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Blended values: Getting the best of your business and self

Your leadership values influence your business values; therefore, they should be in sync. This way, it becomes second nature and you don’t run the risk of being accused of hypocrisy,...
 Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson

Your leadership values influence your business values; therefore, they should be in sync. This way, it becomes second nature and you don’t run the risk of being accused of hypocrisy, breeding mistrust, and throwing your employees or people into confusion.

This is important because nothing illuminates “who you really are” more than the values that you espouse. The author, Patrick M. Lencioni, of the Harvard Business Review article, “Make Your Values Mean Something” states that standing by one’s values require real guts. To quote further on the significance of business values, the author states: “If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement.” In other words, you can’t cherry-pick what you will abide to or there will be consequences.

Nothing is black and white, but strong core values give a business a sense of purpose and direction, especially for employees, who interpret and shape the culture of a business by a CEO’s actions, and not what is stated in the human resources document or on a plaque on the wall. It’s also not enough to adopt generic buzzwords that are important for business success such as “high quality”, “best practices”, “innovation”, and “excellence”, among others. Ironically, to successfully implement the generic buzzwords, you have to recognise, want, and believe in them. There is no easy route. Here’s an example: let’s say that you adopt innovation as one of your business values, but you are not comfortable with pushing the envelope, how do you push innovation? The point is: your values speak to your kind of leadership, which is what you want people to buy into. Even when seeking capital from investors, it’s part of the proposition to help them understand the vision you are creating.

Famous entrepreneurs have defined businesses through their values such as the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, who projects fun, adventure and risk in his businesses; Warren Buffet, founder of Berkshire-Hathaway, who believes in long term investment gains rather than short term, and frugality; Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, believed in innovation, disruption and design; and Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon believes in customer obsession, ownership, bias for action, frugality, high hiring bar and innovation.

In other words, your leadership values are the guiding light upon which a business is built. They speak to the things that your leadership will be committed to, and what employees will look out for. So if productivity and time management are part of your values, then you would abhor the concept of African Time (i.e. a lax attitude about punctuality to meetings or events), and show up for events on time. In addition, being organised and accomplishing tasks would be a priority. It is important to point out that a business may be mechanical in operation, but it is has a soul – those intangible living qualities that the CEO exhibits on a daily basis.

But there are other gains when your leadership values are in sync with your business values.You inspire integrity: Your employees are more likely to model the behaviour of their CEO because he/she lives by the values he/she stands for, rather than because it is written in a document. Integrity is one of the qualities valued among employees because it illuminates two things: your ability to be consistent in your actions and your ability to act honourable and stand by the commitments that you make. Integrity is the foundation upon which other qualities are built such as trust and loyalty. Integrity is about sincerity. To do otherwise, you would have to work twice as hard to rebuild broken relationships with your employees and customers in order to re-establish their willingness to be influenced by what you say or offer, clear doubt of further disappointment, and convince them of your sincerity.

You inspire commitment: When your business and personal values do not align, then your employees are more likely to stay on the sidelines and not work very hard at their jobs because there is no correlation between your actions and what the company should uphold. However, if your values are in sync, it is likely that employees will be unified because they understand the expectations of the company, and you walk the talk.

You inspire trust: Good relationships are one of primary gains when your values align with your business. What develops is an environment of trust and willingness among employees to work together, and listen to one another, especially to the CEO. Otherwise, at best you get compliance. An environment where you are trusted as a leader further encourages openness in conversations and makes employees more likely to be committed to your company, and grow your bottom-line.

You inspire loyalty: People do not raise walls when they are loyal to you; rather, they are more willing to support. For customers and employees, your consistency is an indication of your values. Understanding what you represent can give your employees a sense of security. It can also engender cooperation to help you find solutions rather than create them. And as a result you win the devotion of people who will admire and support what you do, and they will reward you with loyalty.

As a leader, people will model your behaviour, so if you are consistent in your actions through your values, the ripple effects will produce benefits in the long run in your business.So how do you match your personal values with that of your business?