Can we put aside our fascination with Socks to become more sustainable in business?
The call and offer were a regular one – a content marketing company had just analysed my website and found it below par. They could guarantee to deliver millions of leads and 1st place globally in SEO content – watch out the Cambridge Inst. for Sustainability Leadership!. The marketing hook this time was a series of free searches to identify keywords. As wet dark autumn afternoons working from home in the UK can be slow affairs, I decided to take up the offer.
The caller then started feeding back the monthly activity level in the UK arising from a specific keywords that I was interested in. I was surprised by the overall interest levels from keywords associated with ‘Business and Sustainability’ so on my last keyword search I decided to set a baseline comparison keyword to compare previous results against. An earlier online distraction looking for stocking fillers for the family may have influenced my choice.
Keyword Search comparison – results are average monthly
inquiries made to Google
Sustainability in business
Why is sustainability important in business
Socks and sandals
How to improve business sustainability
Role of sustainability in business
Socks for dogs
Business sustainability plan
Benefits of sustainability
Vegan thermal socks
We’ve all have moments in our life when it seems that the
world’s priorities don’t line up with our own.
In this case is was comparing the greater interest in ‘socks for dogs’
and surprisingly ‘socks and sandals’ (the latter a candidate for the return of capital
punishment for social crimes) than the level of UK internet interest in how
sustainability benefits organisations and business activities despite the
strong evidence emerging globally.
There is a visible upturn in business community interest into environmental stewardship affairs and the consequences of poor environmental management practices in areas such as single use plastics, energy management and recycling. However in order to extract the greatest value from organisational initiatives, there has to be senior management commitment to greater business sustainability and a clear understanding of their role in leading the business towards greater sustainability as well as in promoting strategic change when sustainability opportunities, issues and risks arise.
To achieve this, the surest route is through the exploration,
and adoption of strategic sustainability business models within the business owners,
leaders professionals. Executive level decision-makers
still lags far behind that of the wider environmental manager community in their
understanding of future intangible risks associated with sustainability.
Professional development training and coaching can help break down these knowledge barriers, and allow an opportunity for more detailed examination of what opportunities exist and how the integration of a sustainability business model or strategic plan could fit your ‘future fit’ organisational culture. The other great benefit is that it can allow time and an opportunity for senior managers to understand, reflect on and retain a stronger position when reviewing new initiatives arising within the marketplace – or within the minds of more junior colleagues who now hold an alternative worldview on business’s interaction with society.
Key message: Consider your future sustainability and leadership developmental needs in a key area of future business practice, and can Leading Green help you achieve this?.
On the socks front – am I a bad parent for even considering
socks as a present, and is it wrong to feel that I have now at last discovered a
Christmas gift for my eco-conscious, vegan and feminist elder daughter – and the
Core values are the fundamental beliefs that drive the behaviours of individuals – be they organisational leaders, public service workers or skilled professionals. Through these values organisations are shaped, and leadership roles either become simpler or a nightmare of day to day problems and issues.
Whilst many organisations keep a tightly controlled focus on
expenses, stock levels and even stationary! Few have bothered to cost or even understand
the value of the cultural DNA that resides within their organisations and how
it feeds directly into bottom line performance and growth.
I have seen and experienced this on several occasions during
corporate take overs – a previously successful organisation is sold by its original
founder or partners to a competitor. A
new suite of managers parachutes in and start to immediately organise processes
to reflect the new parent organisation’s systems. Whilst perfectly acceptable in principle,
these managers often make the mistake of failing to understand or appreciate
what made that firm ‘successful’ enough for their employer to purchase it. In fact, they often look upon this new asset
as a ‘failure’ that must be rescued, rapidly turned around and rebooted to a new
set of organisational instructions. The
organisation stumbles, the top talent walks and loses its intellectual capital,
and with them the contribution they made to the original’s cultural success
Core values help companies to determine if they are on the right path, fulfilling their goals, living by their expected behaviours and ultimately how they treat and interact with their employees, customers, society and the environment. Just as there are many types of leaders and employees, so there are many different examples of core values driving organisational engines.
Your leadership style and character are defined by your own
core values and the respect you have for other leaders that you have been
prepared to follow (parents, teachers, other business leaders and colleagues). They form the root of the core values you
have built up over time as a result of experience, nurture or nature. Over time you have developed an image of self
that is built by the repetition of behaving in a particular way.
For example, if you are always honest in your dealings with
others and always tell the truth, you internally identify with the values of an
‘honest person’ and externally are perceived as an ‘honest person’. If you tend towards the creative or
collaborative in your style of work, then you are likely to find the greatest
satisfaction in roles that suit those give an outlet for those core values ,
and will often feel happiest amongst others who value those traits in the
workplace. It’s as simple as that. And
yet, we collectively underestimate the importance of values in business and its
impact on organisational growth, development and ability to manage change.
