One Company’s Values Journey

VBL-definitionIf you’re a frequent reader of these pages, you know I’m always enthused to discover high performing, values-aligned organizations.

I’m delighted to bring you the Luck Companies story. Over the next several weeks I’ll share my conversation with Mark S. Fernandes, Chief Leadership Officer, the person charged with transforming Luck Companies into a Values Based Leadership organization.

Most companies don’t start by being intentional about the culture they want. They have a desired product or service so they build their business around crafting those desired elements and getting them into customers’ hands, under budget and profitably. Only when company leaders stop to examine the health of their culture do they actively engage in making it better.

Luck Companies is a 92-year-old organization based in Richmond, VA. On first glance, you’d see Luck Companies as a stone company – crushed stone, architectural stone, and even clay courts. A deeper look finds an organization that is intentional, focused, and committed to igniting human potential through Values Based Leadership (VBL).

I asked Mark, “What was the genesis of Luck Companies’ decision to change it’s culture?”

Mark explained, “When Charles Luck IV became the CEO and President in 1995 – our third generation leader from the Luck family – we were a small, tight-knit, family owned and operated organization. We decided to grow the company, and grow we did!

By 2002, we had close to 1,300 associates and sales had quadrupled. Cash flow increased by nine times during that timeframe.”

Along with that growth came organizational stresses and dysfunction. Mark explained, “We no longer looked like the company Charlie’s dad and grandfather had built. We brought in a consultant to work with our leadership team.

That first morning, the consultant introduced himself and asked us to take out a piece of paper and to write down everything we wanted to change about the company. He gave us ten minutes. With all the dysfunction, we each had a lot to say!

The consultant then asked a vital question: ‘How many of you wrote down yourselves?’

That question changed our lives forever. We began our values journey soon after and in 2009, we amped up the expectations and became a Values Based Leadership organization.”

I asked Mark to define VBL. He said, “Values Based Leadership is living, working, and leading in alignment with your core values, principles, beliefs, and purpose to in turn ignite the extraordinary potential in those around you.

Our company values are leadership, integrity, commitment, and creativity. We began our values journey by defining corresponding behaviors for each of our four values. We wanted to innovate for the future while preserving our values core. We felt that commitment and integrity were values that had existed in the organization since its founding. We wanted to preserve those going forward.

Leadership and creativity were two values that would carry us into the future.

We’ve had two phases in our journey. The first was to become a Values Based Organization (2004-2009) and the second as a Values Based Leadership organization. The distinguishing point came from learning that company cultures (defined by values) are shadows of the leaders.

To have the culture we wanted, leaders had to go first, modeling the way as an example for all others to follow.”

My interview with Mark continues next week.

How well are your team or company’s values lived in your organization? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

I’m indebted to Megan Dougherty who willingly and ably facilitated my conversation with Mark – and added to my understanding of values-based leadership at Luck Companies.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

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