You are already living your values whether you’ve ever thought about them or not.
When someone asks your employees, “What’s it like to work here?”
Or a potential supplier asks, “What are they like to work with?,” you will hear about the values that others see you using.
That is worth paying attention to.
Too often, organizations come up with a list of impressive sounding phrases and not much else happens.
I recall watching a recorded preflight announcement from an airline’s CEO telling me about their strong commitment to customer service. My experience so far that morning told a different story. . .
A computer company touted its promise to provide “an exceptional standard of excellence and performance.” Perhaps that’s why I often had to wait on hold for over an hour to get a problem solved. . .
A chemical company touted its attention to safety, but workers on the floor showed me precisely where “things could go boom.”
I applaud the desire to create compelling values for an organization. But, they need to be much more than fine sounding works – they must become guiding principles.
Here is a way that I believe will help you avoid the cynical response from employees, suppliers, or customers when they hear your values.
But first, a special note to leadership teams: People are watching you. If they see you sticking to some values when it would be easier to simply ignore it, they will notice that. And, if they see you talking about some value but your actions are at odds with that guiding principle, they’ll not only notice that, they will tell others.
Begin with yourself or your team. Starting small is better. That will allow you to talk and test your thinking before making big announcements.
Here are a few important steps.
1. What values would your stakeholders say you are living by today?
This lets you know how close you are to values you may think you’re already adhering to. You may hear things that surprise you and might prompt you to create a value statement that could improve performance in some critical area.
2. Think of your values as guiding principles.
Identify the values that you believe you and your organization must adhere to in the future.
3. Create a crucible.
These values need to be put to a test of a refining fire before you ever “go live.” Consider what it would mean if you were to promise to live by a particular value. Where is that value likely to be tested – and how will you respond?
4. Consider your work up to this point as a first draft.
Start using those values to guide your actions in important meetings. See if the values help you make better decisions. See where it is hard to apply any particular value. And then revise your draft values as needed.
5. Once you’ve put your values to a real test, tweaked, and refined your list, then consider bringing others into the conversation.
My suggestion is to repeat Steps 3 and 4 with these other people. Give them the opportunity to test out these values and allow what they learn to influence your own thinking.
Ready to get to work?
If you need a sounding board or an unbiased coach to facilitate a strategic work session, please reach out to me. You can learn more about the types of presentations and work sessions I offer here.
I wish you well.