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Partner Communication and the Value of Leadership

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What is Charlottesville's Effect on Your Partnership/Company?

Do you and your partners think alike when it comes to the values (behavioral guidelines) of your company? In the wake of the strife in Charlottesville, would you and your partners equally feel comfortable in making statements similar to Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck? or Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank? Or 3M CEO Inge Thulin?

This is a time for you and your partners to proactively have the discussion of what you each believe. How you are going to lead together? What guidelines do you have that direct your own and your employees' behavior? Your employees want to know that all your partners are on the same page.

Leadership is about bringing out the best in each of your employees. Your joint statements set the environment for your company's success and productivity. Each person's full potential develops in an environment of trust where people can stretch themselves and know they can take chances to grow.

Consider an environment where an employee doesn't feel emotional safety. He doesn't make suggestions to improve his or his team's productivity. She doesn't try something new that adds to the innovation of the company. They can hardly do a great job at customer service if there are background issues. If the environment includes backstabbing, or inordinate repercussions if something goes wrong, or unfairness, then nobody will take a risk to improve anything or go the extra mile. Turnover increases, costs go up and profit goes down.

In a multi-partner firm, it doesn't work when some partners try to create an environment for growth and others sabotage it by making it difficult for some people to get ahead more than others.

In my practice with small and mid-size firms I advise business owners to develop 3-7 values (guidelines for behavior). They range from excellence to integrity to inclusion/diversity to customer service to being a learning company to having fun and many more. Then for each of the values, I ask my clients to fill out a chart that identifies what behaviors demonstrate that value, what behaviors violate that value, what the consequences are if a value is violated, and how the values are prioritized. (Email me at [email protected] if you'd like a copy of the chart.)

As business owners, it is imperative that you lead your company together proactively and you respond as a united team when someone's actions violate those values.

Then, of course, you as leaders must model the values. This earns you respect as a leader.  You can even walk around your company and ask a couple employees how they are living the company values today. (Make sure you have a story also. Tell yours first.) Do that a couple of times and the word will get around to everyone to have a story ready of living the values, in case they get asked next. They then look for ways to embody the values.

I encourage you as partners to work out together your company values and share them with your employees. If you have done this already, then review them with your employees especially in light of everything that's in the news lately. Your company and your partnership will be stronger for it.

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