"Don’t Collaborate on Values"
by David Friedman
When I work with leaders who want to create a high-performance culture, they naturally want to know where to begin. And the answer is—with values.
Values are the cornerstone of organizational culture because our behavior is a reflection of our values. In fact, you can best understand the culture (and operating values) of any organization simply by watching how its people behave. If you want to change behavior, start with values. The highest performing companies know this and they take steps to institutionalize their most important values.
One of the biggest misconceptions about values development is that it should be a collaborative process. Some leaders think that they should survey their people and build consensus around what the organization’s values should be. They try to write mission statements and values that will look good on a poster or in their annual report, but all too often these statements lack any meaningful personal investment. These efforts are, in fact, misguided.
The development and sponsorship of organizational values is one of the essential roles of leadership. It’s the leader’s responsibility to stipulate the values that will drive the organization toward success. Not only is the leader the primary author/architect of the organization’s values, but he/she is also the chief example and cheerleader for those values. This is why it’s so critical that the leader be personally invested in them.
Not surprisingly, many leaders have difficulty articulating the values they want to use to lead their organizations. My counsel is to look inward, rather than looking outward. In other words, think about the values that are most meaningful to you. I’ll often ask leaders, “What do you care most about? What are your strongest beliefs about how people ought to be, or about how work ought to be done, or about what you want your company to be known for?” Chances are there are already many things you’re always telling people along these lines. This is a pretty good starting point when identifying values. The key is to notice the values you already believe strongly in, as opposed to trying to craft a politically correct statement of someone else’s values.
In my book, Fundamentally Different, I share some additional thoughts on how to write your values in a way that is most helpful in the effort to institutionalize them, and ultimately, to create a high-performance culture.
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Publication Date: June 2011
Price: $28.95 hardcover, $19.95 paperback, $9.95 ebook
Buy Links: Amazon (hardcover), Amazon (paperback), Kindle
Known for his compelling logic and easy-to-understand style, Friedman shares the most important insights he learned during a 27-year business career in which he led one of the most unique and successful companies in his industry. Captured in his self-styled Fundamentals, this collection of wisdom is so simple, yet powerful, that you’ll wonder why the principles he describes aren’t more commonplace in every organization across America.
But Friedman’s Fundamentals aren’t just about business. They’re a guidebook for life. And like so many other people who’ve already embraced them, you’ll no doubt find your life enriched by their practice.
David Friedman is the former President of RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm in the Philadelphia area. He is a frequent guest speaker and seminar leader on organizational culture, leadership, and values. A graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in Philosophy, Friedman currently lives in Moorestown, NJ with his wife and 2 college-age children.
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