What needs to happen when business values have become valueless? Many businesses have corporate values buried somewhere. Their values might be in a constitution, corporate brochure, policy document or even on a boardroom wall. However, they might have no real impact because they are considered unimportant and meaningless.
Even if a given website trumpets corporate values to the world, those values may well be moribund because they are not actually ‘lived out’. Having values and promoting them is one thing but ‘living them out’ so they inform and shape all attitudes, decisions and behaviours within a business is quite another.
Such businesses will struggle with their workplace culture, resulting in ineffectiveness, low morale, poor productivity, conflict or dysfunction, and delivering less than optimal outcomes. In worse case scenarios, there can be deep systemic trouble which might threaten the viability and very survival of a business.
Business values are core beliefs which are immutable, inviolable and nonnegotiable. As such they are to be embraced and actioned by everyone within a business. They should give the business focus and direction toward its better future. They are to act like superglue, holding the business together to reveal its true identity. External stakeholders should be made aware of the businesses values and invited to depend upon them.
The leaders of a business first need to agree upon five core, one word values by asking: Which beliefs form the superglue holding our business together? Which beliefs go to the very essence of our business identity, as evidenced in day by day activity? Which beliefs impact our key, external stakeholders, giving them value and benefit, instead of beliefs merely providing us with an internal benefit? Which beliefs best serve our mission and purpose, contribute to the fulfilment of our vision, and shape our culture as a business?
Each value must then be ‘fleshed out’ by the whole team and the leaders brainstorming together. Creativity is required here. Each value is to be illustrated by a colourful image or picture and is given meaning in one sentence, outlining what practical effect the value will have on corporate conduct and standards (ie “For us, this means….”). Following that are numerous “I” statements describing how that value will be actioned by individual team members (ie “I will always…”).
Values must be remembered, embraced and actioned for the long term, becoming prominent by:
- The five values, pictures, descriptors and “I” statements are plastered around the walls of the business as a constant reminder
- Meetings of the board, leaders and team members are focussed on the values and any remedial action for adherence, with the CEO or MD becoming the ‘overseer of values’ as part of their job description and reporting regularly on business values
- Recruitment of new people is based on their personal values and fit within the business and not just by their antecedents and qualifications
- Adherence to values is included in performance reviews of team members
- People are exited for incompatibility with values
- Relationships with external stakeholders are based on congruity with values
- Values are publicly disseminated on social media, websites and promotional material
- Values must be congruous with business outcomes of product and service.
In these ways, the business will be shaped and transformed as the five values are ‘lived out’ by everyone in respect to attitudes, words, behaviours and decisions. Does your business value its values? If not, perhaps try some super glue!
Written by David Sharrock.
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