It used to be that a couple of executives got together in a board room, wrote some fanciful, aspirational words on a flip chart and Bobs your uncle, the company’s values and brand positioning was decided.
Today this strategy flies in the face of creating a sustainable, profitable, engaged company that will survive in the modern world.
Richard Branson of Virgin and Tony Hsieh of Zappos agree that one of the most important elements of the high performance, productive and aligned company culture is a set of core values that are measurable, tangible, and observable. And with the ‘pen’ in everyone’s hands so to speak with the wonder of the internet, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it and are prepared for it or not.
If the values of your company were the brainchild of you, your leadership team or a couple of old fellas over a glass of red many years ago then perhaps it’s time for a revisit. How will you know if they need an overhaul? Basically if they are not measurable, that is you can’t touch, see, hear or feel the values in action then its well overdue. If you can’t describe what your values look like in action then how can you possibly hold your managers and staff accountable for them?
The best way to build a brand that’s sustainable and to create values that are a measurable compass for your actions is to focus on your company culture. As Tony Hsieh from Zappos says “Your company’s culture and your company’s brand are just two sides of the same coin.” Unless you get the inner culture working well – what show’s up in your outer brand will never reach it’s potential and market stickiness.
In most organizations, values are defined in lofty terms that are difficult to translate into practical, day-to-day application. What is needed is therefore is the active engagement of everyone in the company to determine what the values should look like when being fully lived and in action. Without clearly defined behavioural guidelines – describing exactly how an “honest” employee behaves – each leader and staff member can define those values as it suits their personality, role, and activities. If you don’t behave according to how I uniquely define “honesty,” for example, my trust of you is eroded. The result over time? Loss of respect, increased stress and anxiety, and inconsistent treatment of employees and customers.
So what steps can you take if you want make your values more tangible and actionable? Here’s a couple of ideas:
Step 1. Define your values in actionable terms. Gather a group of staff and work with them to brainstorm the potential behaviors that you’d be proud to see all staff demonstrate when they’re modelling this value. Which means not what they think about that value but the actual visible tangible behaviour that they would be doing that would tell you they are living that value.
Step 2. Ask your people – does this value relate to an observable behavior? How would you assess someone’s demonstration of this behaviour? Remember what gets measured gets done. If it can’t be measured it won’t happen.
Step 3. Review your recruitment procedures. Consider how you can incorporate behavioural questions into your hiring process so you can ensure you are hiring people not only with the competence for the role but also the right attitude that will fit best with your guiding values and company culture. For example – if one of your values is “think outside the box” you could ask recruits “What was the best mistake you made on the job? Why was it the best?” Make this culture fit aspect count just as much as their skills and experience count.
Step 4. Consider your orientation or ‘on-boarding’ process with new recruits. Do you give them a clear sense of what it means to work in your company? Are you demonstrating to them the importance of your culture and values and what is expected of them to fit within the desired behaviours?
Step 5. Review and revisit regularly. Having the values on your wall or a company coffee mug is not sufficient to maintain the rage over the long term. Ensure that not only are they embedded in your performance review, planning and decision making processes but that you also check in every year or so to ensure they are still relevant for who your business is and where you are heading strategically.
Why bother? Because not only does it make good business sense but the rules of the game of business have changed – we are not in the same industrial environment we were in 50 years ago – Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method said it well:
“Business, as the largest and most powerful institution on the planet, had the greatest opportunity to create solutions to our environmental and health crises. Since the dawn of the industrial age, business has traded off people’s health and the state of the planet for growth and profit, but it doesn’t need to be so… I am convinced that business is the most powerful agent for positive change on the planet. But it’s not business as we know it today. It is fundamentally and profoundly different. It is business redesigned.”
I want to thank coach, author, speaker, teacher and entrepreneur, Heidi Alexandra Pollard, The Communicators’ Coach who wrote this post. She publishes Value Ad, a free monthly ezine for smart, savvy professionals who want more prosperity, passion and purpose in life. If you’re ready to jump start your success, make more money and have more fun doing it then get your FREE tips now at http://www.leadingvalue.net © Leading Value 2012.