Why Do Values Matter?
An organization’s core values are the beliefs that guide the actions and words of individuals within the organization. Values align to the purpose and strategic aims of the organization and serve as a foundation and a barometer for decision-making and planning. When organizations successfully live out their values, alignment of strategy, action, and mindset is obvious to internal and external stakeholders.
CLARIFY PURPOSE & IDENTITY
Values set an organization apart. They clearly communicate the organization’s purpose, while serving as anchors for employees and customers to continuously connect to that purpose. Taking the time to define values reinforces understanding and preserves the organization’s unique identity.
VALUES ARE COSTLY
Maintaining values often comes at a price. When values are violated, leaders are faced with hard and often unpopular decisions. Protecting the purpose and identity of an organization might mean not making a deal, refusing to use or sell a product, or dissolving a relationship. To ensure values violations do not disrupt culture and trust in the organization, it is important for leaders to immediately address situations that contradict the values. This requires time and commitment to holding everyone accountable for living the values and the willingness to make a tough call.
WALK THE HALLS
For values to be meaningful in an organization, they need to walk the halls, not just live on the walls. Making values come alive in an organization includes intentional steps of keeping them at the forefront of communications and actions. This can be accomplished through communication channels and systems of reward and recognition.
- Highlight one value each month and include a connect to purpose story in the communication
- Align team meeting agenda items to organizational values
- Include a Values in Action column in newsletter or update communications
- Recognize an employee of the month for living out organizational values
- Recognize customers for success aligned to the organization’s values
- Create an opportunity for peers to reward each other for living out values
Ensuring Alignment & Commitment
If your organization has already established organizational values, it is helpful to periodically revisit the values to ensure examples of the values in action are clearly visible throughout the organization. Leaders can informally ask internal and external stakeholders to describe the organization in three words and determine how the words used compare to the organization’s stated values. This simple process provides a great deal of information about how well the organization is living out its stated values.
If your organization does not have written organizational values, establishing a team to define the values is an important step in aligning the organization’s identity and actions. The team can begin brainstorming by writing down words that reflect the purpose of the organization, what’s most important, and how they want to be known. A process of sorting, categorizing, and discussing the words will lead to a refined set of organizational values.