At a recent event called Creatives in Business I tweeted the quote “Work with people with the same values as you”. At the time, it felt trite and obvious. I almost didn’t tweet it (and it got zero likes).
But this week, as I look back on a year as a creative in business, I’ve decided it’s the key to everything.
Because without values, it’s hard to gauge whether you’re on the same wavelength with people, and if you’re not, then it’s not going to work.
It’s tricky to be disciplined about this
Especially when your natural inclination is to accept work and to dismiss any ‘gut’ feelings for not being specific enough. Afterall, we’re all different and sometimes relationships take a while to bed in. You can’t ‘gel’ with absolutely everyone.
But I’d argue that if you can afford to, you should try. It will help in the long run.
The trouble is, like childbirth (I’ve heard), the memory of the wrong fit can fade too quickly for it to serve a useful purpose – ie remind you of what not to do next time.
Which is why I think having values and using them as a checklist before working with someone can be very useful.
How it works for me
When things are going well, there’s no need to analyse things because you’re just ‘in flow’. Everybody’s on the same page, you’re making great progress, learning, having fun and the project rapidly takes shape.
It’s only when a projects stumbles that it requires analysis.
When I look back on the relationships that have worked best over the past year, they all have the same things in common. There’s been mutual respect, understanding and interest in who the other person is, what they’re about, what’s important to them, what’s motivated to get them where they are etc.
And that’s important because it means the relationship isn’t just about saying “I understand you can do x, y and z and I’m going to get this out of you if I pay you this much.” It’s about “I’m also interested in who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going and what’s important to you. I like what you’re about and I understand that will inform what you deliver for me.”
If you don’t have this, you’ll know because you find yourself having to explain yourself a lot more. This client doesn’t trust you or ‘get’ you, so they question everything you do. They get the wrong end of the stick. They’re suspicious of you and will test you.
They’ll do this quite openly, unaware of how this makes them look.
And the more it happens, the worse it gets, and you start to make silly mistakes. Before you know it you’re also having to explain your jokes, and it’s then you realise that nothing is ‘flowing’, that the fun has gone, and nothing you do for this person will please them. They have an image of you in their head that hasn’t much to do with reality, and they’re framing everything you do around that.
There’s not much you can do at this point.
This must have happened to you
For example perhaps you’ve had a client who comes to you saying they can do everything themselves online and don’t need an adviser. This is not the way to start a trusted, respected relationship.
Unless they change their mind and acknowledge what you’re really about, they will disregard your years of experience and the messages on your website, and be on a mission to trip you up, catch you out and suspect you of always doing the wrong thing.
Why this is, is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it came from the beginning. They don’t want to have to pay for something they think they can do themselves. They think they’re doing you a favour. They think they’re paying you too much (they’re not).
So what are my values?
If you don’t have integrity, if you don’t respect creativity, if you’re not honest and you’re not fun, or see the sense of fun in me, then we’re probably not going to gel. If you’re not excited and hopeful about what we’re going to make together then it probably won’t work either. You have different values and priorities and I’m not the person for you.
When people share the same values, they understand and respect the fact that they’re both working towards the same vision.
Respect leads to mutual trust and cooperation. This creates the freedom to go above and beyond, to push the envelope, exceed expectations, try new things and achieve incredible results that neither of you could have achieved alone.
What a brilliant feeling.
Personal values are no different from business values. They enable you to articulate who you are, and help guide you when it comes to making business decisions – like who to hire. It’s just that on a personal level, when you’re on your own, they may also help determine who you should and shouldn’t work with.
When you decide what values you have, make a mental note of them, the behaviours that demonstrate them – and those that don’t. It could be the most useful thing you ever do.
Photo by Erwan Hesry