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Posted on Nov 24, 2017

Values in Leadership: Be Reflective of Your Best People On Their Best Day

Values in Leadership: Be Reflective of Your Best People On Their Best Day

In my interview with Bruce Clarke, the president and CEO of Capital Associated Industries – or CAI as it is commonly known – he explains how the organization was formed in 1963 by a few dozen area business leaders to help maintain a positive labor climate in the growing Central and Eastern region of North Carolina. The goal was to pay people well and benefit them correctly.

Today, CAI is a non-profit membership organization that provides HR products and services to about 1,200 North Carolina employers.

While practicing employment law, Bruce decided to join CAI because he related well with what the organization provided its members. For Bruce personally, joining CAI allowed him to shift away from what he calls the “emergency room setting, where blood was already on the floor and the accident has already occurred,” to the proactive, preventive, and wellness side of HR.

A Reflective Approach to Choosing Values

Bruce feels CAI may be unique in how it approached the formation of the organization’s values.

“We created those values as reflective of us and our best people on our best day.”

He says they even used specific employees, listing their names as they discussed values in meetings, asking the question, “How do these people behave on their best day?” Bruce highlights the importance of being reflective versus trying to create something new or too big of a stretch from who they really are and what they’re really good at and who they attract.

After completing this exercise about 3 years ago, CAI ended up with four unique values:

  • Bigger than me
  • Ownership
  • Solve It
  • Extra Step

Prior to this, CAI had a set of values that were more “typical” as Bruce calls them, of mission-vision-values statements one might see in a big corporate lobby.

Communicating the Values

Bruce also highlighted various ways CAI communicates and reinforces these values. They are

  • posted on very large plaques in the lobby and employee work areas.
  • included in quarterly performance discussions with each employee.
  • referenced in quarterly staff meetings where a group of people may be highlighted to show how they’ve reflected these values.
  • used explicitly in hiring new people, from the posting phase to interview phase.
  • also used in separation (termination) where an employee may be told they’re not a good fit because of lack of alignment with these values.

When considering values in leadership, Bruce says it’s critical that leaders look critically at themselves first, at how they live these values, or equally important how they might not be following these values and/or omitting them in their own decision-making. He says if leaders want others to adhere to the values, they must first ensure they themselves are walking the talk.

Bruce also acknowledges the common challenge of leaders getting tired of talking about the values. This is a mistake. He underscores the importance of repetition and the need for leaders to continually talk about the values. That’s how they can make a difference.

To listen to the whole interview with Bruce, visit: Values in Leadership.


This is a new Business Leader Series called Values in Leadership, where I share relevant insights gleaned from interviews with successful business leaders. I welcome your comments or questions by emailing: