My preference is for the values to be stated at the foot of the Board agenda – then you can do a reality check on the resolutions you are about to pass. Is this resolution consistent with our values, if so then we can pass it. If not, are we making the right resolution or are we not living our values, or are our actual values not what we think they are?
This article by Marissa Levin provides some practical guidelines.
A CEO client mentioned to me that an employee had been disrespectful to her in an all-hands meeting. He called her out in public for being late to a meeting, and challenged her when she defended herself. It created unnecessary tension for the rest of the attendees.
When she recalled the situation, her immediate reaction was to chastise the employee, rather than the behavior. Doing so only creates a larger divide and adds fuel to the fire. My suggestion was to revisit the core values, which we had created and rolled out this past summer.
Two of the core values are respect and collaboration. The behavior that this employee demonstrated contradicted both of these. We decided it was time to do a re-rollout of the values to the entire company, so that everyone could be reminded of what the company stands for, and what behaviors support the core values.
Once we did this, the employee took full ownership for his behavior and apologized.
Another CEO client recently hired an industry-specific web-design company to redesign his site and implement an online/digital marketing strategy. The design company strongly suggested to him that he follow an "industry model" to list three pricing options, with one being an overpriced option so that prospects are influenced to select the second highest price point.
When we constructed my client's values last year, the two leading values were:
- Trustworthiness. We will always deliver what we promise, and we will never promise something we can't do. We know that customer trust is the most important aspect of our business. We are committed to doing the right thing, every time.
- Honesty. We are committed to delivering the specific services our customers need at a fair price. We will never overcharge or oversell.
He stood his ground and offered his two honest packages, which his customers and his employees have come to expect.
When Successful Culture constructs our client's core values, one of the questions we ask is, "What matters to you more than profits?" In this scenario, trustworthiness and honesty matter more than profits.
Another client runs a highly successful business-to-business lead-share group. One of this client's policies is to not allow visitors from any organizations that compete with the lead-share members.
Membership is in high demand, so my client frequently turns away visitor requests. However, he still wants to build these relationships in case a member leaves and a slot for a specific vertical market becomes available, and he also wants to exchange leads outside of the group with prospective members.
He asked me for guidance on how to turn someone away but not burn a bridge. I suggested he refer back to the values we created for the group, as well as the group policies. This depersonalizes the situation, and upholds the established precedent that protects the integrity of the group.
Core values are the moral compass of an organization. They are the foundation upon which organizational culture resides. Cultures shift, but values remain constant.
Ideally, they should be integrated into all aspects of the organization, from recruitment through retention.
Organizations must be intentional about living their values, and always revert back to the values when a behavioral challenge occurs.
The next time you find yourself at a crossroads, the one question that will bring you the most clarity, and lead you straight to your answer, is "What do I stand for?" From this point, you will know exactly what to do.