If a business leader wants a high performing, consistently profitable organization, then creating an environment where remarkable experiences for customers and employees are the norm has to go on the ‘must do’ list.
When it comes to successfully executing this, the challenges that we see companies wrestle with are they often don’t have the mindset, culture, skills, systems, and frameworks to pull it off. What makes it more difficult is that many leaders don’t recognize there is an issue at hand. Let’s expose the elephant here—you can reflect on whether your organization needs help in this area.
Consider this: let’s assume that your organization has a clear vision and mission. People across the entire company understand why the company exists, who you aspire to be, and what success looks like. That is a HUGE deal, and you get points for creating that level of clarity. Think of that as the top structure, the roof, of your organizational Parthenon.
Just as important, though, is the foundation. It supports the overall structure of your building—those are the organization’s values. Values are traits or qualities that represent the organization’s highest priorities and deeply held driving forces.
Value statements, or phrases, define how people want to behave with each other in the organization. They are statements about how the organization will value customers, suppliers, and the internal community. Value statements describe actions that are the living enactment of the fundamental values held by most individuals within the organization.
All makes sense, right? The challenge is that in most firms, the values statements are just words that live on a business card, or website, or in an employee handbook. In reality, they are NOT an expression of how the organization really thinks or behaves—and that creates CONFUSION, FRUSTRATION, and DISENGAGEMENT. All this can lead to regrettable employee and customer attrition, and lost revenue and profits. I hate to be a skeptic, because I know how much you want to have a winning culture, but I’d place this bet: this is happening in your organization.
Here is how you can check—dust off your organization’s values, and consider this:
• With each value, or value statement, do you also have a corresponding list of behaviors that connect to that value? (Are there ways to PROVE that people in the organization are living the values?)
• Reflect on each value and the corresponding behaviors; do employees at all levels, across hierarchical boundaries, engage in regular dialogue about ways the individuals, and the organization as a whole, are living those values? For example, at eQ, when we see one of our team members living our values, we send a company-wide email citing the example, and give a shout out to the person(s) involved in the expression of the value(s). We will also leverage social media channels to share great news, when appropriate. TIP: want more great mindset and behavior? Shout it from the rooftops when it happens! We see all too often that people get too ‘busy’ working, and fail to reinforce these great things. This leads employees to wonder if it even matters. Other than intrinsic drive, which varies from person to person, nothing keeps inspiration levels high, so the mindset and behaviors start to slide in the wrong direction.
• Conversely, when there are examples of when individuals or the organization do NOT appropriately live the values, that dialogue needs to happen. (One-on-One when appropriate, or if it’s an organization-wide issue, team meetings and other interventions may be needed.) We see this even more frequently. Integrity is a common organizational value—and a great one, I might add; IF, and only IF, you really mean it. Integrity is a BIG word. Companies often pick this as a value because it feels right. Customers want to do business with people who have integrity, and, of course, we aren’t going to steal from our customers, so integrity fits, right? Not so fast. Integrity is much, much deeper than that. It involves being really open and honest with co-workers, and not dodging tough topics. It is living up to our service commitments—always, and not making excuses when we mess up. It is being humble enough to admit faults and shortcomings to co-workers, which is super tough for some folks. And finally, it is managing UP—professionally and tactfully addressing senior leaders when they aren’t living the values. TOUGH STUFF.
Living the values, and expressing the brand of the organization takes deliberate and consistent effort. It is hard work, and is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it comes with significant pain. However, the rewards are worth it. Your firm becomes a magnet for top talent and high performers; customers rave about your commitment, service, and attitude; internal politics, silos, and turf wars start to disappear (all because nobody has time for them), they’re too busy living the values!
Take an honest inventory of where your company is on this topic. I can’t overstate the importance of this area of your business, and how critical it is to your organization’s short and long term health. If you aren’t crushing it in this area, don’t put it off—GET TO IT, NOW. Every day you wait is another day your employees, co-workers, customers, prospects, and other stakeholders have the right to call you out for being inauthentic and hypocritical—and they might be right. Tough words, I know; tough pill to swallow, I know.
Take the first step. Do the inventory. Then, do what is necessary.
Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.