Providing leadership in bringing your corporate values to life – Part Two

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 and in the last blog covered the areas of Structures and Processes/Systems.

Now, its time to look at the third area – agreements.

The commitment that underpins the development of corporate values is that those values will create a culture that supports the performance of the business.

Agreements are the nexus of individual, team and organisational performance. Action lives in the making, management and fulfilment of agreements – and performance is ultimately a function of action. High performance is a function of highly effective action.

Consider viewing your organisation as a web of agreements (picture the ‘bits and bytes’ world of ‘The Matrix’) and the performance of your organisation being a function of the quality of those agreements and the discipline with which they are managed, which equals the strength of the web.

There are many formal agreements in an organisation, those captured in documents or communicated publicly in other forms. Then there are the agreements being made every day in the form of promises and requests between people.

There is a direct relationship between highly effective action and the discipline with which agreements are managed. There are countless examples of leadership teams developing and committing to intelligent, well thought out action plans and strategies and failing to deliver on them or not delivering what was intended or in the time agreed to. A study conducted by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin and Elizabeth Powers reported in their HBR article ‘The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution’ reported:

“Over the past five years, we have invited many thousands of employees (about 25% of whom came from executive ranks) to complete an online assessment of their organization’s capabilities, a process that’s generated a database of 125,000 profiles representing more than 1,000 companies, government agencies, and not-for-profits in over 50 countries. Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization as weak at execution – that is, when asked if they agreed with the statement ‘Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action’, the majority answered no.”

Having a great plan of action is not enough. The same amount of effort and discipline that goes into creating a plan needs to go into identifying clear and specific agreements, including agreements designed to enable people to be accountable and hold others to account.
As leaders and leadership teams, starting to view your organisation as a web of agreements raises questions worth considering:

  • Are we relating to our stated values as an agreement we are making with all of our stakeholders?
  • What kind of agreements could we be making that would support the values being really alive in the behaviours of the people in our organisation?
  • Are we bringing discipline to the management of agreements with ourselves and in the business?
  • Is there sufficient clarity in the agreements we are making?
  • Are there real consequences for not delivering on agreements or are we avoiding dealing with it until its too late?
  • What do we need to develop ourselves and our people in that would strengthen our ability to deliver on what we agree to?
  • How do we be effective at holding one another to account for our agreements?

Answering these kinds of questions and then creating agreements for new actions in these areas, and providing leadership in delivering on those actions, is what it will take to align your behaviour and the behaviour of others with your corporate values.

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