Value-based Leadership – Making The Grade

This blog post was originally published here and has been re-posted with permission from the author.

by Michelle Burke

Big, Fat Liar!

You’ve just plopped your butt in a meeting with some higher ups and the entire team starts talking about the client, the engagement and what’s going wrong. Out pops a lie from one of the senior leaders – a fable so tall that you envision that dude’s nose growing just like Pinocchio himself! Like a good minion, you present the facts of the situation as delicately as possible (calling B.S. in the middle of his tale did occur to you) so all know what and why things went wrong. This at least gets all the right cards on the table, as well as drives the point home, that we are not living up to our own documented company values.

Why Should I Care?

This scenario (all details edited to protect the guilty and innocent ) is a real one that a friend and former colleague found herself handling recently. The best part is the company values are plastered on the walls of the company for all to see. Take a guess how many times folks look at that wall on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and think, ‘Seriously? WTF?! Honesty is one of the core values, but some of the folks at the top cannot be bothered to practice it. Why do I bother staying engaged and actually caring about this place?’

Core Values = Everyday Action

One of my partners, Kathy Knowles, is AMAZING at helping companies ‘get clear on your values and brand.’ In her 7 step hiring process, she hammers this home by saying: ‘Your company culture hinges on a strong brand and its values. If you are unclear about this, it simply isn’t likely that you will be able to hire the right team. You demonstrate your business core values every day through action. Now it’s time to articulate those core values and start using them in your hiring, internal and external communication, and team culture.’

Making the Grade

You’re probably thinking, ‘Ok Michelle, that’s great for a business trying to get the right people ON the bus, but what needs to happen when the WRONG people are on the bus or they are screwing around in their seats!?’ Excellent question! In Gino Wickman’s book, ‘Traction’, he talks about figuring out ‘whether you have the right person in the right place or not.’ This starts with the company values. Assuming a company has them, an organization should start assessing their people (leaders first) by giving them a ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Maybe so’ for each core value. Let’s play around with this using Pinocchio above:

Core Values:We’re innovativeHonesty is the best policyCan do attitudeNo JerksWe are service-focused
PinocchioYesNoYesMaybe SoMaybe So

You can see I just graded our buddy from the meeting above and he received a big, fat NO in the honesty camp (one of the company’s values) and he’s wobbly in the no jerks camp along with the service-focused camp. What businesses should be doing is evaluating all their people on the organization against the company values. Gino’s recommended baseline from the book is for each resource to have three Yes’s, two Maybe so’s and never a No. Sure, Yes’s across the board is ideal, but probably not realistic. If a business isn’t hitting this baseline, then there’s work to do, Sparky.

It Starts With YOU!

Alright, so you aren’t a business owner, or a leader and you don’t think you can affect change, eh? WRONG ANSWER! Your action at this point is to grade yourself. Yep, you heard that right. Are YOU living the company values? Do you even believe them or are you aligned with them in the first place? If you have some No’s or Maybe so’s, then YOU have some work to do. Start there. Get your act together, start leading by example first. Then, have an open dialogue with your manager and leader. See what that produces. You may find it changes your behavior and mindset. It could possibly spark change with your boss and some interesting conversations about living the company values. Yes, it’s possible that you or Pinocchio isn’t the right fit on the bus, but you’ll never know where it could lead if you don’t start with YOU.

Plus, if all else fails, you’ll know that you tried and it’s time to leave. Then, you can hold your head high, look for something else and find a place that aligns with YOUR core values!

What’s your experience with company values? How have you seen them work for the betterment of the client, the employee or the company?

Join Michelle on 2/13/2020 during a live webinar where you will hear about the leadership gap between women and men and learn how to position yourself (and others) for leadership roles. Register here

About the author:

Michelle Burke is the Founder and Maven Maker of bossibly; she aides business owners and young professional women alike by coaching them to become influential leaders. Using a unique system, she combines character strengths and core values to help them create a culture of engagement, which fosters predictable results and accountability.

Michelle is the chapter president of IAW Orlando and is a key influencer of The Leadership Lab by IAW.

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