Like many organizations, you have likely gone through an exercise to define corporate values at some point in your career. Last week during the Human Experience Summit we heard from two strong leaders, Rachel McDonald and Brooke Garcia, about the importance of going one step further and actually living those values.
While it is critically important to live our values, it is also important to see values individually and uniquely, not just as a group of characteristics. There are three reasons why, which we will explain in more detail below:
- Different teams place different emphasis on specific values
- Values relate differently to performance
- Values shift over time
Different teams, different emphasis.
While most leaders think of their values as a “set”, individual values will have more meaning for different teams. Some teams will be especially focused on cultivating cross-functional collaboration while others will really value trust or emphasize direct communication.
Beyond departmental teams, values can also resonate differently with demographic groups (e.g. gender, population group, job function). It is important to measure this variation, as it will help you create a blueprint of your culture. Based on this information, you can use your values to hold more meaningful interactions and communicate effectively with different people.
Variation in values differentiates performance.
While variation in how values resonate with teams is normal, we develop concern when there is variation in how teams live these values. In our work with larger companies we have been able to demonstrate that how well a leader lives the organization’s values connects directly to performance metrics, such as revenue. Put simply, we have seen that when leaders do not live a particular organizational value, revenue can drop.
This is very powerful for leaders to understand. Having insight into your individual connection between values and revenue performance helps us to prioritize leadership development efforts that will be the most impactful to your performance. We can also use data to determine if you are making progress in your leadership and show impact in your team’s overall performance. Which of your values do you think is most connected to your critical performance measures?
Values change over time.
Every time we hire people or promote people, we reinforce or shift our values. If we promote people who truly embody the organization’s values, we strengthen the team’s understanding of what “good” looks like. If we hire or promote people who do not embody these values, we create dissonance for employees and undermine clarity.
Over time, the net effect of internal team changes can shift the organization’s culture, which means we also shift the values. This is why it is essential to measure whether a team leader lives your values. If you believe your values have shifted over time, perhaps they should be refined.
The process of “creating values” is actually a data-driven process of co-discovery with employees. Culture is shared at every level, which is why it is important to engage everybody in the organization in this journey. Simply put, culture is our values in action. Most approaches to culture are somewhat ephemeral, but we believe that culture is measurable through your values. These guiding principles can be tied to performance, and should be continuously sculpted over time.