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Can everyone in your organization explain each of the values and how they personally act on them? They can at companies like Disney, Starbucks, Southwest, McDonalds and Google – all listed in the top 15 of the most admired companies.

There is a direct relationship between clear values and success in terms of employee retention, customer loyalty, and long-term profitability.

When organizations don’t articulate clear values, individuals are left to their own devices to determine which values should guide them.

Consider the disastrous consequences of the Costa Concordia shipwreck where safety did not guide decision-making. Unfortunately, we forget the lessons of these major disasters all too quickly.

However, the same issues play out everyday in less obvious ways. In the long run, the accumulative effect significantly impacts the bottom-line.

Why a lack of clear values led me to fire my tree service company.

The Business Case for ValuesOur fruit trees are sprayed three times during the summer. One day the tree service showed up while my teenage son was mowing the lawn. They were both still there as I returned from work.

The man had aimed his sprayer at the apple tree, but it was a windy day, and the spray was blowing directly toward my son. I jumped out of my car and ran to the man yelling, “Watch out! Your spray is blowing on that boy!”

“I know,” he replied in a reassuring voice. “I asked him, and he said he didn’t mind.” – The boy might not have minded, but his mother sure did!

The nice gentleman spraying my son with chemicals was guided by his personal values of courtesy. He had quite nicely asked my son whether he minded, and he was as nice as could be when he explained to me that there was no problem.

Because the company had not clearly articulated and communicated safety as guiding values to their employees, they lost my business.

Choose the right values.

The values you choose need to support your team’s mission.
– If your team is responsible for financial reporting, accuracy needs to be a core value.
– If your team is responsible for product development, innovation and creativity need to be core values.
– If your team operates a cruise ship, safety needs to be a core value.

Don’t wait for senior leadership.

If you are a team leader, you must help your team translate the company values into team values in order to make them actionable. I don’t want to let senior leadership off the hook, but if the company hasn’t articulated values, it’s not an excuse to wait. Go ahead and create your own team values.

  1. Identify the values needed to support your team’s purpose. Don’t assume that any are understood. If integrity or ethics are important, it needs to be listed.
  2.  Don’t choose more values than people can easily remember. You don’t need to list each person’s personal values. As long as there are no values conflicts, they can still act on them. Focus on the values that are the key drivers to accomplish your mission.
  3.  Communicate them clearly and frequently so everyone knows what they are. Translate them into behaviors, not simply a list of words. Describing behavioral examples helps people understand what they look like when they are lived.
  4.  As a leader, model the values consistently. People watch what you do more closely than they listen to what you say.
  5.  Put processes in place to monitor and support the values being lived on a day-by-day basis.

Here’s how the Customer Relations Team at Zappos keeps their values alive.

 

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