Values, like vision statements, have become almost universally accepted over the last ten years. Everyone seems to have them, and for good reason.
Usually, however, they are characterised by two big mistakes:
- The first is the obvious one – they tend to be super generic. You can pretty much take it as a given that they will either include the word “integrity” or “honesty”, or both, and while that’s fine, if values are to distinguish your brand, then they need to contain some distinguishing features. What is it about your brand values that really sets your culture apart? And if some of this isn’t to everyone’s taste, good; your culture shouldn’t be for every employee any more than your brand should be for every customer.
- The second issue is one that is talked about with remarkable infrequency – and that’s the mechanisms to embed the values, or in the case of most organisations, the complete absence of mechanisms to embed them. Culture is not words on a page. It’s what happens when nobody is looking. It’s what happens when resources are tight and you need someone to step up and make a sacrifice to get a project over the line. It’s what happens when emotions are running high and introverts are afraid to speak out. These real life manifestations of culture will not occur a certain way because of a piece of paper tucked away in a drawer. They’ll occur a certain way because of very specific decisions you have made. They way you recruit and reward people. The way you run your meetings. The way you organise the desks in your office. And above all, the way you deal with great performers who behave badly because they think their above the rules.
So if you’re serious about your organisational values, be specific. Write down 10 practical ways that you will embed the values in your company, and make sure everyone understands them. And number one on that list should be to be strictest of all with your rockstars. After all, they’re the ones that will set the tone. And culture, ultimately, is what you tolerate.
See you next time.