How to Live Business Values

Written by: Alan Rodway - Your Coach Online

Mission – Vision – Values… many businesses have done all that to death, but to what avail?

The net benefit of all the meetings to agree on the words, the diagrams, the laminated summaries put up around the business and in reception areas, include it all in branding, etc. is either minimal or negative … because it does not create clarity of purpose nor behavioural buy-in.

There are various reasons it all doesn’t produce the outcomes businesses want:

  1. First is that it is just words … it’s easy for people to sit in rooms and agree to concepts and phrases that make sense at the time. It’s a lot more difficult to continuously adhere to what it all means behaviourally.
  2. Second, it’s too often influenced or created by those at the top rather than across the full organisation.
  3. Third, there are rarely mechanisms agreed to and put in place to monitor behaviours that should occur.
  4. Fourth, there’s often more debate about the words, sentences, punctuation and phrasing than there is about the true meaning and behavioural implications.
  5. Fifth, it rarely goes to the core of Why the business exists and who people want to be, as distinct from the What and the How.
  6. Sixth, it sometimes ends up being more about marketing statements rather than internal behavioural commitments.

If you haven’t seen the statements for a business, you could pretty much guess them anyway.

“We aim to be the leading provider of … through excellent customer service, quality products and by taking an innovative approach. We value honesty, integrity, creativity, our people and our customers”.

That is so business-centric rather than reflecting the why.  It’s basically the same as every other business (which therefore gives no edge) and the worst is when it is not lived out when it’s just words.   Also, the (endless) meetings to create it all or adapt it do more harm than good because people within know that it has little effect and that it’s just more of the same ineffective approach as before.

Replace all of that with the more radical approach below:

  1. Get rid of all statements about mission, vision and values that exist within the business. Pull them off the walls, off the screensavers, out of reception and out of your brand. Never put them back.
  2. Source the truth about the values that are being lived within the business, by asking people in ways that will get the truth about how people behave. Those are the values being lived and that’s what matters. If you get responses like dishonest, discriminatory, selfish, individualistic, arrogant, scheming, self-protectionist, etc. then that is all clearly damaging the business, its people, the customer base and maybe even the community. But it’s the truth. Also get the truth about what is driving behaviours in the business. If you get answers like fear, coping, promotion, self-interest, money, etc. then that is just as bad. Imagine the hypocritical (negative) reality if those are the answers but the published values are about integrity, teamwork and honesty.
  3. Source what people believe is the business’s WHY; it’s fundamental purpose. If they don’t know or give fundamentally different answers to each other or to the owner(s) then the business doesn’t have one. The business’s WHY is what most internal people live out daily.
  4. The owner(s) of the business must be clear on the WHY and the values they want for the business and then they must employ people who connect to it all. (Too often it’s the people at the top who muck it all up though and everyone else gets led along a path of confusion, hypocrisy and learning to cope rather than buying into an exciting pathway).
  5. Repeat point 1 … Never publish mission, vision, values to anyone. That allows people to think they have nailed it.  It satisfies the perceived need to cover off on these concepts, but it gets left in the words rather than in people’s actions. By never publishing them it forces people to live it all out and to make it real. But truthfully test it, often.

We are seriously suggesting this approach; it’s not facetious. The traditional ways of achieving desired behaviours within the business have not worked for decades, so why continue the same approach expecting a different outcome.  It took decades for businesses to wake up to the ineffectiveness of performance reviews in heightening performance, but most people knew they didn’t work. It’s the same nonsense to rely on job descriptions, organisation charts, key performance indicators, key responsibility areas and bonus schemes to drive high performance but the business world has yet not worked that out. So, to rely on published statements about mission, vision and values, after a series of meetings is just as crazy. Time to change to the more radical approach above … because it focuses on behavioural traits rather than words.

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