Living up to your company’s values as a leader
Do you have different sets of values for your business and another for your personal affairs or are the both the same?
When developing a business concept or plan, you included a set of values you intended to be the basis of your company’s culture. Most times, you sell it as a value proposition when seeking capital from investors and marketing your services to attract new customers. Your values are even reflected in your mission statement and vision statement because they are a reflection of you—your beliefs, experience and qualities. If not, why start something that you do not believe in?
Creating values that will be the foundation of the work culture in your company is a soul-searching exercise, which you want to ensure represents the principles you hold dear and the best standards in your industry. Therefore, you cannot have two different sets of values; rather, your company’s values must be your values.
But it is easy to dwell on developing generic values that fit the standards of your industry, rather than values that reflect what you believe in. There are many articles that educate you on the kinds of values that are important to ensure the success of your company such as high quality, best practices, innovation, and excellence, among others. Again, it is easy to miss why these generic values, which are by the way important, must align with your own personal principles.
For instance, if you uphold innovation as one of your company’s values, but you are a traditional person, more comfortable with what you know than pushing the envelope, then how do you push innovation in your company?
Employees interpret what is important in a company by a business owner’s actions and not what is stated in the human resources policy or on the plaque on the wall. A company’s core values are important because they are the guiding light and speak to the things that your leadership will be committed to, and what employees will look out for. So if your say you abhor the concept of African Time (i.e. a lax attitude about punctuality to meetings or events), but you show up for everything hours after the appointed time, then you are only paying lip service.
On a personal level, if you sell prudent financial management, but you spend arbitrarily from your company’s money on personal expenses, then you are paying lip service. A business may be mechanical in operation, but it is has a soul – those intangible living qualities that you the CEO exhibit on a daily basis. Those living qualities can even determine if your business will be sustainable.
But there is much to gain from aligning your personal values with that of your company’s, and these are my thoughts:
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 contrary to what you stand for, 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.
Commitment: When your company and your 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.
Trust: Good relationships are one of primary gains when your values align with your company’s. 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 and transparency in conversations and makes employees more likely to be committed to your company, and grow your bottom-line.
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. So how do you match your personal values with that of your company’s?
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