All organizations have a mission statement and a set of values or guiding principles. When people put values in action, they feel energy, enthusiasm, and the drive to give their best. What are your company’s values? And do you put values in action at work?
Most people I work with say their company values include such items as Integrity, Customer Service, Quality, Respect, High Performance, Teamwork, Leadership, and Innovation. Often these words are prominently displayed on plaques, posters, banners, laminated cards, and even screen savers.
“Organizations have to have values. But so do people. To be effective in an organization, one’s own values must be compatible with the organization’s values. They do not need to be the same. But they must be close enough so that they can coexist.” – Peter Drucker, Management Challenges for the 21st Century (1999)
But when values are ignored and people don’t live by them, they have no meaning. Worse, the business culture becomes hypocritical, and employees lose respect for the organization and its leaders. It is one more reason people disengage from their work.
However, when people put values in action, they feel energy, enthusiasm, and the drive to go beyond the mediocre. When people connect to company values that resonate with their own personal beliefs, they have even more commitment, higher productivity, and better engagement with customers. The end results show up on the bottom line.
Leaders have to take personal responsibility for their organization’s values and for making sure their people share in a common set of principles. This is not an easy task. It is one thing to agree with lofty words and ideals; it is quite another to translate ideals into action. A leader is accountable for ensuring that people not only know the values, but also put them into practice.
“We judge ourselves by our intentions. The rest of the world judges us by our actions.” – Eric Harvey
Successful companies that consistently report growth and profits have three best practices in common, according Charles A. O’Reilly, III, and Jeffrey Pfeffer in their book Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People (HBSP 2000):
- They have a clear, well-articulated set of values that are widely shared and act as the foundation for management practices.
- They have a remarkable degree of alignment and consistency in the people-centered practices that express their core values.
- Their senior managers are leaders whose primary role is to ensure that the values are maintained and constantly made real to all of the people who work in the organization.