by Dr. Dale J. Albrecht and Dr. Maria Gomez Albrecht
© 2020, Alonos® Corporation, June 10
Leadership Values You Can’t Afford to Overlook Today
Company values are a market differentiator. A positive and productive culture has the power to attract talent, and it motivates employees to invest discretionary effort. The values that a company exhibits can build customer loyalty and advocacy, and they also provide market differentiation for products and services.
COVID-19 pandemic. Social protests nationwide. Global economic setbacks. Our businesses are under tremendous pressure. Leadership values matter more today than ever.
Danger: Three values under stress
Companies’ CEOs and boards are under increasing pressure to make the world a fair and better place for everyone. Leaders have to “do better by employees, customers, communities, shareholders and the environment,” says Jeanne Sahadi from CNN Business.
But with uncertain times, leadership values are also in flux. Pressure is building. Stress is growing. To strengthen our businesses, there are three company values we just can’t ignore.
Culture Values. Culture is a lot of things, but one is for certain, people create culture. We create culture through artifacts, systems, processes, rituals, celebration, and other reinforcement methods. The cultures we create are a direct reflection of what we value.
Individual values roll-up in summary fashion to build a composite organizational value-set. A leader’s values also cascade down to espouse a desired organizational value-set. The merging of the roll-up and the cascade results in a values profile for an organization.
Got your short-list?
Core values are an identified “short-list” of values that leadership teams deem critical to company success. When identified, they communicate to employees, customers, and the public that this is the “short-list” of values that’s most important for the company to effectively achieve its strategies, goals, and objectives.
Many of our companies have invested time, deliberation, and significant energy creating a set of Core Values. Core values are exceptionally useful because they help govern behavior and inform choices, especially when a clear decision path is not obvious.
What do we do when the very fabric of our business ecosystem is under pressure? Due to a global pandemic and intolerable social injustices, most of our businesses are now in a situation where every aspect of what we do is in question and potentially in flux. Peaceful protests promoting our rights to peacefully demonstrate are contrasted with looting and riots, all highlighting the need for real change. Businesses operate to fulfill society’s needs and desires, and we all must wrestle with how we move forward in a productive way.
When our businesses find themselves questioning everything (e.g. environment, products, services, differentiation, markets, suppliers, production, logistics, channels, etc.) it makes a whole lot of sense that our espoused organizational values are also in flux. As a matter of fact, the last few months have already changed our organizational values!
Values Fingerprint. As a firm, one thing we have always advocated, is for companies to regularly measure their values profile through employee surveying. It’s our experience that very few companies conduct employee surveys around values, and for the few that do, they focus only on their core values.
While that’s good information to know, it ignores an extensive list of other values that are present in your organization. In our work with clients, we use a comprehensive values model that allows us to measure and report a Values Fingerprint which can be viewed at any/all organizational levels. And, measuring your Values Fingerprint has benefits you can’t afford to miss.
Discovering the disconnect
Not that this ever happens…but, let’s say you had turnover in a critical leadership role. You go through an extensive search process to find just the right candidate to lead this part of your organization. You hired a search firm, spend tens of thousands of dollars on a search, invested months, involved many stakeholders in the selection process, and now the time has come. The person has finally joined your organization.
Even the very best of selection processes still feels a lot like “speed-dating.” You never really know what you’re getting until they’ve moved-in and have a key to the house. Quite frankly, the new leader doesn’t know your organization very well either. Learning your culture takes time.
But, let’s give the company the benefit-of-the-doubt and assume that the new leader has the very best on-boarding process ever, so they are aware of the Company’s play-book. They know the industry, product/service mix, differentiation, markets, customer segments, value chain design, supply chain design, go-to-market structure, organizational structures, employee dynamics, and company culture and values.
The new leader has been given a charter to turn around the performance of their part of the organization; after all, their predecessor left with good reason. So, the new leader sets the tone by using their first few weeks to learn, and then the next few weeks to establish goals and objectives. They cascade these to their staff members using the tried-and-true management practices of weekly one-on-one meetings with subordinates, weekly reports, bi-weekly staff meetings, and monthly operations reviews. Metrics are put in place and their entire department knows what’s expected.
After three months you’re hearing “noise” that this new leader is a militaristic tyrant, autocrat, and other similar but colloquial expressions of the same tenor. Problem? Now what? Here, everyone on the leadership team thought this person was a great fit, and from what you can tell in your executive meetings, the person seems to be “on the ball,” and the work is finally getting done
exactly as you had wanted. What’s with the noise? Well, your employees in the new leader’s organization just experienced a values shift. The new leader has very clearly communicated and demonstrated the value of “accountability.”
The disconnect is in the fact that your company has communicated and demonstrated a different set of core values. You use a mnemonic of We CARE (Communications, Appreciation, Responsibility, and Ethics). As an organization, what you have expected out of your employees is that they take responsibility for their work and they’re appreciated for that work when it’s done well. Your new leader on the other hand has come in an used a tactic of definition, delegation, measurement, and follow-up; they’re driving and holding people accountable.
Employees in this part of the organization no longer feel as though they’re empowered or appreciated; hence, the noise that you’re hearing. If you’re collecting this input through an employee survey tool with a robust values model, you will see this and can respond to it before it becomes an issue that’s driving a lot of negative noise. By doing so, you’ll be able to collaborate with the new leader, make some adjustments and keep things moving forward.
Without the ability to measure values comprehensively, this situation would likely degrade and result in additional leadership turnover and additional organizational turmoil.
Pandemic & Situational Values. You cannot go through what we have all gone through these last few months and not have a values shift in your organization. You’ve had one. A short while ago when the pandemic broke, we all had to do a pivot and push all the way to the top of the value list, those of Health and Safety.
Regardless of the values structure you had in place a few months ago, health became number one. In the last few weeks, community and social responsibility have become the new top priority, with health taking third place. It can change again tomorrow. Are you prepared? Can you afford to overlook these leadership values?
Where to get values help
Do you have the measurement tools to know what your values structure looks like now? Do you know how your values structure varies by organizational unit, geography, level, and leader?
You need to know because your recovery depends on it. It is certain that your leadership team will need to behave differently to lead a recovery. Your leadership team will need to convey a new set of values that are critical to a new strategy, goals, and objectives.
At Alonos, the values model we use has 23 values dimensions and over 115 descriptors to give you actionable insights. Your employees need the certainty that comes with knowing that their leaders are being intentional and thoughtful with what they do and how they do it. Need more? We can help you!
Albrecht, D.J., & Albrecht, M.G. (2020). Get the funk out! Leadership Values You Can’t Afford to Overlook Today (June 10). Dallas, TX: Alonos Corporation. Retrieved from https://alonos.com/resources