainstorming all the possible terms we could think of that could be considered our core values. It was shocking how quickly we filled up a full page!
Then we began to narrow down the terms by combining words or bullet points that were very similar. For example, we may have written” honesty, integrity, truthfulness, and above reproach” as possible values. We decided those four words basically covered one key concept. And of those four, we chose integrity as the most all-encompassing, best representation of what we stand for as a team.
We started with a pre-conceived notion of how many terms we wanted (3), but in the end, we just weren’t willing to discard any of the four had chosen. We felt each one brought something special to the table and was not clearly covered by any of the others. Your list will likely look very different, but these four phrases summed us up quite well.
In the end we chose these “Core Values”:
Simply put, we aren’t afraid of change. In fact we like to think we embrace and drive change. Not change for its own sake, but improvements, steps forward in bringing better service to our clients and more value to our team.
So many business leaders seem to be completely fettered by the idea, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There was a time when that rang true, but these days….if it ain’t broke… it will be soon. Gary Vaynerchuk says he wakes up every day trying to put himself out of business. He means that someone is always looking to do what he does… but better. Gone are the days where we can rest on our laurels. “Change or die….” as Steve Jobs often said. We have to be open to improvement and not too “proud” of what we have done to date. Someone is always waiting to do what we do better, right? Let’s beat ’em to the punch.
Realtors sometimes have a reputation, deserved or not, of being a shifty lot. Honesty and integrity is a given at Absolute Charm, but nonetheless a given that needs to be stated. No deal is worth compromising our principles of honesty, integrity, and being above repute. This one is just not optional.
I have often been infuriated when questioned by outside agents as to our motives in a transaction. For example, I have had an agent imply that I was holding out on her deal to secure a double-ended deal where we would represent both buyer and seller and would be compensated double. That was NOT the case. In fact, our client ended up choosing the deal offered by that accusing realtor, and it was our job to represent our client’s wishes, so that deal prevailed. In that particular deal, the difference to us personally, out of our own pockets, was almost $45,000. But the client’s wishes rule. Period. No deal is worth doing the wrong thing. I like to sleep at night, for one thing, and have to be able to look myself in the mirror.
Few things matter more to our clients than working with knowledgeable agents, those with the appropriate education and ongoing training in their field. We value, honor, and reward agents who go the extra mile to seek relevant, practical training to service our clients. One way we honor expertise is by holding weekly training sessions on topics ranging from changes to the tax law to 1031 investment exchanges, things that actually affect our clients. Our team views it as our personal duty to be constantly raising the bar of knowledge and expertise in our agents. It’s another non-negotiable.
Staying on the cutting edge of ANY field takes work. It’s much easier to sit back and see if implementing a new system or new software is absolutely essential…. or if we could perhaps just coast. That’s not our style. As a team, we build one another up and encourage each other to work harder, learn more, market more effectively than ever before. And it takes energy. At Absolute Charm, the lazy need not apply!
Hopefully, our experience will be of benefit to you in establishing your organization’s or team’s core values.
The lessons we learned about Core Values:
- Be flexible. While you might start with a framework for how many core value you might like to see (3-5 seems to be a typical range), focus more on finding the terms that truly capture the essence of your group or company.
- Brainstorm freely and let the ideas flow. Let anyone and everyone have a say in throwing out ideas. Edit your list only AFTER all ideas are exhausted. At this stage, no idea is too “out there” to make it onto the sheet of paper… (we used a large pad on an easel and just went to town!)
- Get real. Try to resist the urge to put what you think you SHOULD put. Start by describing the best, most valuable aspects of your actual team. No person, team, or group perfectly exemplifies their core values, however. Just choose the concepts or actions that strike at the core of the very best parts of your group.
- Get them up and visible. Post them in your private Facebook group. Have them printed and hung in the office. The human memory is fleeting and we ALL need to be reminded regularly to strive to improve the very best parts of us, while shoring up our weaker areas at the same time.
- Revisit them often. At least once a year, we revisit our core values as a team to see if they still reflect who we are as a group. Should you add a new value? Or refine one by tightening up the concept we are really trying to convey? Like the Constitution, your core values should be considered a living document.
As with most of my recommendations, based on personal experience, my top suggestion is…. just start! The best way to incorporate core values into your daily conscientiousness is to start today. Put a list together; edit it and improve as you go along. Sooner than later you will have created a compass to guide your team through good times and tougher times. And who couldn’t use a north star for a little focus from time to time?