What are the values you and your team actually live by in your business? To ask it another way, are the values you and your team live by the ones you’ve called out in your vision statement? It matters because these are two very different things. We have “these” values called out but “these” are the ones we actually live by.
So where’s the breakdown or problem? We defined them and disseminated them, but we don’t really live by them. Or, we have shifted in our thinking but haven’t taken the time to redefine and re-disseminate them. Maybe you just haven’t been paying enough attention and you’ve found yourself out of alignment. Or worse yet, some individuals in the organization have significantly influenced the values that the company actually operates with versus those that have been defined.
Why does it matter? It matters because your values are a very important component of the organization culture, and failure to adhere to and uphold the values means you have very poor accountability for actions and behavior. The whole reason we have laws, rules, and governance in society is to help the people who are actively participating in that society to understand how a citizen is expected to get along with others, what is and is not considered acceptable behavior, and what things are valued most when it comes time to contribute to the society. Your business - your organization - is a mini-society. It is a group of people who need to interact on a daily basis and who need to know what to believe in and support when it comes time to do pretty much anything in or for the business.
Now, many values are implied and therefore not called out, such as quality or value, but those are usually built into the mission statement or the product description or quality guidelines, so they get their voice. But your core values need to be put on a pedestal or banner and pointed to and discussed on a regular basis. In fact, your core values need to be in the room and in the discussion when major decisions are made for the company. You have to be asking: If we do this thing, is it in line with our core values? If we hire this person, do we believe that they will adhere to and support the core values of the organization?
And lastly, the core values remind us about everything we do. We do this process this way because, although no one would likely know the difference, we have integrity! We follow through on our commitments to our employees for training because we value study and practice that leads to valuable individual experience and growth. And we don’t do, sell, or support those “things” because it’s not in alignment with our core values; it’s not for us.
So if you’re ever wondering if your business is in alignment with its core values, all you need to do is ask your employees. Ask one simple question: Are we in alignment with our core values in everything we do every day? If the answer is anything but “Yes” from everyone in the organization, you need to look into it deeply. If anyone doesn’t feel you’re in alignment, then you have to accept that it is for a reason. They must see or hear or feel something that doesn’t jive.
How do you get into alignment? Simple. Hold regular team and leadership meetings to discuss the organization culture and specifically values. Make it okay (and expected) for everyone to ask questions about alignment with the defined values when making important decisions for the company. Make it a “thing” you do in the company - “We are always ensuring our culture is properly aligned because it is a final question we ask out loud before ultimate commitment.”
Do these things and I promise, it will be very hard to get too far out of alignment without knowing it.