Not a clue

Imagine this – the Executive Board of a multinational is in a meeting and item six on its agenda reads: review corporate values after the crisis.

Over the past few years I have seen a growing number of boardrooms seriously discussing what exactly their organisations’ values are. But does anyone actually believe that you simply ‘select and adopt’ values based on a strategy, and then ‘roll them out via workshops and toolkits´? Surely not. So why are so many managers keen to waste their valuable time on this?

A pivotal role

Don’t get me wrong. Values play a pivotal role in any organisation. They reflect what people find valuable and important and the company more or less imposes these values on individuals. If you’re new in an organisation you will instantly feel the influence, especially when your actions conflict with the values in place. Collective values are a key factor in human behaviour. Every reason, therefore, to make them your concern. But please, don’t announce the Official Values in a campaign. After all, they are usually an accurate description of what an organisation is definitely not. Values are something you do, not talk about. Those in charge clearly influence which values and standards apply. You decide to make your customer your focal point or not. You decide if integrity and respect are sincere values or just words. You define this by what you say, but most of all by what you do, by the decisions you take, by your actions.

Visible behaviour at the top

I know many organisations that are striving for a stronger performance culture based on values like ambition, performance, competition, growth and improvement, accountability, honest feedback, and distinction. In reality their staff attach more importance to values like collegiality, freedom, equality, harmony, conviviality, stability, security. Turning such a culture into a performance culture is not easy and can be approached from all sorts of angles. If you really want to make a difference, however, you should look at the behaviour of your top management and how others perceive this. Do you consistently hold to task those who report directly to you (and this includes secretaries) over arrangements and performance, or have you lost that edge? In the management meeting, do you give each other honest feedback or do you remain silent if it doesn’t touch upon your own field? Are there any departments or top people who haven’t been performing as well as they should without any action being taken? In communications about results do you always feel a need to give it a positive spin? Do you make clear choices in your team assessments and awards, or do you feel that this is something that would not be acceptable (for now)? These are all examples of behaviour that the entire organisation can see and that set the standard. Now the good thing is that you can start to make a change today. Draw up new standards now and you will see that they carry more weight than any flash corporate values booklet.