Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is selling their brand new custom built headquarter building. They never moved in despite designing a facility that captured the essence of outdoor lifestyle and embraced nature. Rumored reasons for abandoning the HQ include, raising cash for the balance sheet, changes to workplace requirements, and pivoting to a new business model. Five years ago, REI was a leader in closing stores on Black Friday. Instead it started the #optoutside movement, encouraging people to engage in an outside activity over chasing retail sales.REI chose people over buildings.
It is easy to think that our facilities as the essence of our being. Where we do what we do defines our stories. We have been encouraged to choose our travel lodging based on the ammenties of a hotel or airbnb. Ice machine of every floor, pet friendly, workout facility with new machines, and 24-hour room service might make the difference in selecting our overnight lodging. But if the people who work within the building do not care, it cannot overcome the luxury.
If we lead with our core values then we can see how REI decided to forego their dream HQ. In the first half of 2020, they laid-off employees and closed stores. The optics of moving into the headquarters would amplified the misguided ethos of managing image over leading people. Instead, they were willing to put the moving trucks on hold and revisit their decisions. REI asked “how might we” and the resulting choice was a different path. A journey which may create more loyalty, greater trust, and a better future.
When our line of sight is limited, we have choices. Speed up, maintain pace, or proceed with caution. Our sense of place and mindset impact our ultimate decision. Driving on the interstate, we can expect the road is engineered to support the speed limit. So a curve should not result in radical deviation. Mountain biking down a flow trail, we can expect banked corners to accommodate the speed we might be carrying from above. In a high alpine backcountry setting we might anticipate some thoughtfulness in trail design but if the vertical exposure is sufficient, we might decide to decrease our pace.
We encounter blind corners all the time. We can not see into the future far enough to anticipate the terrain. If we previously traveled a path it is easier to approach with a sustainable pace. If the trail is new to us, we might settle for a cautionary approach, allowing us time to adjust our course.
The recent months have presented a series of blind corners. COVID, financial recessions, virtual workplaces, Black Lives Matter, and masks. Some enterprises saw a chance to accelerate into open space. Others pulled to the shoulder of the road with their hazard lights ablaze. Each organizations saw their approach as best. Blind corners tend to amplify our beliefs and values. If we see each opportunity as a challenge to maximize our talents, then we might proceed in sports mode. If we believe we are playing the infinite game, then we might downshift and cover the brakes, confident we will be able to continue to journey.
How do our choices amplify (or derail) our core values? Have we built trust and loyalty because we acted in concert with our beliefs or have we created factions in our team due to misalignment? Are we still on the road or have we spun out into the ditch?
Want to test the conviction of our values? Offer an incentive and see how quickly we become transactional. Or, witness how we will not sacrifice our belief for a better deal. Holding true to our values is called loyalty.
Here is a conversation that may find its way to your boardroom in the next year. Do nonprofits need to pay nonprofit board members? The National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE) is advocating a change to the role of a board member and nonprofit executive. The headline grabber is NANOE’s belief that nonprofit board members should receive an honorarium for their service, and a strong CEO focus on money over mission. The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides a in-depth look at the movement.
The ascension of this discussion brings a conversation opportunity to the board room. What does your organization stand for? How does its behaviors match the stated values? What actions would constitute a breach? What is essential to the serving the board?
Any of us can make a promise, take a reservation, offer a guarantee. That is not the work that matters. How we perform when circumstances cause us to deviate from our promise reveals our real value. How we respond to missing expectations is what makes us memorable.
The best movies of all time, greatest authors, best baseball players ever, or top ten sights you must see in your lifetime. These lists spring-up frequently. When done with care and creativity they offer a lot of insights about the person who assemble them.
Where do you share your opinions that confirm your values?