Values: The Lifeblood of an Organization

Organizational Health

Many companies are quick to point out their values when a customer or prospect walks in the door. They are proud of what they stand for.

Then there are many other companies who don’t have any formal values posted anywhere.

Values Drive Business

I have known many people who think that mission statements, vision statements, and values are a waste of time and keep an organization from being “productive.” But if you look at some of the most successful companies in the world, these are a key reminder to keep employees focused on what’s important.

The values that are being lived out that determine the health or the corporate culture.

“Integrity” is a word that is usually the first word out of someone’s mouth when they talk about values.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

“Our company values integrity.”

Not only is integrity a great value to have, but it’s the key to whether or not the corporate values are worth the paper that they’re printed on.

Your Corporate Culture

It has been said that a person’s true leadership ability shines in a time of crisis. This is also true for organizations. The true corporate culture will show when times get tough, regardless of what is written somewhere in a mission, vision, or values statement.

Here are a few critical steps to ensuring your organization embodies the values it stands for:

Build buy-in from the current employees

If your employees don’t buy-in to the organization’s values, they’re worthless. Like any vision that is cast, buy-in is vital to its success. Include as many employees as possible in setting the values.

Hold round-table discussions or run a contest to incentivize them to participate in the process. The key is to have as many people as possible feel ownership in the decision – it is the best form of buy-in.

Don’t stop talking about them

Values can’t just be written once and thrown in a drawer. In order for them to be in the front of everyone’s mind, they have to be discussed constantly.

  • Mention them individually whenever the entire company is addressed.
  • Put them in your email signature.
  • Print a poster on the wall or hang them in the offices and cubes.
  • Whatever you have to do, get them in front of people.

Align your business practices around them

The key to integrity is doing what you said you were going to do, right? If you want to represent a value, you have to live up to it. This means doing what you say you’re going to do even if it’s difficult.

Many companies include the company’s values as a part of the annual employee evaluation process. For example, if you value your employee’s growth, then you have to support them. You have to move them on to new challenges when they’re ready.

Don’t keep them at a job just because they do it very well. If you value customer service, make sure the customer is the focus of everyone in the organization.

Don’t be afraid to let people go

Companies often show that they honor performance over values. If a person is going against the corporate values, you have to be willing to part ways – even if they’re a strong performer. When a person can repeatedly fall short the company’s values, everyone around them knows it.

It sends a very strong message if that person is kept or if they are let go.

Keeping them will breed distrust in management because you are not practicing what you preach. Worse yet, nothing can be swept under the rug. You will either deal with it now by letting the person go, or you will deal with it later by the decline in employee morale. One decision affects one person negatively while the other effects the entire organization.

Which one do you think is best?

Hire the right people

This is truly a key component of any business’s success, isn’t it?

Not only is it important to hire someone who is technically competent for the position, but their values need to be measured as well. Study after study has shown that corporate culture is one of the greatest factors in a company’s success.

So a candidate who has average ability but holds the same values is going to be a much better fit for your corporate culture than someone with strong ability and different values.

Values are the lifeblood of any organization. Align your people and processes with the corporate values and you will create a company that is enjoyable to work for sets up long-term success.

What are your organizations values? Are you building a culture that promotes them in everything they do? If the organization doesn’t live and breathe the values, what comes forward in a time of crisis? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Rich Bishop

Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He serves with hands-on approach to Development through Coaching & Training
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7 Responses

  1. Rich – outstanding blog on a theme that I respect greatly. After working in the corporate environment for over 20 years I have seen varied responses to company values. In many ways you have asked and answered the question (if there is a simplistic response!!!) early in your writing when you wrote: I have known many people who think that mission statements, vision statements, and values are a waste of time and keep an organization from being “productive”. I have also experienced this, more commonly than not. You later wrote: If your employees don’t buy-in to the organization’s values, they’re worthless. Like any vision that is cast, buy-in is vital to its success.

    In my view those organisations/leaders/people who see values, missions and visions as a waste of time are also those who never put in the effort to buy into them and/or promote them with any meaning. This is often driven by fear linked to a lack of acknowledgment of capability, where leaders do not know how to influence culture, so it is best left alone or perceived as the role of another (if not the leader, I am unsure whose role it is, but that’s another matter). It is a bit of the chicken and the egg scenario, where the business culture will actively support values in action if the employees do…and the employees will (in my experience) if the values are real, driven through all decisions and communication and proactively supported by all leaders. I recognise this is your key point however I feel passionate enough to express a view supporting your excellent content. Thanks!

    • Thank you, CoachStation! I too have seen varied responses to a company’s mission, vision, and values. They can be powerful tools if used correctly. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t put enough stock into them. Values should drive everything about the organization – from who they hire, to how they treat their customers, to how they make their product (or perform their services).

      To your point about the chicken & egg comment, I think we can agree that it starts with the leader. If the leaders of the organization are waiting for their staff to make values decisions, it’s too late. It’s one thing to collaborate and make sure that there’s buy-in, but it’s another to ask for them to set the values! Leaders need to lead.

  2. Rich — “Values being lived out” is the key to ALL the good things you mentioned. With evidence of “one-quarter” results focus, gun-slinger & mercenary executives, and mass disengaged workers, I’d say there are WAY too many “plaque values” on display, and far too few “real values” being internalized and lived out. Great post. Thnx.

    • Scott, thank you. You are absolutely right about the evidence that exists for “plaque values”. It’s up to us to change that philosophy and lead with values ourselves. It’s contagious.

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