Shocking News: Your Company Values May Be Harming Performance

Does your business have aspirational values or authentic values?

Some businesses say, “We have chosen the values we aspire to attain. Our values are goals for how we want to live in the future. It’s important our values show that we are trying to change.” Here’s the deal: That may be the intent of the values you’ve chosen for your business, but if every leader can’t live up to the values you’ve publicly stated, employees as a whole will view the leadership team as liars and your business will find itself constantly battling culture, engagement and retention issues.

That said, it’s great so many businesses have publicly stated values. Every business should. The problem is not in naming the values. The problem is when a business looks at its values as aspirational, rather than a required behavior every leader is expected to live and is furthermore held accountable to living.

Here are 3-ways to make sure your company values are helping and not harming performance.

  1. Choose Authentic Values: 
    Success comes when you align the values with the culture authentically. For example, if a business has a traditional culture, stating “entrepreneurial spirited” as a value will harm performance. The key is to own your culture style. There are 16 different culture styles, no style is bad, but each has a set of authentic values that are true to its environment. Unconsciously, employees are hired to fit not the aspirational values on the wall but the authentic values that naturally exist in the culture. Before you determine your values, first ask the question, “What is our actual culture style?” Then determine the values that will help your culture thrive authentically. If you’re looking to change your culture, don’t try to use values to do so, you’ll only harm the business. Instead, clearly understand that changing culture requires a thoughtful change management approach that goes far beyond core values, and may take years to accomplish. Rather, getting real with your current culture style and identifying its authentic values may be the exact change you’re looking for.
  2. Hold Leaders Accountable:
    Values are intended to be lived. Hold leaders accountable to living the authentic values, and clearly communicate the expectations. This means the review process, bonus structure, stock options, and any other benefit that has a direct tie to monetary compensation only goes to those leaders who have the proven ability to live the values of your business. Yes, other performance metrics are important, but how a leader lives the values posted on your wall should hold at least a 50-percent review weight. Living the values will be easier and actually attainable if your business has chosen authentic rather than aspirational values.
  3. Stop the Workshop Madness:
    In order for values to help your business thrive they must be lived authentically. The number one mistake a business can make is to create workshops that employees go through to learn how to live the values–workshops intended to teach employees a new language and model in hopes that the culture will change through the process. These workshop do not foster authenticity, rather they create a uniform box that employees have to figure out how to fit into. Many of these workshops become water cooler jokes that harm the culture. Instead, teach leaders how to have meaningful one-on-one conversations with people. Conversations where there is genuine listening and human interaction. Create opportunities for people to hear meaningful stories about how your values are being lived throughout the world. People are smart. If you provide more unscripted experiences that allow them to feel the true essence of each value, and hold them accountable, they’ll figure out how to live the business values authentically.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Email Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

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