continued from Blog Part 3…
I get asked a lot, “How do you do it?!?!” And by a lot, I mean multiple times a day. Sometimes this is in reference to my energy level in a meeting, other times in response to a deliverable we have produced for a client, and other times in response to an idea or insight that I blurt out in the moment during a client conversation. This is my first ever attempt to categorize my answers in a blog series called “Oly’s Work Hacks.” In this series, I focus on how I purposely pursue choices that make work less work.
I have always found excitement and joy in my work but have never been so satisfied with my job until I started my company. In fact, the move to go on my own was a result of wise decisions I made in response to self-directed inquiries about who? where? when? what? why? and how? I work. I took time to ask myself,
“What makes my work less work?” I encourage you to think about these same questions for yourself.
I revealed the “who,” “where”, “when”, and “what” hacks in previous blogs which can be found here. So today, in my last blog of the series, I’ll tell you about my “how” hacks.
SPOILER ALERT: YOUR VALUES ARE HOW YOU MAKE WORK LESS WORK!
In my last post, I included this statement on purpose as I described our firm’s differentiators: I don’t just have core values; I am my core values. There is no more important compass or work hack for how you get things done than knowing and sticking to your core values. They are your road map for your approach to achieving results.
None of The Olympia Collective’s core values should be a surprise if you have worked with us. That’s the magic of knowing who you are, what you do, and how you do it! Then others know you, too! And fast. Because they have spent time with you and witnessed your values in action.
The Olympia Collective’s seven core values weren’t drawn from a hat or a magazine page or copied from someone else’s. I spent serious time and effort defining what they were. I encourage you to do the same. So, you ask, “Oly, can you show us how you selected your core values?”
The answer may be counterintuitive, especially if you have read this entire series. But what’s fascinating is I found that the best way to determine my most consistent and primary core values was to ask others.
YOUR STRONGEST CORE VALUES CHOOSE YOU
I already had two values that I knew were in my DNA (I’ll reveal them soon, don’t worry). For those, I didn’t need any outside validation. They are 99 and 44 one-hundredths percent pure Oly.
Remember when I talked about branding The Olympia Collective? I consulted for two years on my own before I even had a business card, company name, website, or branding. When I knew my small business was my calling, I found the best brand person out there. I didn’t care about price and, as you know, have always been willing to pay for what I can’t do. Finding this person was not hard; she and I shared a client. As soon as I started working with her on some appeals, I knew I would ask her to take me on as a client when I was ready. Her name is Dawn Camner, and Dawn knows I never tire of shouting her name from LA rooftops.
And, of course, the MBA in me also wanted real data. This included what I should call myself. I had toyed with various firm names but wasn’t exactly sure which one I wanted. So I put together a Google survey for my former and current clients, former bosses, and mentors (here it is, in case you are curious!). I wanted to see how people felt about my strengths and weaknesses, the impact I had on them and their organizations, what I represented to them, and explore the tangible results they saw after working with me. I also used this survey as a focus group of sorts to test out potential names. I shared the responses with Dawn. As part of her scope, I also asked her to connect one-on-one with select clients. I cannot underestimate how useful it was that Dawn had already seen me in action with our shared client. She knew how I came across, how I collaborated, and what I modeled. She knew this before she was asked to know this.
What came out of Dawn’s inquiries when she asked, “How do you describe Olympia?” are noted below (BTW: you can see these on our website anytime at www.theolympiacollective.com/brand). It was empowering and eye-opening to review this list with Dawn.
Although I have a healthy self-image, I wouldn’t have chosen all of the words above, and some were a surprise to me. Empowering? Loyal? Creative Pragmatist? Of course, I would have loved to have someone call me any of those, but I didn’t realize those would have made the top of others’ lists when describing me and my work. Having this outside feedback and Dawn as a familiar partner was critical before I worked on the next stage of deciding how these characteristics showed up as core values that underlie all of them. This thinking led to an amazing brand completely aligned with me, my mission, and my team. It also created the perfect conditions to whittle down and identify core values.
