> Personal Values
From reading about a person, or looking at their resume, you can't learn much about their underlying beliefs or what kind of environment they create. Below are some of the "everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten" values that guide me in my approach to work and life:
Lavish your customers with love.
Wherever you are today, without your customers, you wouldn't be there. Extraordinary customer service goes above and beyond merely supporting a product; it means amazing your customers with value they cannot get anywhere else. Invest the time in finding creative ways to offer this extraordinary value to the smaller customers as well. A few companies ago I observed how an ordinary $1000-per-month customer grew to become our first $100,000-per-month customer because of the great service experience he received.
It's trite but true -- particularly in our post-Enron, Sarbanes-Oxley-compliant world. Honesty in even day-to-day situations is important. When I graduated from college I won a small scholarship with the (unusual) fine-print condition that this scholarship could not be awarded to someone who had won any other scholarship. Well, I had won another, larger scholarship too, but the people who awarded the smaller scholarship didn't know that. So I wrote to them and told them I had to decline it, and the scholarship was awarded to the next runner-up.
Eat your own cooking.
Executives in particular need to set the example here. I once worked at a company where a VP routinely used a competitor's product instead of our own product. While this is useful for comparing your own product against the competition and snagging feature ideas, our VP argued that he was only using the competition's product "because it works." And the reason it works? This product was constantly being improved by the tons of feedback from its customers, among them our VP.
Own the issue.
One of my pet peeves is when I ask a question of someone (at work, or on a customer support line) and the answer is a flat "I don't know." Well, find out! Some of the most successful people I know are those who find the answers to questions that other people don't know. That way both of you are smarter. This is my personal variant of the old maxim that 50% of success is just showing up. In my world, 50% of success is owning the issue and following it through.
Think with your shoes off.
My favorite manager of all time taught me this one. Not only is it literally true that you can brainstorm better when you take your shoes off (try it sometime!), it is a metaphor for the power of small changes. Just by making a tiny change to your routine, you can spark a new idea that leads to another idea that leads to something big. Feng shui is an example of this. A couple of small changes can soon lead to positive, disruptive change.
Respect your colleagues.
In a meeting one time, I observed a manager who completely denigrated an idea that one of his direct reports came up with, in front of everyone else in the meeting. It was obvious by the way that the manager didn't let the direct report finish a sentence that the manager simply did not even want to invest a minute in understanding the idea. The right approach would have been for the manager to at least listen to what this person was saying and, ideally, find at least something valuable it it. If the manager couldn't do this, acknowledging the idea and talking to the person about it later one-on-one would have been a better approach.
Respect the rules.
Although some rules are made to be broken, acting as if you're above the law is not cool. I once had a conversation with someone who bragged about buying a plane to sneak his dog into Hawaii, breaking the stringent laws that have been put in place to protect the local island agriculture. I find it much more stimulating to find a new market with no rules and create the rules myself!
Remember: People are human.
Work is a messy business. That's because work is all about the personalities of the people involved, their triumphs and failures. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten is that you may not remember what someone did for you, but you always remember how they make you feel. Make other people feel good, and you'll find yourself amazed by how good you feel.