What was your first job? This was an icebreaker question at a recent conference I attended, and the really cool thing was the group took off and ran with it. I soon discovered pool boys, babysitters, lawn mowers, farmhands, and pizza deliverers had worked hard, moved up, and made it to their current position today. Everyone had a great time reminiscing on how they got started. But it occurred to me that this is what we all need: a great starting point to launch from. It’s much easier to withstand the cold and storms of life when we know we have a warm, safe place to return to. For me, my firm foundation was built from a solid home and parents who taught me a good work ethic, to have pride in my name, and to leave things better than I found them.
The “Umbrella” Foundation
At Whirks, we care deeply about several items, causes, and tools, but the one image I have carried since beginning my time here is The Umbrella. Our umbrella is a visualization of our people maturity model and how we believe that each and every business must clarify its people philosophy. We all know what an umbrella does: it keeps you dry on rainy days and protects you from sun damage on hot ones. But here, it is so much more. It is the operational framework that is the basis of how leaders keep their teams safe, encourage them to thrive, and hold them accountable.
The umbrella consists of 3 parts broken down into 6 different sections.
Part 1: Values
Part 2: Direction = Mission + Vision + Goals
Part 3: People = Roles + Expectations
Values are the foundation for all operations
Values clarify how a company will conduct its activities to achieve the vision; they represent the core principles and behaviors that are critically important. Ideally, the values your company holds should form the foundation of a culture of teamwork, excellence, dignity, and respect.
Your values are the ribs of the umbrella that give your company structure. Values are not just something you put on the wall or on a coffee cup, but they must be intertwined in everything your company does—from hiring the ideal people to achieving your overall vision for your company.
What is your story and what are the traits and values that make you who you are today? It does not matter where you came from, what really matters is what you do now. Install your umbrella into your business and begin to solidify your foundation. Once you lay a groundwork built on your core values, then you can move onto the next step: Direction.
Values that Whirk!
Own It: 100% responsible and accountable
Challenge It: The status quo is never OK!
Team First: Positive attitudes, fun, and humor in everything we do
Empathy For Others: Trying to walk in another person’s shoes
Passion For Our Purpose: Invested in the end-goal and motivated to get there.
Part 2: Directions to move
The next step in clarifying your umbrella is to focus on the directions. Any good trip starts with precise planning on where you are going and when you’ll get there. Half of the umbrella is dedicated to the Mission, Vision, and Goals of the company. Those become the covering that protects your team from the rain. When you define your mission, vision, and goals, this provides a compass for your organization and gives your most valuable asset a clearly defined direction on where you are trying to go.
Mission: Declares your purpose and who you serve
Vision: Inspiration summary of the expected outcomes when your mission is complete
Goals: Internal milestones that our employees really care about
As a leader, it is essential to ensure your team understands what’s ahead of them and convey a sense of confidence and strength. Clear mission, vision, and goals allow each employee to fully grasp where the company is going and rally behind the work required to get there.
Part 3: People to lead
As a leader, the umbrella is secured when you add the final piece—People. A true leader is highly committed, skilled, and competent, and possesses impeccable character. A true leader lets the team know what winning looks like for the role, for the person, and for the Company. It is all about transparent and effective communication.
People are your greatest asset, but unlike machinery, they have other requirements that require special attention, skills, and empathy. The final step in completing your umbrella is to review your people. Most teams concentrate on the specific tasks needed to be accomplished in order to be productive and successful. As a leader, setting clear expectations for each role in your company is vital. When you set clear expectations for each key role, you help employees know what’s required of them, what they can delegate, and how they can be successful.
Roles: My role contributes to the overall mission and goals for the organization
Expectations: I know what my leader can count on me to do. Expectations are written in an outcome-based format instead of a job task list.
The Umbrella is an image used to build a framework that provides structure and foundations for all operations. Savvy businesses will use this opportunity to strive to be better by clarifying their umbrella. Solidify your core values to give your team a firm foundation to launch from. Define your mission, vision, and goals and communicate them to your team so they can be bought into where you are headed. Explain your expectations and roles to help them see where they contribute, holding them accountable to a winning standard. When we can do that…we all win.