Communication. Integrity. Excellence. Respect. Would you agree that these company core values sound meaningful? Many of them might even resemble your own. You might be surprised to learn that these were the company values of Enron, the collapsed energy trading company with one of the largest accounting fraud schemes.
This case is likely not the only company with a hollow set of core values. In working with businesses of all sizes, what is often missing is the integration of those values. The system of active definition, demonstration, and reinforcement of those values in action are what shifts your values from being hollow to highly effective.
If you view your values as you would a marketing launch: a one-time event, you’re missing the mark in developing your company’s Culture of Distinction regardless of the size of your company. Your values are the foundation for your decision making, brand, marketing, policies, customer service, and interactions.
When one of my clients asked me about rebranding a product line, I encouraged her to start with her values. What would be the full expression of your values through your product? Where does that guide you in your decision making? From those simple questions, she was able to discern her direction and decision making.
To create a full expression of your values in action, I encourage CEO’s to:
- Define Your values. Establish basic definitions and intentions of each value. This gives your team a framework through which to demonstrate a specific behavior or provide guidance in their decision making.
- Own Your Values. Rather than delegating values integration to human resources, make sure everyone in the company takes ownership of the company values. Engage your leadership team in developing best practices and sharing them.
- Integrate Your Values. You don’t need a lot of time or money to integrate your values. Simply highlight a value at each meeting and discuss what it looks like to demonstrate the values. You could also reinforce it through a company-wide program. On countless occasions, I helped companies integrate a recognition program. We took their values and defined the desired behaviors. Whenever you saw someone demonstrating those core values, you took a moment to recognize them. This program not only reinforced the values, but increased team engagement and communication.
Living by your stated core values doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. Simply build a systematic process within your organization to take your values from hollow to a core set of highly-effective tools that help to distinguish your company from all others.