Building Cathedrals

There is a great story I heard many years ago about a man walking past a construction site. As the man watched the construction progress, he leaned close to the fence around the site and asked a worker, “What are you doing?” The worker looked up with an annoyed face and said, “I’m laying bricks, what does it look like I’m doing?” The man walked on and came upon another worker several yards down the road. “What are you doing?” the man asked again. “I’m building a cathedral” the worker replied with a smile.

Why Is This Important?

Every day we have employees who are just laying bricks and others who are building cathedrals. Why? Well, there may be many reasons but we know for sure that companies and organizations that have a solid set of core values or principles from which the company is built and who communicate and model those principles consistently have many more cathedral builders than brick layers. In order to create excellence, you must have a strong foundation that is made up of values and purpose. It doesn’t matter whether you are in business to make or sell a product or deliver a service—a strong foundation is not only 

important to thrive in a global marketplace but it is important if you are to maintain and grow the best employees. Your core principles hold up your purpose and that adds meaning and value to what you do and enables everyone to work with passion and ownership.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

So what do you value? Take some time and really think about that seriously. Ask yourself as an owner, a manager, an employee—what is not up for negotiation? Respect? Integrity? Ethics? Credibility? What might you be willing to compromise on? What isn’t going to make or break you? Now think about how these values play out on a day-to-day basis between you and your employees, you and your boss, you and your co-workers. Consider how these values are communicated between you and your customers and vendors.  Take time to really sit and think about what these values or principles look and sound like during day-to-day interactions. Take a week or two and observe your workplace. What do you see? What do you hear? Are employees modeling those values you hold near and dear?  Is management? What is the result, the outcome of these interactions? Are you consistent in communicating what you say is important to you?

You Mission Should You Choose to Accept It

There are many lists of core values in books and on the internet. Do a Google Search of core values and review as many values as you can. Make a list of all those that are important to you. Take time to think about why that value is important and how you model it. What would happen if that value wasn’t present? Look at which values or principles are similar and group them together. Begin to create a picture of who you are and what you stand for. Now, pay attention to people you encounter every day. Can you tell what they stand for—good or bad? Who models the values you embrace? Look around your workplace—what do you see? Is it time to lay a new foundation or do you need to add support to the one you have laid? Maybe it’s time to get out the call in the cement truck and start anew.

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