Three ways to ensure you’re living your organization’s values

When something is ‘common sense’ we know it to be true with every fiber of our being, based on our lived experience. Aristotle referred to common sense as the “sensory part of the soul”. While we might not be able to explain something, it just makes sense. In this four part series, I am going to write about the core, foundational elements of the SupportingLines High-Performance Framework™️ – four things that explain 90% of leadership effectiveness:

All four of these elements are common sense … yet they are certainly not common practice. That is what I hope to address in this series of posts.

Our research on living organizational values is compelling.

I don’t think it would surprise too many leaders to learn that living your organizational values is important. It’s truly common sense. What continues to surprise me is the extreme extent to which this is true, based on research with the High-Performance Index™️. When employees say their team leader lives their organizational values, they are 70% likely to say they are on a high-performance team and 80% likely to say they work for a high-performance leader. Even more compelling, our research shows that >90% of ineffective leaders do not live the values.

When it comes to truly living shared values, there are three things leaders can do to make common sense, common practice:

1. Make your values a part of daily life.

While most organizations have created a set of values, there are still many leaders who are not living them. I think the biggest disconnect is that many leaders see values as something for the website or the glossy brochures at reception. These leaders see the creation of values as the completion of a task, rather than the beginning of a journey.

Defining and publishing values is where the journey begins. To cultivate high-performance culture leaders must incorporate their newly defined values into feedback, recognition, performance conversations, leadership 360 reviews and all other aspects of daily life. You should hear them in daily conversation. In high-performance cultures people truly live their shared values. Everybody should be held accountable to live them. 

2. Ensure your values are truly shared.

While you may have values on your website, it doesn’t mean they are shared. Culture is created by the collective behaviour of everybody in the organization. Most employees have no idea what their organizational values are, likely because they were not involved in defining them. Even when they can recite the values, few employees identify with their published definitions. This contrast is stark: while >90% of organizations have values, <10% of employees can identify a set of truly shared values. This calls into question who creates the values in the first place.

3. Involve employees in the process to refine or create values.

Our research with the High-Performance Index™️ (HPI) shows that leaders living their organizational values is highly-correlated to an organization’s culture scores – even if there are no defined organizational values. Since fewer than 10% of employees can identify a set of values they findsee as meaningful, each employee is actually using their own set of values to assess leaders within HPI. 

Said differently, living your values is a critical element of high-performance leadership, yet most leaders have no idea what values they are being evaluated on. If that startles you, it should. Since values shift as team members change, this problem is further compounded. 

While executives may put the finishing touches on the values, it is perilous to believe that executives can create and cascade values. Employees define values for themselves. It is critical to involve employees in the process to create a list of shared values (if you don’t have any) or refine values (if you need to revisit them). If you have not involved employees in this process, leaders in your organization are unaware of the unique set of values each employee is using to assess their leadership on a daily basis.

We can help you!

We help organizations involve all employees in the creation and refinement of values. After an efficient and inclusive process to define values, we collect data to determine their importance to employees. We also provide training to ensure leaders are living their values. With focus and deliberate effort, we can ensure that everybody in your organization truly lives a set of shared values.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Jeff is the Founder & CEO of SupportingLines. He is also a certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, seasoned C-suite business leader and yoga instructor.

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