Seattle University CIO, Chris Van Liew, writes that while the term may sound a bit old fashioned, "honor" can anchor you and your teams amid ever-changing situations and circumstances.
In my search for a shorthand set of principles to encapsulate inclusiveness, service excellence, continuous improvement, commitment to values, and reason for being, I've landed on the critical word: honor.
Honor may sound a bit old fashioned today, but it's time to resurrect the term. Honor provides an able anchor for our organizational approach and a flexible guide for ever-changing situations and circumstances.
The word honor can signify high distinction, esteem, repute, purity, or privilege. Honor can also refer to regarding another with great respect or formal recognition, or to "fulfill" or "keep," as in an obligation or agreement. Honor ascribes to its object inherent worth and motivates a deep care.
To honor is to strive for the greatest good for the one honored and to do what you say you'll do. There is no such thing as fake honor - it's either real, or it isn't honor. And while not an exhaustive list, I am to honor my customers, my colleagues, my craft, and my core.
Honoring Your Customers
Plenty of excellent material has been written regarding customer-centric organizations. Customers are the center of our digital strategy, the target of our supply chains, the measure of our operational effectiveness, the yardstick of our value, and the ultimate judge of our organizational relevance. Every organization has customers of one kind or another, whether a Fortune 500 enterprise, a boutique specialty firm, or a mission-minded NGO.
I want my organization to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and believing our customers to be worthy of honor properly motivates this endless quest. If honor is the superintending principle, the highest standard, then disciplines such as predictable excellence and customer service will come along for the ride.
With honor, treating customers with dignity is a given. Honor is not achieved through customer "satisfaction," but instead strives for the deep delight of those we serve.
Honoring Your Colleagues
While focusing on those we work for, we cannot neglect those we work with. Honor is a strong corrective principle for our working relationships. Most of us desire to work in an atmosphere of trust, teamwork, respect, dignity, empathy, forgiveness, understanding, kindness, compassion, gratitude, and giving credit where credit is due. We want to work where we can disagree productively. And most of us want this experience with all of our colleagues, whether employees, contractors, suppliers, or other service providers.
Honoring one's colleagues is an inherently inclusive act. Creating a working environment where every person, every voice, every perspective is valued requires a fundamental commitment that each and every individual is worthy of honor simply because they exist, not just because they've done something you like. If you don't know where to begin, start by ensuring that each person's voice is honored, their ideas are welcomed, their contributions are considered - and go from there.
It's easy to test your own personal progress in this. Do your words honor your colleagues? Do your actions? What do you actually think of the people you work with? How might you behave differently if you treated your colleagues with honor?
In the end, honoring your colleagues promotes diversity, because each diverse voice can remain true to itself. It promotes equity, because to honor is to help each person engage based on an equal footing. It promotes inclusion, because honoring a colleague necessarily draws them in on their terms as well as yours. And all of these things promote excellence, because we are smarter together than alone.
As professors Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron wrote in their HBR blog, “Too many companies bet on having a cut-throat, high-pressure, take-no-prisoners culture to drive their financial success. But a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.”
Honoring Your Craft
This one is the most straightforward. Are you good at what you do? Are you a credit to your profession? Honoring your craft is to be fully committed to learning and continuous improvement.
Honoring your craft is to stay relevant in your field, adeptly handling today's challenges while positioning yourself for what will come tomorrow. Honoring your craft is to be willing to change anything that impedes performing your role with excellence over the long haul. And honoring your craft is to dedicate time to your professional development. Those who treat professional development as a mandatory part of each work week honor their craft and are the most effective in their roles.
Honoring Your Core
Finally, we must honor our core - that is, what makes you you. The inner you. Your best self. The storehouse of your values, dreams, ambitions, fears, and struggles. Your whole person. Your very reason for being. The essence of you that you'd want to remain if everything else was taken away. The way you hope to be remembered by others. How you would live if you knew for certain you couldn't fail.
Honoring your core is to believe that there's still time left to become the person you've always wanted to be.
If you honor your core, you'll like who you see in the mirror each morning. This makes every other action throughout the day just that much easier.
Build an Engine, Not a Framework
Don't labor to fill these principles of honor with exhaustive details and "how to" instructions and measures, or an impossibly long hierarchical checklist for your teams to pursue. You will never construct the perfect list of what should be achieved within each of these four categories of honor – and you don't have to!
Instead, create the perfect ongoing conversation within your empowered teams about how to best honor your customers, colleagues, craft, and core. Strive to become exceptionally efficient at putting into practice whatever your teams discover and decide within this ongoing dialogue. Build and fuel the engine of honor, and the right capabilities and actions to honor your customers, colleagues, craft, and core will follow.