In the January 24 post we talked about what it takes to have your company values really be alive, have them be expressed in people’s actual behaviours. I promised that I would say more about the four areas to attend to in managing the creation and maintenance of a values-based culture.
On April 16 I covered the area of Agreements and proposed the following:
- Agreements are the nexus of individual, team and organisational performance;
- Action lives in the making, management and fulfilment of agreements;
- Performance is ultimately a function of action, and
- High performance is a function of highly effective action.
- There is a direct relationship between highly effective action and the discipline with which agreements are managed.
- It is possible to view an organisation as a web of agreements.
Now its time to look at the fourth area to provide leadership in: Strategic Areas of Focus.
By Strategic Areas of Focus I mean those areas or activities that if focussed on will give you the most leverage in bringing about real alignment to the values in the organisation.
I am using the word alignment here deliberately because I believe alignment is distinct from agreement. If I am aligned with a set of values, they are expressed in everything I do – they are a part of who I am, I am ‘in-line’ with them. Agreement is different. I agree with many matters, i.e. I don’t have any disagreement with them, but they don’t impact who I am and what I do.
Too often in my work with leaders and leadership teams I find that there is a gap between the company’s values and it’s leader’s behaviours. People agree with the values, but they are not aligned with them. In terms of strategic areas of focus, aligning leadership behaviour is a high leverage strategy.
In many businesses the common areas that receive a lot of effort in the attempt to create cultures are:
Engagement surveys: All well and good, but if the majority of the questions in them are not related to behaviours and actions tied directly to the values, then they are missing the point. These surveys measure the leaderships’ capacity to engage with the staff and are often coloured by people’s experience of leaders ‘walking the talk’. If there is no tangible change in leadership behaviour they can become a source of cynicism and disengagement.
Social activities: Ranging from Friday night drinks to employee awards and everything in between. Fine, if one of your values is ‘Fun’ or ‘Recognition’ or ‘Community’ – but really these activities are a demonstration of the values on the part of the business, they don’t necessarily align people’s behaviour. People might have fun or recognise others at the time, but does that behaviour continue?
Training: Necessary, of course, but is the content shaped by your company values or is it adding another layer of stuff for people to conform to?
Environment: Creating an open office, hot desks, communal spaces all sound consistent with the value ‘Collaboration’ but is that really what get’s produced?
Living one’s values is a moment-by-moment occurrence. The question is – what would be the most strategic, leveraged for the best result, areas to focus on to support people – particularly leaders – in having more of their moments in time be an expression of the company values?
The answer to that question won’t be simple and it will differ from company to company – but just asking it moves you into the territory of seriously creating a values-based culture.
As you identify and get alignment on the Strategic Areas of Focus, you move to creating the Agreements necessary to create the Structures and then Processes/Systems to support and underpin your intentions.