As a business owner, leader or entrepreneur – heck, even being a manager in a larger organisation – being clear about your own values can bring measurable benefits. Far from being ‘touchy feely’ or ‘nice to have’, they translate into your bottom line
At a basic level, your personal values as a leader are going to show up in everything you do – you approach to your colleagues, to your customers, to the way in which you do business and so on.
Your behaviours will be observed by others, and as a leader, your way of doing things will drive their way of doing things….which will become your culture, and part of your working environment.
And research by Graham, Grennan, Harvey and Popadek, Columbia University 2016 (Corporate Culture: Evidence from the Field) cites clearly where your culture has an impact on your team’s productivity, and therefore on your revenue.
Clarifying your values
Clarifying your values…and in turn the values of the business that you are building… is the first step.
Choose 3 -5 values that you feel you really stand for, and that you want to become the bedrock of your company.
Be prepared to commit to them – these aren’t going to be nice words like ‘authenticity’ and ‘trust’ on a poster on a wall they’re going to be acted upon daily by you and your team. They’ll be a lighthouse in difficult decision making. They’ll be part of your company’s living brand. They will be real.
As a leader, you’ll be looked to as the role model of the values: as in all areas of life, people will follow what you actually DO, not just do what you tell them, so choose values that you know you can stick to and that actually resonate with you personally.
There’s no point, for example, including ‘integrity’ if your moral compass is going to be thrown out of the window at the prospect of a lucrative but slightly dodgy deal.
You’ll have to make sure that you’re not doing anything to undermine your own values. As soon as you do they become worthless
Defining the behaviours that match the values
Obviously enough, simply declaring a set of values doesn’t make them real, or lead to successful business outcomes.
One you’ve chosen your core set of values, clearly define the behaviours that you’d expect to see for each one of them… and what you will not tolerate.
Be aware that even positive values can have a ‘tipping point’ where you have too much of a good thing and they start to work against you.
For example, at what point does ‘authenticity’ lead to people speaking out without emotional intelligence in the mistaken belief that any sort of edit of what they say isn’t authentic? At what point does ‘driving high performance’ cause people to cut corners on ethics and standards because they feel that these can be sacrificed on the altar of their targets? Where might ‘collaboration’ lead to a lack of bold decision making, because everyone has to be fully on board before we move forward?
Be REALLY clear about the values-related behaviours that you will encourage and celebrate, so that these don’t become buzzwords on a wall with no real meaning or impact in your business
Building a culture that supports productivity, profitability and growth
According to the Columbia University research, ‘an effective culture impacts firm value significantly’, and the report goes on to highlight what actually constitutes an ‘effective culture’.
In essence, this is the working environment you’re creating: is it one where people are supported in their efforts, their capabilities developed and their contributions welcomed? Is it a culture that attracts and retains top talent? That encourages the sort of personal accountability that drives performance and productivity…and therefore profits?
In the race between your strategy and your culture, your culture and working environment will win every time.
And as a business leader or entrepreneur, your working environment and culture are the outward reflection of your values as a leader.
So…. what are they??