Are you living your values?
Values show up again and again in my conversations with CEOs. It is my belief that misaligned or simply unarticulated values are the root cause of all disagreements, mismatches in expectations, etc. This is as true in life as it is in your company.
Anyone who has come from a typical large company might view values with some skepticism. Their experience with values, in many cases, amounted to cheesy posters in the hallways, which rang hollow because the company didn’t really live them. They were just words. Words that were not backed by action. Not lived.
This is true in many startups as well. Many CEOs and management teams come up with well-intentioned and well thought out values, but lose them in the struggle to either create growth or keep up with growth.
Here is my suggestion for how to truly live values in your company:
First, culture starts from the top. Values will be followed if the CEO lives them and makes them a priority.
Second, anything important that we want to implement in our lives (again this is true in life and business) comes down to consistent habits. It is only by practicing the habit day in and day out that it sticks.
Putting these two thoughts together:
As CEO, anytime you see someone living a core value recognize it. Do so publicly. This could be in a group slack channel, company gathering, etc.
Similarly, if you are having an issue with a team member, bring it back to values to reinforce why this is an issue since the person’s actions are not in line with company values. This is done privately. One on one.
For example, let’s say that ownership is a core value for your company. If a key project is delayed and the exec responsible is looking to blame others or blame circumstances, bring this back to the value of ownership. The company will only thrive if people do what they say they will do.
Yes, delays happen. But there are two ways to handle them. One is to pass the buck and not own it. The other is to acknowledge (well in advance of the project deadline) that the timeline is not on track. To be able to root cause why this is happening, fix the issue in the system and have a new, high-confidence timeline. That is ownership.
This is just one example. Bring every issue, conflict, unmet expectation, etc with your direct reports back to company values. Ask them to do the same with their team members, and so on. Do this consistently and you every member of your company will be truly living the company’s values.
Questions to consider
How often do we discuss our values in the company?
Do I believe that each and every team member could cite our values?
One by one for each my execs: Who is living the values? Who is not?
Do we incorporate values into our performance review process?