Values form the foundation of workplace cultures. Whether the leaders and organizational stakeholder values demonstrate respect and integrity, or coercion and autocracy…values in action are experienced by all who interact with the organization. They influence the climate (collective attitudes), the culture (agreed upon norms), motivation, morale and ultimately performance and productivity.
Values may be identified by the leaders but they must be acquiesced to and lived by all…beginning with the leaders, right off the bat. However, even if certain leaders do not live up to nor demonstrate positive values-in-action, that does not and should not give other stakeholders leeway to become more lenient in demonstration of their own – or the agreed upon – values. Everyone influences a culture through value-demonstrations.
The trick, for success, is for an organization to weave them into its very culture. Organizations do this by first identifying core values. Then collaboratively defining them so that everyone’s on the same page. Once that’s done an organization must attach specific behavioral metrics/measurements to each value, along with specific ways to weave them into processes, procedures, policies, and operational management practices.
Organizations trip up, inadvertently, in a few ways. Take a look at this list and see if your organization may be accidentally tripping up:
- Beginning the process of values identification and definement but then abruptly, or over time, not finishing it.
- Allowing leaders (e.g., senior directors, managers, supervisors, or team leads) to behave in ways that are in opposition to the stated values.
- Identifying values and posting, distributing and highlighting them but not weaving them into specific organizational operations, management practices, and team practices.
- Lack of sustainment with maintaining a value-based culture as a permanent facet, instead, implying that it is the organizational change ‘flavor of the month’.
- Allowing employees or other stakeholders to absolve themselves from value-based interactions because they can point to one or a few leaders who have tripped up.
Remember how long it took for you, as a child and adolescent, to learn and then integrate values into your everyday behaviors and belief systems. My guess is that it took years, and that you’re still working on some day-to-day.
For values to be permanently in place and enhance a workplace, it takes time, persistence, fortitude, consistency, and patience…all are VIRTUES. We’ll talk about virtues in the next issue.