If I were to walk into your company today, where would I find your corporate values? Are they tucked in a bookshelf next to the Employee Handbook? Are they under the protective custody of HR? Are they engraved in plaques on the wall? Regardless of where your values are documented, filed, or engraved, they are little more than empty platitudes if your leaders are not modeling them through their daily behaviors. Instead of hanging on the walls, your values should be walking the halls.
When values succeed, they can act as fuel to drive employees to new heights of productivity. When values fall flat, as Patrick Lencioni wrote in the Harvard Business Review, they “create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility.”
High performing organizations are built, driven and nurtured by their leaders. Leaders who clearly define and model good corporate citizenship deliver sustainable performance.
Consider the example of ANZ Bank. In 2002, the bank’s leaders began an initiative to improve performance by recasting its culture through defining values in behavioral terms. Each of the organization’s values were clarified in two distinct ways:
1) What does this value look like in terms of demonstrated behavior?
2) How can the demonstrated value be measured?
After two years, the number of employees who reported feeling that ANZ Bank “lived its values” rose from 20% to 80%. Similar increases were seen in “openness and honesty” and a “can-do culture.” During the same period, revenue per employee increased 89%, and the bank outperformed its peers in total return to shareholders and customer satisfaction.
Defining and measuring your corporate values is easier than it may seem. Simple models have been created by organizations like The Ken Blanchard Companies to name, define, and measure corporate values. Consider this example of their 3-step process:
Step 1. Name the value. “Integrity First”
Step 2. Describe the demonstrated behavior. “Our walk matches our talk. We make and keep good commitments.”
Step 3. Measure how the leader demonstrates the value.
- Exceeds value standard: Rarely misses a commitment. Proactively informs others of progress.
- Meets value standard: Makes commitments and delivers with consistency.
- Needs improvement: Delivery of commitments is inconsistent.
Whether or not you have a process to define and measure them, you can be sure that employees constantly monitor whether leaders’ actions are consistent with your declared values. Consistent behaviors lead to trust, and “trust,” notes Stephen M.R. Covey, “increases speed and lowers costs.” Leaders of high performance cultures understand the importance of getting values off the walls and walking the halls by consistent communication and daily demonstration.
Question: What are you doing to get your values off the wall?