I have read many mission statements that define a set of
values that the organisation would either like to aspire to or help give out an
image of how they would like to be perceived.
The truth is that the organisational and leadership values displayed
collectively as Value Statements or by individual leaders will often have a bigger
impact on the inner workplace environment than on the external views of customers
and stakeholders. Only when they are
demonstrated internally will they leak out into the outside world of the
customer or client. Whether they are written
down or hidden away internally within the psyche of the workforce they define
us and the organisations we work for, and ultimately form the foundation of a
company’s character and how it interacts with society and the environment.
Thus, it makes sense that if thou are willing to invest so
much in your life, work, progression or in the creation of your own business,
your values should be one of the most important things in your business life.
But what if you don’t feel you have core values? Or what if
you’ve never thought about setting them down for your organisation, your team, or
even for yourself?
It is often reassuring to hear from another colleague the
values that define them, it gives a greater depth to their character and when
these characteristics are authentically displayed, we automatically give credit
into their ‘trust account’. We often need to feel that a person or leader
is real for us to believe them, and all employees like to hear what they leader
is thinking, and to see those values acted on transparently. We then feed that information into our own
character and compare them with our core values, and if those behaviours align with
our own or inspire us to take action, then we are more likely to listen to and follow
that leader in the direction they are setting.
We have all encountered the faceless manager who repeats the
party line, adopts the values expected but rarely demonstrates them, and hence lacks
trust amongst the workforce!
That’s why I went on a recent self-development course. I wanted to reconsider and define my own
personal core values to solve some questions I had been repeatedly asking
myself as I contemplated updating my old website.
Does my company (Leading Green) truly reflect
the core values I value most?
Does my portfolio of training and consultancy services
reflect my passion for helping others in these core areas?
If my own core values are clear, will they help
attract clients of a similar mindset and attitude to business?
Getting such fundamental questions straight in my own head,
could only benefit my customers and their expectations from the services I am
seeking to offer them. It has led to the consideration of some new
training avenues and the dropping of some services from the portfolio as I have
reasoned that my passion in that area is not as great as it is for other
subjects – and I have associates to whom I can pass any inquiries onto in good
If you are running your own business, are part of a family
business where group ethics dictate direction and you wish to explore where
your values lie, or an organisational leader who has started to feel alienated
or detached from their organisation, then I would encourage you to do the
same. Once you know who you are and what
you stand for in an organisation, you stop trying to be who you are not. That
gives you the confidence to grow and expand your skill sets further or even
move onto an organisation that aligns better with your values.
Here are my Top 4 Core Values:
Leadership — Good leaders add value to organisations and stimulate wider employee engagement. Responsible leaders with a mindset that encompasses wider social and environmental parameters that influence business sustainability and growth have a wider perspective on how to prepare for future marketplace challenge. Successful leaders embrace self-development, the ability to reflect on past mistakes and want to set a business direction that encompasses their core values.
Responsibility & Accountability — You cannot be a leader of others if you do not own your actions, mistakes, and current life responsibilities. Understand what’s in your control, and fully own it within the organisation. Don’t like something? Seek to change it. But don’t just focus on the ‘now’ take responsibility for risks and opportunities that are just beginning to emerge in society, the environment and in the values of your employees and customers.
Effectiveness — Do the existing levels of organisational skills, talents, engagement and performance in your areas of responsibility & accountability; the quality with which tasks or processes are carried out; and the extent to which they ultimately contribute to higher business performance match up? Do you, your team and its operations fulfil the responsibilities and mandates they have been tasked with achieving.
Integrity – Your colleagues and employees place a high premium on integrity than any other trait, and research shows that leaders with integrity strengthen businesses. This places a premium on responsible leadership which has at its core: integrity, ethics and sustainability. Everyone is ‘pro-integrity,’ but it needs to be defined internally and ultimately translated into the expected & accepted moral principles and behaviours that others translate as ‘integrity’ – otherwise it is just an empty CSR phrase!
I started with an original list of 25 values, it was a struggle on the day to reduce them down to just 4 core values, but the effort has been worth it. Why 4 values? The list is just long enough to remind me of who I am and what I am passionate about.
So, leaders need to realize that their core values define their
words, actions, decisions and methodologies and ultimately the businesses they
run or an organisation’s true values and culture.
Take home message: Your business values must be in line with your core values if you are seeking to build a successful business and become a better leader to your employees.