May 4, 2018

From Dartboard to Directional Guide: When Your Value Statement Points to True North

 I once worked for an organization that required all employees to smile at every (single) visitor within 5 seconds of passing them. That’s right. Antennae out – smile on – 24/7. While the idea was credible – let’s make everyone feel welcome – the initiative failed miserably because it was impossible to apply consistently. As a result, forced friendliness and selective smiling led one to wonder who liked you and who didn’t. What began as a welcome became a weapon.

The Golden Rule is another example of a value gone south. While seemingly straight forward, it is not helpful when working with multiple relationships at the granular level. To assume that you want to be treated like me is naïve at best.

For example, if you ask a room full of people how they’d like to be critiqued or criticized, you’ll get two very different answers. Some will say: We hate to be criticized!!! Don’t do it and please be gentle in your feedback. However, the other half will chime in: Bring it on, be direct and don’t waste our time with polite niceties. Human beings are complex and we are different from one another.

Getting to True North: Be Authentic and Specific

I worked with an organization that identified Respect as a core value. On the surface, this value seems as broad as the Golden Rule. However, after small group break-outs, the leadership team collectively defined respect by the following behaviors:

  • Don’t fake it – keep a beginner’s mind
  • Apologize and ask for a do-over
  • Follow through on your word
  • Don’t take things personally

Get the Facts First

As you might imagine, this list represents trigger points and behaviors unique to the organization and its mission. And you might be surprised by their definition of Respect: Get the facts first? Don’t take things personally? Keep a beginner’s mind? Apologize and ask for a do-over? But that’s the whole point. Be aggressively authentic and specific.

Get to Your Core!

It’s important to understand what core values are and are not. They are not aspirational values – what you really want your culture to be but it isn’t – like always honest and upfront in communication or offering a great work-life balance. They are not permission-to-play values – the minimum standards essential to the job – like punctuality or sound decision making. They also are not accidental values – ones that will change in time and become irrelevant – like technical proficiency.

Core values are deeply ingrained principles that guide all actions and are never compromised. Therefore, while a mission statement may undergo change, core values will endure and transcend turbulent economic stress and change.

A Powerful Return on Investment

Contrary to popular opinion, Value Statements are not a waste of time. When created properly they are one of the most powerful ROI tools available to you. Imagine a tool that would consistently accomplish the following:

  • A decision making guide for business partners, investors and stakeholders disagreements
  • A magnet to attract and repel employees
  • Criteria for cultural competencies in the performance evaluation
  • A template for behavioral questions in the hiring process
  • A template for managers and supervisors to use in corrective feedback
  • A guide for courageous conversations with coworkers or supervisors
  • Behavioral language to motivate employees
  • A defined system for recognition and rewards

In summary, your values are your culture and your culture is your brand. So make your Values Statement stick and work as your directional guide to True North.

Mission & Vision, Organizational Development, Team Building , , , , , , ,
Deene Morris
About Deene Morris
I’m a lifelong learner and student of leadership – servant-leadership to be specific. As much as I teach and facilitate, I spend equal time in my own learning and development. I’m passionate about people and the potential to work better together. I’m naturally empathetic – and like all our gifts, it’s a blessing and a curse. However, it serves me well with clients. Because I’ve been there – in the good, the bad, the ugly, and the transformational. I don’t take my clients anywhere that I haven’t been myself. I’m a lifelong fan of Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung – and grew up in a family of origin where we used Psychological Type to navigate our (many) family challenges. As a result, I learned to value holistic learning systems and assessments, exactly because they don’t put me or anyone else in a box or with a label. Because life is about learning, stretching and growing – not rigid, cookie-cutter molds. I thrive on curiosity, possibility and opportunity.

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