I was following a LinkedIn conversation earlier this week that posed the question, “How do you get employees to buy into core values?” Perhaps the bigger question might be, “How do you get companies to practice the core values they set forth for their company?” If you answer the second question, the first question will answer itself.
Core values are defined as “the values in which a company sets forth as the foundation in which that company will conduct business.” It sounds good on paper and when followed correctly, will be one of the things which transition any company from good to great. We see companies list an array of glowing words of encouragement such as: Integrity – Professionalism – Excellence – Respect – Teamwork – Dedication & Accountability.
While it may be true that “you don’t need a title to be a leader”, it is also true that taking a company from good to great requires top down leadership, which also includes top down strict adherence to the core values set forth by that company. For example, if “integrity” is established as a core value, but employees see a lack of integrity in C level executives, getting buy-in is going be like pushing a snow ball uphill. You may have a very dedicated mid-level manager that is a strong leader and team builder who can effectively instill the virtue of integrity for a time, but when employees see a lack of integrity at the top, things begin to quickly unravel. The same holds true for every other virtue cited in a company’s set of core values.
One needs look no further than with matters of faith. We’ve all known or heard of a church where everything seemed as it should – the Pastor was an effective Sheppard for their flock – teaching the virtues with which to live our lives, but let that same Pastor be involved in any lack of virtue such as adultery and watch how quickly things fall apart for the entire congregation. Another good example would be that of parenting. A life-long “welfare mom” is going to have difficulty instilling a strong work ethic in her children. A deadbeat “baby-daddy” who is an addict, alcoholic and physically abusive isn’t going to have much luck ordering his children not to do drugs or drink, and to respect women.
Companies are no different. If C level executives are going to establish core values, they must first be willing to commit their own actions to those same core values if they ever expect them to become a solidified anchor of corporate culture – and that level of commitment must be maintained at all costs and at all times. The old adage of “practice what you preach” really applies here.
Employees – just like soldiers, children, athletes, voters and pretty much everyone else – want strong leadership. They want leaders they can respect and even emulate. Provide them with that kind of leadership and you will be amazed at how quickly they get on board with the core values established by the company.
- Delivering Results while Living the Company’s Values (customerthink.com)
- Leading with Inclusion at the Core (leadershipadvantage.co)
- Core Values and the Companies That Do Them Well (grasshopper.com)
- More Proof That Treating Employees Like Humans And Not Machines Is Good For Business (businessinsider.com)