Is what we say what we do?
Is what guides us appropriate for the business?
How do we make sure people are aligned to the values?
Do our values resonate with our clients and stakeholders?
Lots of companies sign up to the notion that they’re as much about “values” as turning a profit. Some believe their values are implicit in what they already do. Others pay lip service. Yet negative media publicity reveals some companies and organisations fail to actually practise what they preach; the robustness of their corporate values is paper-thin.
Take a look at the following frequently touted corporate values: respect, integrity, honesty, creativity, innovation, teamwork, collaboration.
Most companies by now have a grab-bag of these and other aspirational qualities written into their policies and corporate mission statements, while keeping a weather eye for newer buzzwords such as “agility”.
Those virtues mean nothing if employees and clients feel they’re being treated otherwise. No leader worth their salt allows this; s/he realises that if s/he doesn’t demonstrate the importance of such values, then their messages are pointless.
Readiness to learn
To begin exemplifying robust corporate values, a leader and their people must be ready to learn. Everyone is observant and able to look around and objectively observe the impact of their organisation on staff and customers. They must shape and pro-actively model such values.
When stakeholders become restless, everyone soon knows it. Something is “off”, no matter what’s being espoused or what the latest policy initiative might be.
How many companies take the time to ensure stakeholders within and outside the business feel attracted and aligned to the values of the business? Some companies use a planning day each year, some more often, for staff and leaders to vigorously debate values and how they can best embody them. Some use extensive focus groups with clients and stakeholders, along with feedback surveys.
The “robustness” of values succeeds most where emulation may be painful (exactly like personal trainers!). A leader with robust values has already spent some years living what they believe and using them as a “sword” to parry the many experiences they encounter. It might look easy but there’s a lot of experience, professionalism and integrity behind “living” and demonstrating the values.
Strong values underpin quality products and services
Skills and company products / output are part of the equation; what informs their worth is the personal qualities that people bring to the exercise. Effective (not merely efficient) leaders recognise that strong values are vital for producing the best possible outcomes and consequences.
This kind of leader lives, and hence embodies, the values of fairness, responsibility, caring, reliability and loyalty. If they don’t, sooner or later, problems ensue.
The “mix” of ingredients will vary in emphasis from person to person, and company to company, but the trustworthiness and longevity of what’s on offer must remain stable. Think of values like core strength in your body; without a strong, flexible core and spine, a person gradually slips into poor health and infirmity.
Aligning people to company values
If you want to make sure people are aligned to company values, do the following:
- Ensure the values are memorable, and known to all staff
- Live your values – lead by example – and embody what you want others to emulate
- Build the values into the performance appraisal process; people’s work should be reviewed according to the behaviours/values they deliver alongside their actual quantitative measures.
- Openly discuss actual situations and why decisions were made a particular way, and invite feedback; and
- Reward and praise actions where the company values and mission were highlighted and successful.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.