Ah Yes! You’ve just landed a new role, how exciting: Congratulations! New people, new ambitions and a new office and wow, that Values Poster on the Wall! This company must be serious about their values. Day one of my job and my first interaction with someone in the business hits me hard with a behaviour I totally didn’t expect. I am asking myself, how this behaviour relates to the poster on the wall: it doesn’t! Businesses go to a lot of effort to develop Mission Statements, Visions and Values and that’s it, they are in a folder, in the shared drive and they don’t put it into action. And you know what, people leave. Be the leader who will make a difference by embedding values into your organisation.
START by Knowing YOUR Values
A previous blog of mine provided a personal values exercise that is essential to complete as a leader. Remember that values are the centre pole of culture as well as attracting, recruiting and developing talent and leaders who are aligned to them. We miss this often – and lose talent because organisations and leaders don’t espouse them. If you don’t get this right then watch what happens to your business.
Turn WORDS into ACTIONS
In Forbes, Kathy Miller Perkins refers to the “Three Best Practices for Embedding Purpose and Values into Culture.” So you have boldly stated what you stand for. Wonderful! And now what? Anyone can claim anything about purpose and values. The tricky part is the follow-through. Authentic purpose, values, and principles require action. Unfortunately, jumping on the purpose bandwagon is more comfortable and more common than acting accordingly.
The just-released report, “B2B Purpose Paradox,” developed by Carol Cone and Harris Poll finds a considerable gap between what CEOs say about the importance of purpose versus their impressions of whether it affects innovation, operations, or engagement with society. You guessed it! CEOs think purpose is essential, but they believe it has little impact on the functioning of their leadership and companies. No wonder the public is sceptical of corporate America’s genuine commitment to a purpose beyond profits. Remember, words mean nothing. Only actions create change. The best way to make your purpose and principles authentic is to embed them into your culture. The following three actions will get you started.
- Action 1: Make your purpose and values your north star.
- Action 2: Eliminate practices that do not align clearly with your stated commitments.
- Action 3: Pursue a new and inspiring goal related to your purpose and principles.
Is the Effort Worth It? The answer to this question is a qualified yes. But you must be willing to do the work. A study reported in the Harvard Business Review shows that companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5-7% annually, and they grow faster and are more profitable. And, equally important, the efforts should pay off for society as well. The benefits of purpose and principles, when embedded in the organization, are considerable. However, talking without acting is a risky business. Stakeholders, such as your employees and customers, do not like false promises. So now you are ready to put your company’s purpose and values into action. While you are at it, connect every employee’s job with your intentions. Our research shows that employees engage when they understand how their roles contribute to the company’s aspirational objectives. They want to contribute. You can’t do it without them. So gather them into the purpose tent. Remember, while the effort is substantial, the potential rewards for your business and society are significant.
VALUES are ‘SIGNPOSTS’ to BEHAVIOUR
Niall Cluley highlights in HR Director “The Importance of Embedding Values into everyday behaviour.” How many of you have heard people describe their company values as merely ‘posters on a wall’? But if all you do is print them on a poster, then that’s probably all they ever will be. Values have the potential to make a fundamental difference. They have the potential to drive behavioural change and improve performance. They have the potential to deliver an organisation’s purpose on a daily basis. They have the potential to drive success and achieve a vision. They have the potential to motivate, inspire commitment and elevate a sense of pride.
To make values live, breathe and stick, they need to be practised and visible in everything we say and do – formal and informal. They need to be meaningful and embedded into everyday behaviours. Mapping desired behaviours to your vision, purpose and values is fundamental to improving performance – it gives everything meaning. But how do you approach this? A good starting point is to identify what ‘good looks like’ and using this as a basis to develop a behaviours framework that works across all levels of the organisation and makes sense to everyone. When creating your behavioural framework consider:
- How do we embody this value to our customers and in the work we do?
- How do we express this value in how we interact with each other and across teams?
- How does my manager demonstrate this value?
- How do our high performers live the value?
- How do our leaders evidence the value?
- When displaying this value – what are we thinking, doing, or saying?
Differentiate your values, make them different from your competitors; whilst at the same time ensuring they are aligned to your purpose and vision. They are there for a reason – to drive performance and success. An Ordnance Survey recently re-launched their values as ‘adventurous, incisive, restless and true’ – they reflect changing customer needs and the need to remain relevant. Other brands with differentiating values include:
- Nike who has a set of 11 guiding principles called ‘Maxims’, including:
Simplify and go – as products have short lifecycles in terms of technology and fashion, making quick and skilful decisions is key.
- Airbnb have a set of 5 values, including: Be a host – which adheres specifically to the principles of the Airbnb experience, it means hospitality runs in their blood, it means opening up and helping others is second nature.
Values are signposts to a set of behaviours. Behaviours are demonstrable, observable and actionable. So how do we embed our values and behaviours into the everyday ensuring everyone embraces them and acts upon them? Ask yourself the following:
- Do your leaders and managers actively role model your values, do they take a pro-active stance and make personal commitments?
- Do you make all decisions through the lens of your values?
- Do you use your values to measure employee performance?
- Do you encourage regular behavioural feedback conversations, or do you have 360º behavioural feedback mechanisms?
- Do you recruit talent based upon your values and behaviours?
- Do you have a framework to measure performance and behaviours?
- Do you reward and recognise people for their contribution based upon living the values and showcasing the behaviours in action?
We need to make our values real, tangible and actionable by clearly articulating what they mean in practice from a behavioural point of view. Values are only truly meaningful when expressed as behaviours. It’s behaviours that drive performance. It’s behaviours that build robust and resilient cultures. It’s behaviours that determine how we talk to and treat customers and each other. And it’s behaviours that bring our values to life in the everyday.
KNOW YOUR VALUES through our CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION
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