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A Cancer That Can Kill Your Business

Written by Don Tinney on July 5, 2016

Core Values EOS Leadership Team

A Cancer That Can Kill Your BusinessThere are interesting parallels between cancer in a human body and cancer in an organization and it all has to do with what’s going on at our core. Just as corrupting cancer cells attack the healthy cells and core functions of the body, something just as cancerous attacks healthy team members and the core of our business.

Serious damage will occur if we don’t detect and treat the cancer early.

Is the Core of Your Business Healthy?

Authentic core values, discovered and nurtured, are essential to building a healthy business. Even with so much written about core values, most entrepreneurs don’t fully realize their power or how best to leverage them, so don’t stop reading. 

Without paying proper attention to our core health, toxic anti-values can embed and like a fast-moving cancer, metastasize and kill our business. Even second- and third-generation businesses are not immune. So, let’s get serious about this and take steps to take care of your business at its core.

On a practical level, a core value is something you, the business founder, care about deeply. Your core values evoke a strong emotional response when someone does or doesn't care about it like you do. Simply put, if a value doesn’t make you react strongly, it’s not core. If you don't get really angry when it is violated, it’s not core. A core value is something you are ready to go to war over. The opposite of a genuine core value, an anti-value, is something you recognize as hazardous to your core health—you address and remove it quickly.

Testing for Cancer at Your Company's Core

Take this test:

Your business espouses three core values: “stay humble,” “do the right thing,” and “help first.” Bob is technically very solid in his seat. He gets it, wants it, and has the capacity to consistently deliver what his job requires. The problem is that Bob doesn’t care about two of your three core values and violates them regularly. He's quite arrogant, works to advance himself, and doesn’t do anything to help his teammates. So teammates really dislike working with Bob. But Bob gets the work done, and the customers seem happy with him.

As Bob’s manager, what do you do?

  1. Leave Bob alone because he’s really good at delivering what the customers want and you're afraid you won’t be able to find someone who can do the job as well as he does.
  2. Coach Bob’s teammates to be more tolerant of him.
  3. Clarify your values expectations with Bob and after three failures to meet your expectations within a reasonable period of time, remove him from the company.

If you chose option A or B, you would embed a cancer cell that, in the early stages of the disease, will destroy the morale of your team. Your good people will start to leave because you didn’t protect the team and culture by defending the values you professed and they cared about. Hundreds of related, symptomatic aches and pains will arise from the untreated cancer at your core.

Remember, the best chance of survival depends on early detection, early treatment, and radical removal if needed. Every entrepreneur I’ve worked with that was slow to remove a cancerous team member wishes they had acted more quickly. They let the fear of addressing this issue allow them to tolerate a toxic employee that weakened their business from the inside out.  

Take Steps to Keep a Healthy Business

Actions for this week:

  • If you haven’t already done so, take time to discover your core values and test them to make sure they're truly core.
  • Be able to communicate them clearly (see the Speech onpages 35-46 in Traction).
  • Take the list of people you need to prune and use the People Analyzer Tool to measure these people against your core values. Determine who you'll coach up or coach out.

Set some time aside this week to work through these action steps. Then watch for my next article explaining how to evaluate team members using GWCGet it, Want it, Capacity to do it.

Next Steps

Looking for business management tools? The EOS Toolbox is full of powerful real-world tools

More Blog Posts: ← Do Business Owners Have Their Own Rules? | 4 Reasons Your Company Vision Isn’t “Shared By All”