At its core, every business — and career — is about providing value to others, whether that’s to internal corporate colleagues, customers or clients. Since you’re reading this book, odds are that you’re successful, motivated, but stuck in at least one aspect of your life. Now that we’ve examined your finances, health and relationships, let’s take an up-close and personal look at the professional you, to see how well your career is serving you while you’re serving others.

Tony Hsieh (pronounced shay), CEO of online shoe giant, contends that Zappos isn’t really in the shoe business. He says they’re in the customer service business and just happen to sell shoes. He wasn’t always sold on the concept, however. When he first received a voicemail from a young entrepreneur pitching the idea, Tony nearly deleted it. As far as he was concerned, selling shoes online sounded like the poster child of bad Internet ideas. Until he learned that, even back then, the shoe biz was a $40 billion industry and five percent of sales were already being done through mail order catalogues. Now, after nearly a decade in business and a billion dollars in gross merchandising sales, Tony’s changed his tune.

I asked Tony what made Zappos so successful in such a short period of time. (Incidentally, he sold his first company to Microsoft for $265 million at the tender age of 24, so he knows a thing or two about success.) Tony told me that he and his team had put a great deal of emphasis on getting the culture right. If they established the right kind of corporate culture, he was convinced, everything else would fall into place.

That everything else included creating what the Zappos crew now calls delivering a WOW through service. It takes a lot of work to get to wow, however, including strategic hiring practices, top-notch training systems and a foundation of meaningful core values.

According to Tony, developing a list of core values against which performance, skills and attitude could be actively assessed has been critical in building both the business and the culture of Zappos. Although creating corporate values statements often means give lip-service to lofty goals barely fit for a wall plaque, Tony’s team determined that Zappos’ values would be simple, useful and authentic. See how well they did below:

-The Ten Core Values of

-Deliver WOW through service

-Embrace and drive change

-Create fun and a little weirdness

-Be adventurous, creative and open-minded

-Pursue growth and learning

-Build open and honest relationships with communication

-Build a positive team and family spirit

-Do more with less

-Be passionate and determined

-Be humble

One of the most interesting things about that list, besides the fact that it is totally devoid of corporate-speak, is how relevant it is in determining and sustaining basic priorities. Those values enter into practically every daily activity that happens within the organization from handling sales calls to recruiting new hires.

Let me give you an example. If a prospective hire is going through the interview process, the hiring business unit and the HR team consider every single value to determine if the candidate is truly a fit for both skills and culture. Even if an interviewee possesses great talent and would undoubtedly bring monetary value to the company, if the team finds him arrogant — that is, not humble — he’s not offered the job. Likewise, when Zappos employees are assessed through performance appraisals, they are evaluated against core values which they’re not only aware of, but they also helped create in the first place. Though it may not always be easy to adhere to their high standards, they’ve found that their list of core values provides the litmus test by which all things can be measured.

Employee training also gets the core values treatment. New hires at every level go through a four-week training period, two weeks of which are spent answering calls with the customer loyalty team, as their call center is known. After the first week and until the end of the training period, every trainee is given the option to leave with pay for time worked plus a $2,000 bonus. That’s right, a bonus to walk away! It’s Zappos’ unique way of weeding out people who aren’t a long-term fit. Surprisingly (or maybe not), less than 1% percent of people walked last year. Tony considers the exit package a great investment in making sure that only the right people — that is, those who are truly committed to customer service — stick around.

Though not as easy as it sounds, getting the culture right and letting everything else fall into place seems to be working. Zappos has created their wow brand of service with some fairly unusual practices, including paying for shipping on deliveries and returns, taking orders 365 days a year, and encouraging the sales team to take as much time on the phone with customers as necessary to keep them happy and coming back for more.

In a move rivaled only by Macy’s sending shoppers to Gimbels in the holiday movie Miracle on 34th Street, when a customer calls Zappos and discovers the shoes they want are out of stock, the customer loyalty associate will check up to three other websites to see if they can locate the shoes for their customer elsewhere. As Tony says, it’s not about the sale, it’s about the long-term relationship. It’s obviously working since, on any given day, about 75% of Zappos shoppers are return customers. Way to walk your core values talk. In your brand new shoes, of course!

RISK-TAKER’S TOOL: Creating Core Values for Your WOW Career

As you’ve just seen, the Zappos team takes their core values very seriously, albeit with some fun and a little weirdness (core value #3). If you want to see for yourself, just call their toll free number, 1-800-927-7671. Unlike many online companies, you can readily find their phone number on the website because they actually like talking to you. If you do call, you’re likely to experience values # 1, 3, 9 and 10 in action. Each value will be filtered through their individual personalities, of course, since employees are encouraged to be themselves.

RISK-TAKER’S TIP: Tiane Mitchell Gordon, director of inclusion and diversity for AOL believes that each of us should bring our authentic personality to work. As she puts it, the workplace is no longer a melting pot where all the ingredients meld together. Rather, it’s more of a gumbo where tastes and spice notes blend, yet retain their unique flavors. So don’t be afraid to bring your spicy self to work!

Tony thinks that any company can benefit from taking the time to create a slate of core values, especially if they’re as genuine and specific as Zappos’ are. So let’s take a cue from their success by drafting your list of values. Though you may work for a company that has a mission or value statement of its own, that’s not what we’re looking for here. I want you to create core values for you as a professional. Not just for a job or a company, but for your very own wow career.

Take a moment to reflect on your work life, looking back at some high and low points you’ve experienced over the years. Now imagine letting go of the lows and focusing on the highs. Take a few deep breaths and conjure up a vision of the career you really crave. A career that puts your skills, passions, strengths, temperament and personality to work. A career that includes just the right balance of people, projects and environment you need to flourish. It doesn’t matter if you see yourself as the owner of a one-person dog-walking service or part of a mega-corporation. What’s important is, well, what’s important to you.

Before we get started on your list, take a look at the following and see if any of these values describe your career core values. Don’t worry if you’re not experiencing each stated value on the job right now. I just want you to be able to identify the values that are important to you overall. Later, you’ll determine how to present those values are in your current work situation. Then, we’ll look at some ways you can either infuse more of them into your work or use them to decide if it’s time to look for your next career opportunity.

-Be authentic, real and respectful

-Give great value to our customers

-Help people learn and grow

-Collaborate and communicate as a team

-Take risks and innovate

-Be open to change and growth

-Build robust relationships

-Be creative and resourceful

-Laugh and have fun

-Care for friends, family and community

By the way, the list above represents my core values of the things that are most important to me professionally. You’re welcome to borrow from it or use it as a basis for creating a list of what you care deeply about in your profession. Now, write out your core values list, which should include about 6 -10 items. Make sure you’ve got enough on your list to cover your career bases, but not so much that you lose your focus or end up trying to be all things to all people.

Sit with your values list for a day or so. If you have trusted allies on your team (Liberators only, please), ask for their feedback. Does your list of core values truly seem authentic to who you are at the deepest level? Does it reflect what you care about? Does it encompass the value you bring to your work? Does it honor your strengths, skills and passions? If necessary, make any tweaks or revisions.

Now post your core values list proudly where you can reflect upon it often. Remember it’s not meant to be a laminated plaque on your wall. It’s a living document that should inform all your choices and actions — especially the tough ones. As you return to your values list (often, by the way) try to think of recent decisions or events in your life that directly correlate to the values that you’ve listed.

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write by Arianne