A senior manager recently told me how her boss criticized their work to a contractor she had hired without speaking with her first. Because the values in the company included respect, open communication, and collaboration, she respectfully approached him about her feelings and a proposed plan of action going forward. He abruptly dismissed her, saying in no uncertain terms that it was his prerogative to speak with whomever he wanted, and held her comments against her thereafter.
Values are meant to guide our decisions and our actions, but we really don’t know what our values are until they are tested under pressure. Most of us are skeptical of the lofty declarations of those in leadership positions as we experience the hypocrisy of their actions.
Most organizations have “value statements,” but few have a process to turn these statements into real “values” – a process of accountability that ensures everyone is expected to live them.
Here’s a few guidelines for making your values real:
- Make your values aspirational, not just descriptive. Values need to inspire everyone in the organization to bring their best self to their work.
- Ensure that each value is accompanied by expected behaviors of every employee.
- Every positional leader needs a Values Conversation with every person they serve that includes:
- What do these values mean to you?
- What do we expect from each other?
- How will we know that we are living the values here?
- How can we support each other to live these values in a meaningful way?
- What happens when we discover a gap between what we espouse and the reality of our actions?
- How will we hold each other accountable – in a way that honours our values?
There’s an ending to my friend’s story. Through a continued series of actions incongruent with the values of the company, the executive was eventually fired. The Senior Executive Team understood that they needed to lead in alignment with what they espoused. The decision to fire this person made a significant positive impact on the culture. People started to have regain faith in their positional leaders and in the culture.
Let’s renew our workplaces with a firm resolve to know what we stand for and follow it up with a promise to turn value statements into real values. Talk is cheap but behaviour is expensive; that’s why behaviour is a credible indicator of authenticity.
If you need support with getting your value statements off the wall and into the hearts of your people, feel free to reach out and schedule a complimentary call: email@example.com