It’s sad to see that McKinsey research shows that during transformations, 86 percent of senior executives believe that they are actively demonstrating the change they want employees to make, but only 53 percent of employees do*.

Workplace values drive the attitudes and behaviours that make your team effective or otherwise. These values might include respecting others, keeping promises, taking personal accountability, or offering outstanding customer service. Get it right and you build a culture of trust and mutual respect within the team.

Too many leaders make a song and dance of identifying values and then promoting them to employees as “the way we do things round here” but stop short of actually taking their own medicine. Leading by example is the best lead you can give. We are social beings who learn by observing others and if we see that management don’t live up the rhetoric they espouse we will draw the obvious conclusion. If management pay only lip service to stated values, the workforce who are asked to live those values will see unfairness, politicking and cynical manipulation.

Inspire engagement

In 2012 the Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker showed that 88 percent of employees who know their core values say they are engaged compared to 54 percent of respondents who say they did not know any of their company’s core values.

Great Place to Work research shows that a strong values-driven culture is critical to the success of high performance organisations; those with a culture of strong values are more likely to have better financial results than their peers.

It may be that senior leaders believe they are acting with integrity but there is a significant gap in perception between executive management, line managers and front line workers. It may be because leaders fail to communicate with and involve staff, and are not sufficiently transparent on decision-making processes. Failure to build a sense of common purpose makes it difficult to achieve common goals.

If you aim to connect everyone to the goal then you need to engage your people with inspiring leadership and a culture and vision designed to develop a culture of accountability and collaborative engagement with core values.

Illustrate desired behaviour

So identifying and promulgating a statement of values is just the start – you need to illustrate your stated values. What do they mean – not just words, but expected behaviours? If senior leadership has not bought into the importance of values they will undermine engagement by not role modelling the desired behaviours.

In essence your statement of values provides a framework within which all stakeholders can work together effectively toward the achievement of excellence. Values may be adapted to reflect the particular needs and circumstances of different roles; they act as a guide, rather than a prescriptive checklist, of the behaviours that the organisation will recognise, reward and endorse.

You can’t rely on motivation posters, website or coffee mugs to keep your values in the forefront of employee’s minds. You need to communicate them by talking about them in meetings, training events, feedback sessions and by discussing and acknowledging what the values mean in practice – what they look like, sound like, and feel like. Ask staff to share examples, good and bad, of when they or other people have demonstrated them. Relate them to specific activities, such as customer service, team-working, innovative problem-solving.

*McKinsey Transformational Change survey 2014, n=1713 respondents

Image: Pablo

About Liz Sebag-Montefiore

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a Co-Founder and Director of 10Eighty. With over 10yrs of business experience, I have an extensive and impressive blue chip client base. I have worked with numerous firms working in partnership with the client to understand their needs. My current role involves managing relationships with clients, developing new business, and coaching individuals in their career. I really enjoy meeting new people and have strong client relationship and networking skills.

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