The Importance of Values
For any organization, the values that are selected have a huge impact on the success of the organization. In this brief article, I will outline why values are critical and how to go about selecting values. I will share a common problem with applying values in any organization and give the remedy.
Selecting values must be done with great care. There are lists of several hundred potential values. I recommend an organic, but efficient way to select a handful of values for any group.
First, give everyone a list of many possible values. Ask each person to select the top five values that he or she believes would be best for your organization. Stack up the various responses and see which values are critical and have the most energy among the group. Select a set of 4-6 values from the most frequently mentioned ones.
Avoid the temptation of having a long list of values. A handful of key values is most effective because people can relate and remember them easier.
It is helpful if you can form a kind of acronym or moniker that suggest the first letters of your values. That makes it easier for people to remember them. For example, the values I have for my business spell out the word “LIGHT” for Loyalty, Integrity, Generosity, Honesty, and Trust.
Selecting good values is only the start. Leaders ALWAYS need to model the values, especially when it is inconvenient, difficult, or expensive to do it. If leaders bend on the values when the going gets tough, then people are going to recognize the hypocrisy. Your values will quickly become worthless.
This mistake is a very common one. When I work with leadership groups and they select their values, I ask if they always follow them even when it is hard. I often get a pregnant pause and someone eventually blurts out “Well…we try.” Of course, that is exactly the wrong answer.
As Yoda from Star Wars said, “Do, or do not: There is no try.” Values do you the most good when things are difficult. When the choices are easy, there is no difficulty following the values. When things are extremely challenging is when the values are critical. Let me share a real example:
Acting with integrity
I know the CEO of a construction company. They design and build commercial buildings. At one point it was discovered that they had inadvertently used the wrong type of drainage pipe under the floor of a manufacturing plant. The pipe was buried under the concrete and was working well. The warranty time had run out, and the customer using the building was not complaining about any problem with drainage. The customer was not even aware of an issue.
The CEO met with several of the engineers who told him there were no problems, so it was best to leave things as they were. To replace the pipe would be amazingly inconvenient and expensive. The CEO pointed to one of the value statements on the wall, which read “We always act with integrity.” The CEO insisted that they go in and chip up the concrete in order to replace the drain pipe. It cost them nearly $40,000 to correct the problem.
Acting on commitments
When people in the organization see their leaders doing difficult things to live up to their values, it enhances the power of the values. If leaders tend to waffle and fret about the difficulties in any situation, that renders the values useless. Let me share another common example.
I often see one of the top values in organizations worded as, “People are our most important asset.” That is a lofty-sounding value to have, but be careful. If that is a stated value, then when the market goes soft, you will not lay off your “most important asset.” Instead, you will sell off buildings or inventory and train your workforce for the next upswing in business.
Few leaders in the real world can pass the test and do this when the chips are down, so it is best not to have a value that: “People are our most important asset.”
Make sure you select your values with great care and be prepared to honour your commitment to them at all cost. In doing so, you will foster high trust within your organization, and those values will be a guiding light to your ultimate success.
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Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated, an organization dedicated to development of leaders. He speaks on leadership topics and the development of trust in numerous venues internationally. He also has taught graduate leadership and business classes at several universities. As a leadership coach and business consultant, he works with individual clients as well as large organizations such as government agencies, corporations, and The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. A highly successful leader at a Fortune 500 company for over 30 years, Mr. Whipple accomplished revolutionary change leading a division of over 2000 people through the application of outstanding “people” skills.
He is author of five books on trust.
Bob’s ability to communicate pragmatic approaches to building trust in an entertaining and motivational format has won him top ranking wherever he speaks. Audiences relate to his material enthusiastically because it is simple, entertaining, and profound. His work has earned him the popular title of “The TRUST Ambassador.”
The “Trust Across America: Trust Around the World” organization has honored Mr. Whipple with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Thought Leadership on Trust – one of only 34 people worldwide to achieve that level. He is a Founding Member of the Alliance of Trusted Business Experts (ATBE). He was named as one of the Top 100 Leadership Speakers by Inc. Magazine for the past three years. He is also a member of the National Speakers Association. He is a certified Vistage Speaker and a member of The Global Speakers Federation. Whipple is registered on “Speakerpedia” as an international speaker and is also listed as an “Orate” Speaker. He received the 2011 BEST Consultant for Learning and Performance Award in the Central New York region of ATD. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rochester Chapter of the Association for Talent Development.