Values are defined as one’s principles, what are most important in business and life.  The values for both should align. Values are our north star, what guides us in all decisions and should never be compromised. Living by your values and being the person that others want to follow actually go together. Employees WILLfollow leaders whose values align with theirs and when they perceive that the leaders live by their values.

Often values are confused with priorities. Priorities change based on changing needs and to dos. Not values, they remain steadfast. For example, if ensuring safety was a value, then safe practices would never be compromised no matter what and unsafe behaviors never tolerated. Managers often state that safety in the workplace is a value; however, what happens when production is behind, or a looming production deadline has to be met? Is taking the time to be safe still the expectation, the value? We just ask employees; they tell us how things really are.

Two true stories when values and priorities were confused:

  • An employee was rewarded for doing ‘whatever it took’ to ensure the product shipped on time, even though safety was a stated value.
  • An employee was rewarded for working extra-long consecutive days (one of those staying all night!); however, this was the against the safety policy as well as the policy to ensure employee well-being – with enough rest, recovery, and resilience – as a value.

Identifying your 5 core values and making sure these align with the business values are essential. Well-being suffers and your ability to lead are impacted when not aligned, or not fully lived. So, do you know your 3 -5 core values? That’s the recommended core number to have. Are you clear the difference between values and priorities? And do your employees know what your core values are and buy into them?

It’s confusing and hard to remember when there are too many values listed, plus long lists can seem watered down from ‘core’ to a ‘punch list’. Identifying approximately 5 core values is the recommendation.  There are exercises to help define core values and ensure buy-in from all stakeholders. All stakeholders should be able to not just state the values, but also know the expected behaviors for each.

This is critical.  Core values can’t be a poster on the wall. Employees and customers will know the difference. If core values are guiding principles that are never compromised, then they have to be operationalized. Values must be lived and practiced.  This means that the expected behaviors are identified, and all are held accountable to uphold these behaviors.

There will be mistakes – it is a practice and leaders aren’t perfect. How these mistakes are handled is what matters. For example, if respect is a value, but you have an angry outburst, apologize for it.  Acknowledge that the behavior is not acceptable and ask others to help you live that value. Otherwise, recovery – no matter how justified you told yourself the outburst was – is extremely difficult.

Our advice?

  • Identify your 5 core values as a leader as well your personal values (are they the same?)
  • Ensure that your values are aligned with the business values
  • Obtain buy-in from all stakeholders
  • Align the core values within the mission and operations of the business
  • Identify the expected behaviors and hold all accountable, even include these behaviors on any performance evaluations
  • Communicate the values frequently and ensure that all stakeholders know the values and expectations

We’re happy to discuss assistance in identifying the core values and behaviors for each. Please contact us!