Make Corporate Values Real with Show and Tell
Remember when you were in grade school and you had to go before the class to do “Show and Tell”? Well, guess what? You and your leadership team have to do the same thing in your organization. Your employees will recognize new changes or policies, but they may not recognize how the organization’s values guided the decision behind the directive. Your job is to ensure everyone in your organization recognizes how your decisions and guidance are tied to the organization’s values.
The existence of corporate values in your organization depends on your devotion to demonstrating and preserving them. Author Wendell Berry talks about a degeneration of language and shows how the ever-widening gap between your words and your actions can increase the separation between employees and the organization.
If your employees cannot see and measure evidence of the corporate values you advocate, your leadership may appear insincere. Demonstrating values in an organization is a public process, but simply publishing your organization’s values is not enough. For your leadership to be truly values-based, the leadership decisions of the organization must use the values as the guidelines for decision-making and for how people behave. What is rewarded or punished inside the organization must reflect these values or employees will see through your words.
Step one in building a value-based organization is for your entire leadership team to be able to articulate clearly the company's values. Why is this important? Because the values the organization is built upon must be communicated by both you and your team in a consistent and continuous manner – everyone delivering the same message at every appropriate opportunity.
How far down in your organization can you find employees who can talk about your organization’s values? If your organization is like many others, the understanding in this area is shallow. Every conversation with an employee or client is an opportunity for you to talk about the corporate values. Consistent and continuous communication enhances the probability of your employees passing the message on to your clients.
Step two involves a show and tell activity. Actions speak louder than words in creating an organization built on values. You build your corporate values by demonstrating how the organizational values guide your actions. To do this you must point out what changed, talk about how the directive formed and how the new change or policy fits the corporate values. The more this logic is reinforced, the more likely your employees will recognize the corporate values and give credibility to your leadership.
The final step involves ensuring understanding. Involve everyone in implementing the corporate values. Use every employee contact to inquire about their understanding of the organization's values. Ask them how any recent change fits into their idea of what the organization should be. Ask them how the modification will enhance the client experience or their role in the organization. Ask them for further suggestions in implementing the values into the day-to-day operations of the organization.
In summary, the three important steps for you to make corporate values real are:
1. Consistent and Continuous Communication –
Ensure you and all members of your leadership team have adopted the same values and your behavior is consistent with those values. Leaders should also be delivering the same message and doing it at every appropriate opportunity. Remember, no employee should be left out of the communication.2. Show and Tell –
Make it a point to get in front of your employees and tell them how your decision-making was guided by the values that direct the organization.3. Ensure Understanding
– Involve employees in the process at every opportunity by asking questions that allow them to express their understanding
of any change and how it ties into the value system of your organization.
In conclusion, keep in mind the words of Wendell Berry, “If we fail to do what is required or if we do what is forbidden, we destroy our place, or at best we are exiled from it.”1 This is what can happen with your corporate values’ credibility when the words you speak don’t match the actions you take.
Standing by Words – Wendell Berry