Cultivating Authentic Values: The Cornerstone of Business Culture and Success

by | Nov 2, 2023

Authentic values in business culture form the backbone of that culture, differentiating you and potentially becoming  your strategic advantage.

Values = culture = strategic advantage

If you’re going to have values in your business make them count. Don’t ask the marketing or PR team to do them for you. Don’t pick the standard values of eg : integrity, trustworthy, honesty that the majority of other companies use. These are your values and therefore you want them to be authentically you, and so unique to you that no other organisation could pick them up and put them on their wall.

At adapt we believe that values are the cornerstone of culture; they are enduring and essential principles of how you agree to behave, what is ok and what’s not ok. One of my clients uses the words “What’s cool” and “What’s not cool” when sharing examples of their values with their team.

Values matter, because values help you drive the culture you want, and it’s your culture that makes you unique, sets you apart and could well be the most important pillar of your strategy.

Values alignment – why does it matter? 

In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, your culture could be what sets you apart. The reason why people want to come and work for you,  the reason people stay with you and continue to be highly engaged. It’s about nurturing a workplace culture that attracts the kind of people that you want on board.   Everyone would prefer to work in an organisation where they can bring their whole self to work; show up as their authentic selves and don’t need to bend too much to fit in.   We talk about recruiting on attitude because skills can be taught. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to add values into that.

If you’re looking for some suggestions on how to incorporate values alignment into your recruitment process, reach out and I’ll share some ideas with you.

I have a client whose employee engagement scores have exceeded 95% two years in a row !!! And the stated reason that people love working there is because of the people and how they treat each other.  They refer to coming to work is like working with your friends who genuinely care for and look out for each other and their families.  It’s one hell of a strong culture that is centred around the values of family comes first and being down to earth, motivating all of the staff to do their best for the owners and for the business.

If you’re an SME owner striving for 75% employee engagement scores and bewildered at how 95% is even possible, get in touch and I’ll connect you with the owner who is happy to share their story.

Some values aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

We’ve all seen it- the corporate values on posters on the wall in the office that trot out the standard principles that we would expect of any organisation eg you can trust us, honesty and integrity, ethical, professional etc.  A bit bland hey, and could apply to virtually all organisations.

At adapt we believe if you’re going to go to the effort of developing values for the business, make them meaningful in that they reflect the real essence of that business. They are a reflection of the owners personal values and the people that work there, and are articulated in language that they would use- and not corporate marketing speak.  For example, I have a client that has the “F” word in one of their values. Why? Because that’s the every day language of their people in their workplace and hence they can relate to it.

The idea is that your values are lived and are the modus operandi. Aspirational “we would like to be like that” don’t wash.   I have had my experience of working in organisations where what is reflected on the outside is not upheld on the inside; where staff were not treated in line with the stated values. I didn’t hang around too long.

A decision making framework

Values, if authentic and embedded within the organisation will guide decision-making, specifically when it comes to evaluating what’s the right thing to do.  I have been involved with some fairly difficult decisions of principle with a board of directors, and at the end of the day we used the values to guide us to the right decision.  I have heard other prominent directors say “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept” . Your values are your standard of what is and isn’t acceptable.

The yard stick against which we measure ourselves 

No-one likes difficult conversations. We all avoid conflict.  Managing performance is one thing; managing behaviour is something else.  This is where having strong values that are well communicated, embraced by the team and lived across the organisation makes it easier to call out behaviour that isn’t aligned with your values. You have a framework to refer to that clearly establishes expectations. Values are how we do things around here.  If you have people in your organisation who show up in a way that isn’t desirable, use your values as the basis for that difficult conversation.

Values based leadership

Values-based leadership is not merely a leadership style but a commitment to nurturing a workplace culture that places values as its core.  “A fish rots from the head down.”  Owners and leaders must walk the talk and be role models of living the stated values, by holding themselves and each other to account.

If you can get this right and have genuine values that reflect how you do things, how you treat your staff, your clients and all other stakeholders, the positive impact on employee engagement, morale and staff retention will lead to a more resilient business.

Written By Debbie Millard

Master your business through strong leadership, knowing your numbers and empowering your people

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