Honesty has a beautiful simplicity. This straightforward value gives us a framework for making decisions companywide. In a company built on intellectual capital, with the stated purpose of helping the world invest better, honesty is essential.
We chose our words here carefully: Make. Us. Proud. Not “Don’t break the law” or “Tell the truth” or “Call ‘em like you see ‘em.” For us, honesty has to go beyond what is legally defensible.
Honesty also emphasizes the difference between core values and a code of ethics. Our core values serve as fundamental beliefs that we can turn to when making decisions. They should be easy to explain, embrace, and employ as decision-making tools. A code of ethics – although closely related — is generally a more formalized list of do’s and don’ts. It’s almost a *gulp* “policy.”
Now – as promised in my first post, here are the answers to our values questions.
Do we hire for this value?
Yes. How? Certainly, it would be great to have Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, but I’ll admit that the one I ordered from Amazon needs batteries or something. And the last interviewee I used it on wasn’t amused. Maybe he had something to hide…
Instead, I ask prospective employees: Tell me something you’re proud of. A time that you had to be honest when it wasn’t easy. A time that there was a difference between what was right and what was legal.
I also love to hear “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” answers in an interview. It’s virtually impossible to know all of the answers. Be honest about it. I also see red flags sometimes when we ask someone to demonstrate knowledge. Certainly, we don’t try to trick people with these questions, but it’s surprising to me how frequently this happens:
Q: “Are you an investor?”
Q: “Great, tell me about the last stock you bought and why?”
A: “Ummm, well…”
Will we fire for this value?
Can you see and feel this value in our office?
Many of the same ways we encourage collaboration also foster honesty. Everyone’s desk occupies the same open office, and our conference rooms have glass walls and doors. We also build honesty into our services, displaying our returns since recommendation on the front page of our web site. Some are up, some are down — but we don’t cherry-pick the winners. We also display returns for specific recommendations throughout the office, and change the returns as the stock price moves. Some months those are higher; some months, lower.
How often do we talk about this value? When was the last time we did so?
Similar to Innovation, I actually hear “make us proud” more frequently than “core value honesty.” But our CEO has recently taken this value to the next level by hosting a monthly Honest Tea. At this session, which follows our monthly all-company meeting, everyone is encouraged to come and dissent. We want to ensure that we have not only a desire to be honest, but also an outlet for those thoughts.
Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered. I call this #3 to help blog readers keep track. See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.