A little over a year ago, I authored the first published version of the core values of our team at SEO Hacker. It was abbreviated to stand out as ‘ACHTUNG’.
It was a result of me being able to finish Jim Collins’ books: Built to Last and Good to Great.
It was work that I was sincerely proud of.
However, I noticed that my team did not live it out. The mid-level managers did not embody it. There were no mechanisms to uphold the values such as incentives for practicing it or penalties for disrespecting it.
I toiled for days and hours working on our team’s core values. And when I finished it, I felt like a father to a newborn baby.
However after a year, my baby felt a lot like a bad fart. No one wants to admit it but it stinks and people just want it to go away.
After just a year, ACHTUNG is no longer relevant.
They say your first try in anything will always suck. I agree. ACHTUNG did not do so well.
However, without me trying, I never would have been able to formulate a new set of Core Values that will be more relevant to us. A new guiding star that would direct us as a team.
I made it simpler, more concise and more like… us.
Why didn’t ACHTUNG Work?
Well because it really isn’t being lived out. We did try to integrate ACHTUNG in our evaluation and promotion system but it just wouldn’t make sense if all it did was establish the team for that one time in a year where everyone would be evaluated.
So with the dawn of our new set of core values, we decided that we should be more agile in our evaluation.
We decided to move towards Fast Feedback Loops as a team — rendering the annual evaluation redundant. Our promotion system may still change because we’re always in the process of testing things. But what’s really important is that the core values be lived out, reviewed and enforced —monthly rather than yearly.
Because of the Fast Feedback Loops, there became a 1,200% uplift in reasons to actually live out the new set of core values.
The abbreviation of our new set of core values is RIBEE. It’s still the first draft. I’m still going to have to polish it. But this is it so far.
And the reason why I’m sharing this is for you to be able to draw some ideas from it.
Respect for Work
This embodies punctuality, a drive that requires no supervision, and the courage to confront indiscipline in yourself and in your teammates — all in one.
When you respect your work, you will honor it and do your best to perform excellently.
Know that God is watching everything you do at work. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” — Ephesians 6:7 (NLT)
This is counter-intuitive with all the social media stuff about work and passion and leaving your job if you don’t feel good doing it.
However, there is deep wisdom in that verse. When you work for the Lord, you do your best, you keep your character in check and you DO THE RIGHT THING.
We know technology is great BUT then there’s the fact that everyone has access to it. Our team is composed of young people. Mostly millennials age 21–28.
Don’t think technology gives you an edge. It doesn’t.
Hard work does.
So go beyond the temptation to be lazy because of your skill over technology and work your ass off to be valuable.
Technology is common. Hard work is rare.
Always put yourself in the client’s shoes. Is the article you are about to publish going to be appreciated by the client? Is the design you’ve just let out going to be admired?
Put yourself in your teammate’s shoes — do they appreciate you taking a leave with the heavy workload at hand?
Or put yourself in the management’s shoes — Are you going to appreciate it when the management is not confronted with issues in the team and we talk about it amongst ourselves?
Without empathy, our team will be cold — all brains, no heart.
Innovation may be too a daunting term. You don’t have to ‘create something new’. Learning by experimentation is enough.
Using whatever theoretical lessons you learned and applying it hands on — whether you succeed or not, whether you break your website or not, we appreciate that. And above all, you get to keep what you learned.
For a lifetime.
It’s 2 less values than ACHTUNG but I can tell you that it’s at least a hundred times more effective than what ACHTUNG has ever been in our team. Along with RIBEE, we implemented penalties for people who violated the values. And we have actually allotted a budget for people who will embody RIBEE in the form of trainings and workshops.
We’ve also cut a deal with Growbot which is a super awesome AI bot in Slack that helps us uphold our core values as a team. Each time a person embodies a core value, we reward that person with points — and each month, we are able to see who in our team embodies our core values the most.
Looking back, I don’t really consider it a failure that ACHTUNG didn’t work out. In fact, if I think about it, it was a success in its own way because it helped me to see the core values that we really needed.
It helped me to realize the critical ‘why’s’ of core values that win and core values that stink.
Connecting the dots of the past, I believe these are the core values that would really be effective for us to work together and to work well.
On to the future.