Leading From Values

Keeping core values in the forefront of the minds of the organization is the primary task of its vision-keepers. But how do you do this? The answer: by integrating values everywhere. Research from the field of Organization Development (OD) has demonstrated that employees derive the company’s values from their direct supervisor. It does not matter what is on the plaque in the lobby or on the website splash page. What matters are the values that underlie the behavior of one’s direct supervisor. 

It is incumbent upon the visionary leader to make sure these values are actually being lived, not just espoused. This can be determined by asking Socratic questions like: Tell me a story when we have lived these values. Then, how do these values line up with our observable behavior? How can they be seen in the actions of our Board? From here, train managers in this leadership skill because values demand focus.

Everyday each of us draws upon hundreds of important values to guide our thoughts and actions. This is also true in an organization setting. Amongst these hundreds of values however, are generally five to eight core values that are foundational to maintaining the essence of the organization’s culture. Core values teach members of the organization what is most important to the members as they live and work together to achieve their vision for mission. 

Core values are primary culture embedding mechanisms that drive cohesive organizational behavior. They inform team members how to succeed within the organization and what superior work looks like. Organizations that are managed by values (see Managing by Values by Kenneth Blanchard) are often the organizations that are most productive, most profitable, and are among the companies voted best places to work. Functionally, this entails praising or sanctioning that which is explicitly tied to the values of the organization. For example, “Leticia, I really appreciate what you did here because it reflects our value of: integrity,” or “Samuel, I was disappointed in your performance last Saturday because it did not live up to our value of showing compassion.” When effectively operationalized, an organization’s core values significantly strengthen the organization’s culture and raise its esprit de corps.

A sign of a very highly aligned organization is where participants at every level are able to articulate the values of the organization clearly. Continual emphasis of organizational core values reinforces a healthy culture and forms the organization’s growth in a singular direction. Values are highly correlated with productivity and they are formative in shaping and maintaining the organization’s focus by channeling its behavior in predetermined ways.

Here at TurningWest we are constantly talking to clients about leading from values. This, after all, is the heart and soul of your organization. Let’s us help you discern your true core values and help you to live them out. This is the pathway to wild success.

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