Building and running your own business is hard (stating the obvious here); there are so many parts to it that you need to nurture. I guess, done well, it’s a bit like gardening – tending to the plants and their needs all year round no matter the temperature or the weather, giving them space to grow and pruning others back so they can be healthy next year. And much like gardening, there are a thousand books and courses on how to do it right. They tend to all agree with the following: There is a vision of where you want to get to, so you and your colleagues (fellow gardeners) can work together to achieve it; then you agree the values that will guide you in making the right decisions along the way. One of your values as Head Gardener might be ‘protecting native habitats’ or ‘bee-friendly’ and, therefore, all decisions around planting or plant removal need to take both of those things into account.
I know we’re clear at MySense where we are going. It’s not changed from the very beginning, but we’ve never really promoted our values internally. In fact, I doubt very many of our staff could tell you exactly what the words are that we use to describe them. And yet, despite this, we live by our values of being ‘compassionate’, ‘pioneering (not sheep)’, and a ‘force for good’ every day. Maybe it’s because they are ‘common sense’ given the work we do, or perhaps it’s because we put a lot of effort into hiring our brilliant teams that naturally believe in these things, or indeed it could be that we’re very effective at nurturing the right culture to enable those values to flourish. Most likely, it’s a combination of all three, but herein lies the crux of my latest conundrum: we’ve got it right (with work) so far, but much like the weather in a garden, there will be things that have impact that will be out of our control in the future.
Ultimately, it comes back to us being more explicit about our values in everything we do. It will help us scale and give us a guiding hand to help new starters to make quick decisions. It’s obvious really, so why haven’t we done it before? I guess there are two reasons: the first is there are lots of organisations that have explicit values that ultimately have zero impact on decision making or behaviours; talking the talk rather than walking it and we never want to fall into that category. The second is softer; when you make a new friend you don’t lay out the common values that your friendship will exist by, goodwill and trust is built over time. The more you nurture the relationship the better you understand what’s required of you as a friend, what’s acceptable and what is not. It’s not conscious, but is lasting and powerful in terms of behaviours. We believe it’s the same with our teams.
So, how do we start being more overt about our values without diminishing the magic of the unconscious contract that we have with our current colleagues? How do we continue to do all the things that work now, alongside scaling the business internationally over the coming months and allowing new starters to understand quickly and easily the values we live by? Much like everything to do with this MySense garden, there won’t be a simple answer; it will need to be multi-faceted and timed to perfection. It will need empathetic people, thinking outside the box around induction programmes, training, internal comms and performance, but luckily enough our gardeners are more than capable.