4 min read
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 story.
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 faith.
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.