In an article earlier this year, RHR International’s Dan Russell posited that one clear differentiator between excellent leadership and average leadership is creating shared values. Workplace culture has changed dramatically since 2020. While the changes in your company may be great or small, we all manage and lead somewhat differently from how we did before the pandemic.
Russell also touched on a frustration that some leaders have: They don't feel like employees embrace the company’s values to the extent the leaders do. But who feels most disconnected from the organization’s values? It's the people farthest away from the CEO on the organizational chart. The senior leaders and others who surround the CEO almost certainly hear about the company values all the time. But it's the folks outside the executive suite and out in the field that don't receive that message as much, so it may not resonate with them in the same way.
To mitigate that, here are five qualities for values that will break through the barriers and stick with employees across all levels of the business.
Your values must be:
- Simple and memorable. The lengthy narratives so many firms promote as their values are too much. I was taught the most challenging type of writing was not producing an epic novel but writing a short story because you have to ruthlessly cut until the story was down to its essence. You must do the same thing with your value statements. Use language that's concise, noteworthy and easily repeatable from one person to the next.
- Reflective of your culture. If your values are not resonating with your people, it could be because they perceive a disconnect between the stated values and actual day-to-day execution. There must be congruence between your stated and practiced values.
- Aligned with your mission and vision. Every meeting should start or end with the company’s vision, mission and values. This ensures the message stays top of mind for everyone in the business and reminds everyone of the overarching goal of their work.
- Recognized when exhibited by your team. You can set the cadence for how often and in what way you recognize employees for their efforts, but it’s important to provide positive reinforcement when you see your team living the company values.
- Exemplified and modeled by leadership. Many business owners fear if they lose a partner, an owner or any key employee, the business is going to suffer. However, while there may be short-term pain, consider the longer-term pain of your company values being rendered meaningless by the behavior of a single individual.