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Can Your Company’s Values Stand Up To “Hell Or High Water”?

I recently attended Ultimate Software Connections 2015. Ultimate Software and Assess Systems are partners – our products integrate with each other. Officially I was there to meet Ultimate Software clients and learn more about their businesses, but I got much more than that during the four days of the conference.

First, I’m constantly amazed at the optimism and energy of a room full of human resources professionals. It is an infectious energy. Human resources professionals are “people” people, so naturally general sessions and breakout tracks were buzzing with questions and comments.

Second, I was impressed with the conference sessions. Whether the sessions focused on technical issues or how to apply Ultimate Software’s products when solving complex business problems, the value was high. This may seem easy for a partner to say, but it is true – I’ve been to LOTS of conferences. This one was quite good.

There was one session I thought was best of all. It was the story of the Calgary Stampede (@calgarystampede), a 100+ year old festival and park in the center of Calgary – think “state fair on steroids.” What makes this story interesting is that the Calgary Stampede is a business story with a heart. It is a story about being decisive and being passionate. It is a story about having a mission and values that are truly core to the operation of the business. And, it is a story about a connected and motivated employee base.

Just 14 days before the 101st Calgary Stampede, Calgary flooded, forcing the evacuation of millions and destroying large sections of Calgary’s homes and businesses (see a short video here).

The employees and the community rallied behind the Calgary Stampede, using this event as the centerpiece of Calgary’s recovery. What the team accomplished in 14 days was nothing short of heroic, given the state of the Stampede grounds and the limited access in and out of Calgary. The Calgary Stampede opened on time, rallying around the phrase “Hell or High Water.” In doing so, the team re-built the soul of the city.

The Calgary Stampede also gave back to the community. Thousands of “Hell or High Water” t-shirts were sold raising $2.1 million to assist the Red Cross in efforts to re-build areas of Calgary hit by the flood.

What can we learn from this story? The Calgary Stampede operates on a solid set of values. Values that were created a century ago and have withstood the test of time because employees live the values and made decisions based on those values. It is because of those values that it took more than rain, mud, and power outages to stop the show.

That is the lesson. Let’s examine our own organization’s values – are they meaningful? Do we use those values to make decisions? If so, then certainly the show will go on!

Some other great links:

Timeline of events

12 Days before opening

Come Hell or High Water

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