Remember the two NON-NEGOTIABLE core values I mentioned earlier? It was with glee (obvi) that Fun showed up loud and clear on the above list and was already an absolute YES in my core values list. To be honest, if something isn’t fun, I won’t do it very long. I can rank my former employers and clients on the fun meter, and every time, the ones at the bottom of the list are where I withered away, opted out early, or was less effective. It’s the same reason I don’t like competing directly in games or actually trying to win at trivia. It’s less fun for me if I think it is work and I am being graded and there is a winner and a loser. I would much rather enjoy the journey of playing than the designation of a number or letter that passes judgment.
The other core value I have exhibited since I can remember is Generosity. It oozes from my pores. I swear this is why I am in the philanthropy sector. I didn’t even realize that generosity was an industry until my mid-20s. I did not grow up in a philanthropic family. I had never been to a gala. Yet I believe that being generous is what makes us truly wealthy. It’s giving to others, not taking or hoarding, that brings joy to both parties. Dan and my kids love to tease me about this one. They comment incessantly about how I “waste” my money on everyone else (this usually quiets when I remind them that they are part of the “everyone else”). That’s their two cents. I disagree and won’t waver. Not only do I not need money to be happy, but also I have worked hard to be able to survive on very little and give my excess to other sentient beings. Enter joy. Love. It.
Besides Fun and Generosity, I had to select which remaining core values bubbled to the top of how I work every day, with anyone, anywhere. What do I value above anything else? It’s harder than you think to thoughtfully whittle these down–partially because our egos think we exhibit all virtues at all times at full volume. Not so much, Miss Ego.
CHOOSING THE OTHER CORE VALUES
For the remainder of my values, I had a running list of about 20 words that were important to me in how I do my work. One easy way to identify these was to think of each of my current scopes of work. Then I wrote down, like it was an instruction manual, how I approached the actual job. I answered questions like:
- What actions did I take once I signed a contract?
- What activities and meetings did I set up?
- Why did I do these things?
- What did I need from the client and myself to get the work done well and meet or exceed client expectations?
Then I thought about my relationships with mentors, favorite clients, team members, and other special people and asked myself this:
- What characteristics do THEY have in common with each other?
- What have I learned from them that I do myself?
- How do they work with me to get the best of me and my performance?
By then, the other five values were loud and clear. From the initial list of 20, there were 5 common answers to the above questions.
I went one step further and defined how each value shows up in my intentions, behavior, and actions. This is the part that not everyone follows and has been critical for me in communicating and exhibiting my core values from the moment I meet someone new.
DON’T FORGET TO DEFINE HOW YOUR CORE VALUES MANIFEST. FUN ISN’T THE SAME FOR EVERYONE.
It doesn’t matter what your core values are as long as they are clearly defined and communicated and you live them as an organization and a person. Only then can you truly surround yourself with the people and clients who will prepare your organization for growth. I hate sports and direct competitions. What if fun to you equals ultra-competitive sports? We actually DON’T share the same Fun as a core value. And that is totally okay as long as we both are transparent with each other. Otherwise we could both misunderstand each other’s approaches and not know why. My core values with their definitions follow.
THE OLYMPIA COLLECTIVE CORE VALUES DEFINED
- FUN: We gleefully incorporate play, humor, and comedy on the daily. As mentioned above, without fun, Olympia disappears. Evidence of this one is rampant: emojis (we even have emojis in the definition, people!), annual gift exchanges, puns, funny gifts, our mood scales at meetings, and anything with a theme that we grab onto like a mechanical bull.
- GENEROSITY: We give selflessly of time, energy, and resources. It’s the driver of our entire industry. It also means we don’t nitpick on hours unless we absolutely have to. That means when you’ve got us, you’ve got us 100%. That means we will do all we can to share resources with you, including our Advisory Council’s and fellow clients’ expertise. And, of course, it means we give back with money, pro bono services, and endless gifts to thank others for their generosity, too. And write this blog.
- HEALTH: We take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our clients. Without health, nothing else matters. And it’s not just physical health but mental health and financial health. This will resonate with any of you who have been invited to one of our mindfulness offerings, push-up challenges, wealth management classes, free fundraising sessions, or Peloton classes. We want to show you that we take care of ourselves first so we can take care of YOU!
- TRUST: We trust ourselves, each other, and our clients, knowing the speed that trust enables. We chose this core value to highlight next because it is the key to moving all relationships (and revenue) forward, faster. Our definition is also a nod to the book The Speed of Trust by Steven M. R. Covey, which I read 15 years ago and was life-changing. It’s statistical proof that higher trust equals saved time, higher profits, and higher morale.
- CONNECTION: We connect deeply and meaningfully, to nurture lasting and powerful outcomes. This is part of our secret sauce for clients and something I tend to do well and quickly with individuals. Connection is our Advisory Council’s favorite core value if you look closely. We take connection seriously and know it takes constant work. This ranges from our proactive “just checking in” updates to our connecting of clients to each other and our Advisory Council to our modeling how to leverage connections to generate revenue. That connectivity is present when we are not distracted and give quality time to our clients in our meetings. Our secret sauce is all about the concept of a Collective, which is why it’s in our firm’s name; it was the clear winner from the aforementioned survey. When you become an Advisory Council member or client, you are immediately introduced to a larger network of like-minded people. What other consultant does that? We can’t think of any, either.
- TEAMWORK: We know our Collective roles, play them well, and unconditionally depend on each other. This definition is a nod to several things. One is our obsession with role clarity as a requirement for results. A written scope of work is pure evidence of role clarity, and we won’t sign a contract without it. Role clarity is one of our first activities when putting together board or fundraising strategies. When we all know our tasks and love performing them, that’s when dreams come true.
GROWTH: We develop ourselves and our work in a way that drives exponential, positive impact. This core value was strategically chosen
- because it relates to the art and science of cultivation. We love seeing charts that go up and trajectories change. And we don’t mean just with revenue, board engagement or mission work. We mean with ourselves. We are continuously learning. I was out for a full seven days last week in a class learning to teach meditation, for example. We each attend webinars, seek out experts, and try new platforms and skills so we can serve others. We show that it’s ok not to know something and even more fun to learn a new trick. Isn’t that what we are teaching our clients to do as they learn about best practices in fundraising and governance?
ONCE YOU’VE GOT YOUR CORE VALUES, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I did several things once I had my core values:
- Announced them with glee in my newsletter and other social media
- Added a page of them on my website with their definitions
- Created a core values one-pager to include in all proposals
- Put them on my swag
- Added them to the bottom of all of my slide decks
- Asked each of my clients and Advisory Council members what their favorite one was and added their answer to our database so I can leverage it in cultivating them. (HINT: Their response is probably one of their core values, too.)
- Highlighted them on social (we do this frequently)
- Revisited them periodically. We all change. So far my core values haven’t. But I am sure there is a chance another might sneak in and triumph above the others. I would let it in. For example, I just visited with a major US company that added a core value of Sustainability to their existing list to ensure they stay committed to saving our planet.
Bottom Line: Here’s my answer to “How do you do it?” Value and love who you truly are, don’t waver from that, and everything else will follow suit. The work is in working with yourself, then real work becomes play..and not just for yourself, but for everyone you encounter.
Want More of our Food for Thought Blog?
This blog is part four of a four-part series titled Oly’s Work Hacks. Our blog is called Food for Thought and can be found on our webpage at https://www.theolympiacollective.com/blog. Click here to have our next blog delivered directly to your inbox.
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Founded and led by nonprofit fundraiser Olympia Ammon, The Olympia Collective specializes in nonprofit revenue generation, board & staff support, and data & insights. We empower our clients to deliver maximum impact to the communities they serve. We are women-owned, value-driven, headquartered in Los Angeles, and serve the world.