The Value of Knowing Your Values

By Liz Lugt

For an organisation to maximise its success, it needs to be both smart AND healthy.  Smart means having a great product or service that meets a felt need, a watertight marketing plan, a winning strategy, the finances to make it happen and harnessing the power of technology.  But to be healthy means to have clarity versus confusion, minimal politics, staff turnover and destructive conflict together with high morale, productivity and employee engagement.

Healthy organisations are those that have clarity and alignment around their vision, strategy and culture, not just at senior leadership level, but at every level throughout the organisation. Values  also come into their own when it comes to ramping up sentiments around inclusion and belonging.

A critical first step for an organisation to gain this clarity and alignment, is to know their core values and then to use these to drive behaviour at all levels throughout the organisation.  Core values are important as they:

  1. Provide the ultimate guide for employee behaviour and decision-making at all levels within a business, regardless of what that business does.
  2. Reduce the need for inefficient and demoralising micromanagement as they provide the boundaries within which your employees can operate.  They no longer need to run every decision and action past their manager.
  3. Define a company’s personality and so uniquely set it apart from its competitors.
  4. Make recruitment easier and more effective as you know the qualities you are looking for in your employees.
  5. Help an organisation attract the right clients and equally, repel the wrong ones.  E.g. clients that value collaboration will look to do business with an organisation that builds its culture around collaboration.

Now, I want to tell you something controversial…an organisation should have no more than 2 – 3 core values.  Yes, no more than 2 – 3!  Any more than this makes it impossible for you and your people to stick to all of them all the time.  And failing to do so simply leads to cynicism, both within and outside the organisation.

A value is only core if it:

  1. Lies at the heart of the organisation’s identity.
  2. Defines its personality.
  3. Is inherent / natural for the organisation.
  4. Always existed.
  5. Differentiates the organisation.

AND…the organisation is prepared to be punished for sticking to it.  That might mean losing a client or even a star employee if not doing so meant the organisation was unable to live out a value it says is core to who they are.

We recently helped a client to identify the values that met this criteria for their business and this is the process we followed:

  1. Establish the values pool. 

With no names mentioned, we identified employees, past or present, that reflect what is best about the business. We then put the behaviours of those employees that made us identify them in the first place, into the values pool. We also considered the behaviours of those employees, past or present with no names mentioned, who don’t seem a good fit, who might even cause frustration in those who work with them. Flipping the negative behaviour into a positive one, we added the behaviours to our pool. The last addition to the values pool were those behaviours exhibited by the senior leadership team when it is at its best!

2. Identify the values themes.

Step two was to identify the repetitive themes coming out of the pool. This step always takes me by surprise…you can go from a hefty list of behaviours in the pool and narrow it down to 7 or 8 themes. By the very nature of core values, they will keep coming up again and again and very quickly rise to the surface.

3. Stress test each theme.

The next step was to then stress test each theme to see if it passed ALL the criteria of a core value, i.e. does it really lie at the heart of the organisation’s identity? Can we truly say it defines our personality? Is it something that is inherent and natural for us? etc.  And if it failed one of the criteria, it failed and didn’t make our final cut. Remember, you want to get down to only 2 or 3 core values in the end. And we only want values that are truly core and not merely aspirational or ‘nice to have’.

4. Describe the value.

Once the final two or three themes had been identified, we then described each value. This doesn’t mean wordsmithing your values so they make a nice catchy slogan, but it means putting the value into your own organisation’s language in such a way that you and your people can truly OWN them.

5. Define the value in action.

Our final step was to then take our two to three values, nicely described in our own words, and clarified what each one looked like in action. This step is important because values are behaviours and your people need to know exactly what is expected of them when it comes to these all too important behaviours.

Sounds simple, yes.  Is it easy, no.  It can get messy.  But press through, the value of knowing your values cannot be underestimated!

Finally, don’t just KNOW your core values, live them…use them every day in everything you do.  In how you lead, recruit, manage, reward, train, strategise, market, make decisions, etc. The price of confusion, politics, staff turnover, destructive conflict, low morale, productivity and employee engagement is just too high not to.

____________________________

Liz is a member of Patrick Lencioni’s international consulting firm, the Table Group’s, CAPA Pro membership network and the Professional Speaking Association.  She is also an authorised partner of Wiley’s Everything DiSC and Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team brands and the author and creator of the online personal finance course, Roadmap to Financial Freedom.

In-person and virtually, Liz has worked with leaders and teams in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, the US, Canada and Asia.

For more, go to www.movationleadership.com.

Explore the Voice At The Table Video Library!

Flexible, affordable, pre-recorded virtual development sessions available through individual or corporate membership