Values should be more than posters on a wall

By CLAIRE MARKWICK

Core values are an integral part of defining a business culture.  The values of a business drive the behaviors that are expected; they drive the decisions that are made; they drive recruitment; they drive performance management; they drive the feedback we give…they are essential to a high performing business and are likely to be the reason that a customer will pick one business over another.

Although I believe it fair to say that there is a growing awareness as to the importance of clearly defined values to a business; I will go out a limb and suggest that many leadership teams have little to no clue of how to elicit them.  Many I fear, resorting to coming up with a list of appropriate sounding words to make into pretty posters for the office walls and considering that a job done.

Words such as:

Innovation;

Integrity;

Determination;

Loyalty…

“Values become the lifeblood of a business.  They define what is truly important.” 

Great words; but if all they are are posters on the wall, they will be doing very little to improve the performance of a business; and I will go so far as to say they may in fact be damaging it and let me tell you why.

Values become the lifeblood of a business. 

They define what is truly important. 

The behavior of every single team member from CEO to receptionist is defined by the values; so, when they are nothing more than posters on a wall, discrepancies start to emerge between what the posters say should be happening and what the behavior shows is actually happening.

The poster says we value innovation; but the behaviour says the boss rarely says yes to anything new…

The poster says we value determination; but the behavior says we get no special thanks for going above and beyond to get a project completed on time…

The poster says we value loyalty; but the behavior says the promotion was given to an external candidate ahead of long serving team members…

Over time, the incongruencies that develop, can then begin to fester and before long the result becomes a downward spiral of distrust and a culture of everyone only looking out for themselves; and that is not good for business!! 

So, what can be done about it?

If you’re a business owner or senior leader and are seeing traits of this type of “everyone for themselves” type culture, how can you start to turn things around?

I would encourage you to start with looking at your values…the REAL values…not the words on the posters.  What is important to you and your business?

How would you answer these questions?

  • What do you and your team do daily to achieve your vision and mission?
  • How do you expect yourself and the people in your team to behave?
  • What stands you apart from the competition?
  • Why are customers attracted to your business over a competitor?
  • How do you describe the service you offer your customers to members of your family?
  • What makes you proud about your team?

The answers to this type of question will begin to pave the way forward to creating a set of values that truly represent your business and will guide behaviors and decisions that are in alignment.  Get that right and engagement, motivation and performance are sure to rise.

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