Imagine writing your profile. You describe yourself optimistically yet somewhat honestly. You describe your ideal match as honest, reliable, open, caring, supportive, fun, a good listener and so on. All the qualities that you think are important. You might even call these 'values', which they're not. More on that later.
You see a profile that you like the look of, and you 'swipe right'. You get chatting, find a few things in common, and nervously arrange to meet for a drink.
It's the big night, and you're waiting in the bar that they suggested. They walk in. They look like their photo. Big sigh of relief. They smile, say hello. All good so far. They order the drinks, choosing for you. You think that's a bit presumptuous, but you give them the benefit of the doubt. They tell you all about themselves, and as you try to get a word in edgeways, they interrupt to tell you what they want, what they're looking for and all the areas in which they excel. They tell you how important their job is, what a great car they've got, how they bought their apartment for cash from their last sales bonus. You start to glance towards the door, your heart sinking with every pompous, self-important word. They tell you what they want from you, and they glare at you disapprovingly with every objection that you raise. They dismiss your suggestions out of hand and, at the end of the evening, tell you that you were not really up to scratch, but they're prepared to give you a second chance.
Do you agree to a second date?
If you have any shred of self-respect left, you say "no, thanks". And yet, some people say yes, because they are afraid that's the best they can do. They are afraid to keep looking.
When it comes to one of your most important relationships, the relationship that you have with your employer, many people endure such a second date. And a third. And a fourth. Day. After day. After day.
Every choice that we make is a compromise. While I'm writing this, I'm not finishing the other work that I'm supposed to be doing. While you're reading this, you're not making that phone call.
Going to work is a free choice, but for many people, it's not a fair choice. Many people get into a relationship with a less-than-ideal employer because they need to pay the bills and take care of their family. They put their own needs, hopes and dreams second. That might seem like a bearable compromise in the short term, but in the long term it causes stress, and stress causes a while variety of illnesses. A huge number of employees today, in jobs all over the world, and companies like yours, a compromising on one of their most important relationships because they are putting the needs of others before their own.
I'm sure we've all been in relationships because of convenience, or because we thought we weren't worth any better, or because we were afraid to leave. We've all compromised on what we wanted, because we thought that what we needed was more important. Our wants can wait, but our needs demand to be met.
For many people, going into a job where they're undervalued and undermined is like having that second date, day after day. Knowing full well what to expect and doing it anyway, believing that they don't have another choice.
You probably can't imagine yourself entering into a relationship on such terms. You also probably can't imagine treating someone that way. Yet managers do, every day, in organisations just like yours.
I mentioned earlier that qualities such as honesty and caring aren't values, and when leaders create organisational values such as honesty and customer focus, those words aren't values either - they are wants, and wants are things that you don't have.
Your corporate values are words that describe how your employees want to feel, and want to be treated, and aren't. When you're holding your focus groups and consulting with your consultants, no-one mentions air and water as values. We take those things for granted. If you're lucky enough to be in a loving, caring, supportive relationship, you wouldn't say that love and care and support are important, because you already have them, and they become 'givens'. You don't ask for what you've already got.
So, I leave you with two ideas.
Firstly, treat your employees, colleagues and clients as if they really have a free choice about that second date.
Secondly, stop compromising. You can have all the things that are important to you. The first thing you have to do is ask for them.
Peter Freeth is a very lucky consultant, talent expert, author and maker of countless questionable choices, all of which he seems to have survived. Having learnt enough lessons for now, he's taking a short break from compromising.