Values – Putting words into action
So much is spoken about Values in schools, in the workplace. However, when it comes to asking people about their own values, often they haven’t given it much thought. Yet, whether we have thought about it or not, we are driven by our own personal values and the rules we apply to them.
When it comes to values in business, most organisations these days have a list of values that they share with colleagues and customers. These values represent the core principles that the organisation wish to adhere to and they are designed to form a vision, or a framework for the way their customers can expect to be treated by them.
Defining the values and letting everyone know about them is just the beginning of the process.
The next phase is to ensure those words are put into action. Otherwise known as ‘walking the talk’ and this can prove to be more challenging, yet not impossible.
Let’s take a typical example of a company’s core values…
- We are passionate about what we do
- We have integrity
- We are accountable for our actions
- We respect our customers
- We ensure quality in all that we do
- We love to work here
When a potential customer sees these values, they get a feeling for, or a picture of the organisation. They may feel comforted and inclined to trust the company. Yet, over time, it is not the value statements that build and maintain the trust, but how the organisation relates to that customer face to face.
Ensuring the values are aligned with the mission statement
It is absolutely vital that the mission statement is supported by the values. If not, the risk is that either the mission statement is pursued at the expense of the values, or the values are pursued, which puts the business imperatives in jeopardy.
Before we can expect our followers (employees) to live our company values, we have to embody them ourselves. This means putting them at the forefront of all that we do.
So let’s explore an imaginary scenario, using the example values I have detailed above.
Let’s assume you are the MD of Conglomerate Biz. As a leader of this organisation, in stating your company values, you have also made a personal commitment in the following ways:
We are passionate about what we do – this means that as a leader, you must demonstrate your passion every day. Passion for the products and services you offer, passion for how you operate, passion for the people you employ, including those who are not yet high performers, passion for the challenges you face, passion for the successes you have, passion for the things you could be doing better. To have passion is to have enthusiasm, love and desire for a subject and as a leader, the best way to demonstrate living this value is to feel passionate about the good, the bad and the ugly too. It is this passion that has the ability to embrace the bad and the ugly, and to convert them into something great with positive and well planned action.
We have integrity – as a leader of this imaginary organisation, you must demonstrate that you act honestly, honourably and sincerely as far as is possible. You need to show that you have a good moral compass – treating your employees fairly and supporting them through periods of personal growth and challenge. You have to show that you personally value integrity. In other words, to do your best to operate openly without cause for others to be suspicious of your intent. Any contrast to this raises doubt and confusion, so it is important to always speak respectfully at work and with good regard towards spouses, children, friends, clients, colleagues etc… and to be fully congruent with who you are. Performance management is much more effective when the person being managed feels accepted, respected and understood at a personal level, which then opens the door to discuss and resolve performance matters. This approach, together with a strong vision for a positive outcome or objective, paves the way for mountains to be moved.
We are accountable for our actions – this starts with you as a leader first. Even if someone has done something really stupid at work, it is your response that you will be measured by. In being responsible for your actions, you need to recognise when something has triggered an emotional response in you, and when you have behaved in a reactive way. If you can spot when you have reacted emotionally (eg: shouted, blamed, bemoaned, criticised, ostracised, ignored, humiliated etc…) and recognise that in yourself, it allows you to apologise where appropriate, and move your focus as quickly as possible towards a positive and constructive resolution. Before pointing the finger at an employee for not taking accountability, you must consistently demonstrate it yourself. A blame culture and lack of trust starts with the leaders, so if it exists in your business, you have the power to change it.
We respect our customers – in order to expect your employees to respect their customers, it is important to demonstrate your own respect and high regard for your staff, stakeholders, suppliers and customers, because that sets up a model that they can emulate out to their customers. Respect doesn’t mean yield or be weak. It is important to offer clear guidance and to be open about what is and isn’t acceptable and desirable, yet so much more can be effectively achieved through a framework of respect and understanding.
We ensure quality in all that we do – how can you give the best quality work environment to your employees? What do they need to perform their jobs to the best of their ability? What will make the difference to them? How can you best support them so that they can be even more successful?
We love to work here – what reasons do your staff have, above and beyond the obvious pay cheque at the end of the month, for ‘loving’ to work here? What can you do to give them good reason to love working here? Why does anybody ‘love’ to do anything? Most people love to be in a place where they are learning and contributing in a way that makes a difference, but what that looks like depends on the person, so it is important to know them as individuals and to give them what they need in order for them to ‘love to work here’.
As MD at Conglomerate Biz, you now have a really deep understanding of the personal commitment behind the values that allows them to be really embodied across the organisation. Values are so much more than words on a wall.
Help your employees to align your corporate values with their personal values
Values run pretty deep inside us, even when we haven’t consciously decided on what our values are. They drive our behaviour, and when we feel our values have been violated in some way, we can have a pretty dramatic reaction.
If you are struggling with an employee who isn’t living up to your company values, who is behaving in a negative fashion, or just not very enthusiastic, then there is something adrift, which is more than likely to be due to a misalignment. Either they are picking up on incongruences, or they are finding it difficult to align them with their personal values in some way.
When this happens, it is important to act quickly, before it festers and grows. Get talking. Find out where the misalignment might be without being judgemental and then work with them, not against them to break through it.
Lucy Windsor is a Dramatic Breakthrough Coach and Head of Roleplay at The Performance Business.
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