friedmanDavid Friedman, in his 2011 book Fundamentally Different, describes how companies “institutionalize their values.” Recently, RBB (my other business) leadership had the opportunity to listen to Friedman speak on the topic and we came away highly motivated to codify our company’s behaviors. Every employee, regardless of position or length of service, has an obligation to act according to these standards.

That has always been true, of course, but unless leadership makes these standards crystal clear then accountability can suffer. We may chalk disappointing or unhelpful behaviors up to “Joe being Joe” instead of expecting Joe to get with the program.

The real advantage of having a documented list of behavioral standards is that it helps to address fit issues. People who can’t (or won’t) sign up to live by these behaviors stick out like a sore thumb; when everyone knows what the standards are, they don’t last. Even a robust hiring process that attracts only the best players cannot fully predict how new hires will actually behave when they begin interacting with teammates and customers.

Note that we did not write a code of conduct that we aspire to have. We simply wrote down what we already do… and ended up with a list of 21 items! We divided them into three subsets: how we treat customers, our personal conduct, and how we work together. In this 3-part blog series we will share each subset.

How We Treat Customers

We Move Heaven & Earth:

We recognize that obstacles arise in satisfying customer needs. We climb over, break down, or go around these barriers on a daily basis. We embrace requests and opportunities simply because they are new or different – because this is where our value is most felt.

We Swarm to the Need:

When a customer, the business, or an employee is facing a challenge we swarm to the task together. We don’t wait to be asked; we take initiative and jump into the fray with confidence, knowing that when our turn for help comes, it will be there. We know what we do and why we do it: We provide the best service and value through small batch excellence.

We Offer Options:

Customers are never villains. We are not victims. We create multiple possible solutions to customer problems and actively avoid backing customers into corners. We solve their problems, not the other way around.

We Commend Customers:

In the event of a mistake we explain, we find good remedies, and when necessary and reasonable we charge them to correct the mistake.

Our Personal Conduct

We Behave with Character:

We weigh every decision based on our character as a company and as individuals. Nothing has more value than our integrity.

We Are Safe:

We follow our health & safety policies and always seek additional ways to prevent illness and injury.

We Speak the Truth:

pic-resized-600We have no time for politics, mind games, gossip, partial truths, or outright falsehoods. Whether it is popular or not, the truth of a situation is the best basis for effective action and decision making.

We Make and Keep Commitments:

We are accountable for what we say. In the rare case that a commitment may slip, we renegotiate a new promise well in advance.

We Check Our Ego at the Door:

Nothing can torpedo our overall effectiveness like protecting our ego. We recognize that in business we do not always get our way. A humble, servant attitude is vital to the RBB culture.

We Seek Knowledge:

We have a relentless quest for learning that matches the pace of change around us. Constant learning is our only defense against irrelevancy personally, professionally, and as a business. We overcome painful experiences by improving our methods and decisions.

We Keep Score:

We know the measurements that define our success and strive to achieve ever-higher performance levels. We acknowledge effort and reward results. We understand that profitability is required for longevity.

We Share Good News:

“Well done” is always welcome and encouraging.

We Deliver Bad News in Person:

Email beats silence, a phone call beats email, and face-to-face beats a call.

We Admit We Are Human:

We acknowledge our shortcomings with a sincere apology – without excuse, shame, or grudge.

How We Work Together

We Are Stewards of Our Collective Future:

Employee families’ financial well-being depends on a strong and healthy RBB, both now and in the future. This occasionally requires that short term sacrifice be made to secure the best chance of success down the road. We understand the need for these tradeoffs. We guard the assets of RBB as if they were our own.

We Embrace Company Objectives:

Priorities change over time, depending on the shifting opportunities and threats to the business. As new company objectives, directions, and game plans emerge we get on board quickly. Getting on board includes asking tough, challenging questions to maximize our chance of success.

funatrbb copy-resized-600We Value Individuality:

Diversity in all its forms is a prized strength. We are at our best when we are ourselves, provided that we all behave according to RBB standards.

We Make Harmony Happen:

Conflicts naturally arise due to the pressures of the work environment and the multiple objectives we must achieve. We resolve our conflicts with respect, face-to-face, and in private. We do not wait for the other person to approach us first.

We Commend Our Co-workers:

Our process is perfectly designed to give us the results we are getting. When mistakes happen, we investigate the cause and improve our process to prevent recurrence. We assume our coworkers’ best intentions.

We Have Fun:

We enjoy our time at work by looking for the humor in our midst. While doing so we avoid sarcastic and otherwise potentially offensive remarks.

Some believe that we are being too prescriptive and that anyone worth keeping behaves this way already. But by defining these common behaviors in terms of what they look like, there is one shared understanding. Are we perfect? Well, no: but that’s why we need the standard!

If your company’s culture has reached a plateau, this exercise may well be worth your time. You might be amazed at the new heights of awareness and mutual accountability that such standards promote!

For more information, contact David Friedman here.


Images Sources: RBB Systems,