TOO MANY companies have a values statement on the wall. But ask employee or even top managers what these values are and, yes, some can rattle them off. But then go further and ask this question: How would I know it if I see it? Then you probably will get a blank stare of some mumble jumble answer.
CPR to the Rescue:
- Craft Your Values
Organizations often tout their values – accountability, innovation, integrity, quality, respect, teamwork – but when is the last time you asked if these values have been defined in behavioral terms? Does the company know what for example ”respect “ looks like, feels like or smells like?
In a leadership development program for a growing hospitality company, each training module included an exercise called “Values in Action”. Here’s an example.
- Deliver what‘s advertised – “don’t feel scammed”.
- Attentively listen to complaints and move to solve the problem.
- Do what you say you were going to do – and if you can’t, say why.
- Practice Your Values.
The practice part is a bit more challenging. This involves actually doing what you say you value. A critical part of strong leadership is the degree to which what you profess and what you practice are in alignment.
Here’s an exercise to do each week.
- Pick one value you want to practice. Don’t be an over-achiever and try to accomplish more. Start small and then build.
- Ask how can I demonstrate this value? For example, if it’s “respect”, then who are the folks I want to show respect to and how will I do it? It could be as simple as not interrupting Mary when she gets long winded.
- Assess the end of the week what specific things you did to exemplify this particular value? What might have been opportunities you missed? For example, when Joe came in to my office and said…. I could have said this…..
- Pick another value and go through the same process the following week. What you’ll find is awareness plus focus plus motivation leads to change.
- Reinforce Your Values.
Reinforcement involves recognition and possible reward for specific behavior. This can be done through positive feedback when you see an employee treating a customer with integrity; or it could be part of the annual performance appraisal process. And it can be by storytelling – a powerful way to communicate what we value and how we behave around here.
The $125,000 Thank You
All companies go through tough times but it’s the way they handle it that makes a difference. For example, Armstrong International, a number of years ago, had to put a wage freeze into effect to get through what looked like a very difficult year. Right from the start, management was up front with the employees talking about how they plan to handle this challenge.
However, the year turned out much better than projected. So to celebrate, everyone was asked to attend a meeting where David Armstrong the former CEO was standing behind a large table covered by a white sheet. He explained that since the company was doing better than anticipated, he wanted to share its good fortune.
He then lifted the sheet and everyone saw, to their amazement, a table covered with $10 bills; some 12,500 of them – stacked two feet high. One by one, each employee came up and was told, “Thank you for your understanding and commitment to Armstrong.” Each walked away with forty crisp, new $10 bills.
This story has been told over and over again by employees and by the media because it demonstrates very clearly the values of the company – Honesty – Fairness – Respect – Trust – Loyalty.