Values are motivators that guide people's actions.
I recently spoke at an executive roundtable forum. With a discussion topic of "Values at Work" on the table, the dialogue of business owners and CEOs was animated. Economic instability, customers questioning organizational integrity and the lack of substantial business growth made a discussion on values seem timely. Leaders have a significant impact on the values and culture of an organization.
Drucker's Final Thoughts
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, A.G. Lafley, commented about Peter Drucker's final work before his passing. Drucker stated that the role of a CEO was to define the meaningful outside, balance the present with the future, decide what business you are in and shape the values and standards accordingly. Mr. Lafley said that when he first arrived at Proctor and Gamble, values were defined from an internal perspective versus an external customer perspective. His underlying point: it's important to define values at work and align them with organizational goals.
In preparing for the forum, I researched some organizations' "statements of values." Each of the organizations that I researched, including Microsoft, Starbucks, Ford and some local ones, had varying approaches. Although some were internally focused, others, like Starbucks, were more external: Starbucks buys direct from coffee farms to ensure the farms are sustainable. Each of their value statements has an impact on the way employees behave.
Why Are Values Important?
People are attracted to organizations that reflect their individual values (their preferences and sources of gratification) and will leave organizations based on conflicts in these values. When businesses, their values and their employees' values align, there can be increased productivity, morale and commitment to goals.
Leaving a Legacy
Leaders shape the culture of the organization and thus impact its values. In the executive forum, many of the CEOs were reflecting on their legacy and how would they leave a lasting impact. A dialogue ensued about organizations keeping the values as part of one's legacy. If the leader at the top changes, then values can and do change.
How Can Leaders Shape Values?
Leaders can shape the culture of the organization and are critical in identifying the importance of values in two major ways.
1. Creating Values That Align with Company Mission, Vision and Strategy
Leaders can do this by:
- Involving others
- Asking for input
- Listening for understanding
- Creating ownership
2. Making Values Visible and Memorable
Leaders must define the values. If one of your values is trust, define what trust means. We learn values from our experiences. Is trust providing a product that is reliable or is trust a commitment between employees? Employees' actions will be guided by how each value is defined. Focus company values as they relate to the outside world and set the standards internally. Then, solicit feedback from customers.
By keeping values alive in your organization, you will ensure that your organization's actions will align with your mission and vision for the future.