By Ben Peterson, Former CEO
At Blue Raven Solar, we have three values:
- Develop a High-Trust Culture
- Be Efficient
- Continuously Improve
Each of our values is accompanied by four statements capturing what living this value means to us as individuals and as teams at Blue Raven Solar.
Developing a “High-Trust Culture” means four things for us:
1A: Keep commitments to homeowners, sales reps, employees, installers, technicians, vendors, and investors
1B: Close the Loop – report back to each other
1C: Respect and empower one another
1D: Disagree Constructively
Value 1D is to “disagree constructively,” expressing two distinct ideas for us: constructiveness and perspective.
First, for a moment, let’s forget how we should disagree. We are simply saying people at Blue Raven Solar should disagree aloud when they disagree in their thoughts.
Is this counter-intuitive?
Wouldn’t you think a trusting culture would rather have people nod their heads “yes” most of the time?
Discussion Builds Trust
Doesn’t disagreement invite conflict?
Yes, disagreement invites conflict, but it can also translate to improvement. It means saying what you think and making your opinion heard. It means people know exactly where you stand. It is essential to building trust.
- Who do you trust most in your life?
- Who are your closest friends and advisors?
These are the individuals who speak the truth to you, even when it might be difficult or upsetting, and they do it because they want you to be better. These are the people you trust (or, at least, these are the people you should trust)!
Now, when we do disagree, we like to do it constructively.
As American social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, once said, we should listen to the rider (logic), not the elephant (our emotions). We should seek to counteract biases. We should be open to new ideas. We should rely on facts when presenting evidence, and we should never take disagreement as a personal attack, because we are all just trying to become better and help one another.
Additionally, as Steven Covey taught, we should always seek first to understand, then to be understood. We should restate what others are saying before we seek to persuade, because all opinions have value and weight, and could very well be something we needed to hear. We should describe the impact of certain behaviors or processes in a factual way rather than speak in generalities or in emotionally charged ways so we can be truthful and objective. Being polite also goes a long way.
For us, however, and as our organization grows — the hardest part is preserving a culture of disagreement in the first place. This is the backbone of trust, and we work hard on it. It is also essential for good decision-making processes.
Building a Company-Wide Culture
Disagreeing constructively goes under Value 1 of Keeping Commitments because it not only allows us to trust each other, but also builds on top of the other sub-values come first, just as Value 1C and 1B built upon what preceded them. Value 1D builds off 1C, which is to Respect and Empower One Another. Without respect and empowerment to create a safe, welcoming, and successful work environment, we would not benefit from constructive disagreement. We likely would not have any. No one would feel comfortable speaking their mind or sharing their perspective, but because we have built a culture encouraging our team members to be heard and to hear each other, people are more willing and less worried to give their disagreeing opinions.
This is something that will continue to build our organization around and encourage continual growth and change.
We asked employees how they experienced Value 1D at Blue Raven Solar. Here is what a few of them said:
We all come from different backgrounds and experiences. I love the culture we are providing to disagree constructively – as people are aware, this is a value; they listen and understand more openly than feeling attacked at a given situation.
The culture at Blue Raven Solar has encouraged everyone to have open constructive dialogue.
We are always looking for ways to improve. Sometimes we disagree with one another when trying to figure out the best way to approach a problem. I feel like we do a good job of hearing everyone out and using information and data to help back our decision making.
One of the best things at Blue Raven is that no matter what you talk about and who you talk about it with your opinion or idea is respected, even if it is disagreed with. Instead of a fight, you get a constructive conversation. You learn a new perspective and you might even change your opinion or idea and they could possibly do the same. I personally am a very stubborn person and set in my ways. Every day when I come to work, I let that guard down and leave my stubbornness at home. It is a big relief.
Recently I was able to dispute the way a metric of mine was measured with a supervisor. We were able to have a constructive conversation while still disagreeing.
We constantly disagree – it is how we make things better. We look at what both sides of the problem raise and then find a solution in the middle that improves the process for both sides and the company. We constantly update our processes to accommodate the growth we experience.
We might disagree from time to time about specific policies and procedures, and how best to implement them, but we do not disagree on the overall goal – to provide a great service, to earn a living, and to enjoy doing it. That is the prevailing attitude in our department.
As I have brought up concerns or had questions about an issue, I have received the utmost respect when I have expressed those thoughts. They have helped me understand the direction of the team, department, and company. It is amazing to know that I will not be ridiculed for sharing my opinion or trying to improve the team.
In the Installations department, it is common for there to be small disagreements on the right way to do things. Since I started, I have always felt that everyone is open to new ideas and criticism is never intended to be offensive.
Everyone has different ways to accomplish goals, sometimes it is different than mine or others’, but we always seem to find a way to handle it together. Debating direction and execution is a way of life at Blue Raven. There are many confident and bright people who work here — and that translates into strong opinions. Unlike other places I have worked where people do not question why things are done a certain way, it is expected to disagree and debate the validity of both sides to make a decision.
We frequently have differing opinions, but we use them to fuel discussion and improvement.
Once in a while, my unique professional experience and personal convictions call on me to be the one who either disagrees or, at least offers constructive criticism of business strategies my team is outlining. When that has happened here, I have always felt like my coworkers have heard me out, and either made rational counterpoints or reached agreeable compromises.
I have never felt like I was not heard or acknowledged when sharing an idea, even if I end up being told I am not looking at it the right way or we end up moving forward with a different plan when dealing with a problem. It makes it easier to continue to share my thoughts because 1) I feel safe to do so without fear of getting shut down and 2) disagreeing is another learning experience that helps me make more informed choices when doing my job.
In training when giving opinions on how to do a process, our trainer would disagree with us constructively without making us feel dumb or inadequate and would guide us back on the right path or correct answer.
The Blue Raven Solar Mission and How We Strive to Live it Everyday
To close our first value, Keeping Commitments, I want to express its importance to our organization. Though we have already covered where it came from, how it affects us, and how much we need it, I feel the urge to reiterate all our success comes from this first value. If you were to look at each of its supporting statements under a microscope, they have strengthened my belief in holding onto these values to achieve our mission and continue to succeed and change lives, both inside and outside of our organization.
Our mission is to make homeowners’ lives better by reducing their energy bills, by increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy, and by providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and a speedy, high-quality installation.
Everything we do is centered around achieving our mission, and we stay close to it by remembering how important these values are. By disagreeing constructively, we are providing the insight we all need to make the world a better, cleaner place, powered by the energy from the sun.
You can experience our mission and values firsthand when you make the switch to clean, renewable energy for your home with Blue Raven Solar.
See how we can work together with a free quote today!