Leadership is about creating cultures that inspire people, build commitment, and harness energy. As I sit on the plane returning from San Francisco this weekend, I reflect on some of the critical factors I have found in creating an engaging culture. Having just finished re-reading James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book, Encouraging The Heart, I got inspired to write this blog. After you’ve read this blog, I’d love to hear how you inspire others.
Years of consulting with organizations have taught me that clarity of values is the force that determines an individual’s commitment to an organization. Personal values matter most. To inspire people, you have to get to their core values. Living according to other people’s conditions virtually guarantees that we will not be giving our all.
How many executives go on a retreat, create a corporate values statement, print it on posters, publish it in the annual report, hold training classes to orient people to it, post it beautifully in the headquarters’ lobby, and then wonder why commitment isn’t skyrocketing?
These efforts are a huge waste of time unless there is an equally concerted endeavor to help individuals understand, through dialogue and discovery, their own values and examine the fit between their values and the organizations’. I’m not saying that organizational values are not important, but they are only one side of the commitment equation. Commitment is a matter of fit between the personal and the organizational values.
The vision of reaching the top of the mountain gives energy to the climber and makes the experience of climbing worthwhile. With no summit in mind, we are aimlessly wandering through rocks and trees, irritable and discontented. Vision keeps us on track. It helps us prioritize the demands, clarifies what we need to say “no” to, and gives us purposeful action. Vision gives us focus, energy, perspective, power, and significance, especially during moments of discouragement.
Human beings simply don’t put their hearts into something they don’t believe in. Energy, passion, commitment comes when there’s a fit, when there’s alignment between personal and organizational values. Employees are much more likely to be engaged when they know their positional leaders are committed to them. Loyalty begets loyalty. This can only be accomplished with careful and meaningful dialogue. Here are three useful questions to ask employees to help move you toward alignment:
- What matters most to you? Where does work fit into the broader context of your life?
- How does this organization ensure that you bring your values to work?
- What do you need from me as a leader to ensure that there is alignment between your values and ours?