Everyone is craving trust and a genuine expression of values these days. Your team and customers want to ensure they are working with and supporting a company that adheres to its value set and behaves in an ethical manner. Ethics and values will be different for each company and consumer demographic; however, it’s vital to express your company’s belief system and truly walk your talk.
Today more than ever before, people need to trust the organizations they work for and do business with. A survey of 11,537 U.S. adults in March 2020 by Pew Research Center found that 55% of respondents say that they believe most people “try to take advantage”, 46% said most people “can’t be trusted”, and 57% believe most people “just look out for themselves.” What does that say about our society as a whole? The current de-evolution in civil discourse in U.S. politics and ‘us vs. them’ fuels even more distrust.
It’s incredibly common for businesses to state their mission and values on their website and in marketing collateral, but it is rare to see values truly embedded as a decision-making touchstone for employees. As business consultants, we are often asked if having a mission and values really makes a difference to the public perception of a company — or is it just fluff?
Showing True Leadership
One company that truly lives their core values is Digital West. Digital West’s first core value is “Care About People: We put people first, cultivating great relationships with our teammates, customers, competitors, and community.” In the early days of the pandemic, Digital West demonstrated a commitment to this core value when many of their customers’ businesses were suspended or shut down. They proactively reached out to customers asking if they would like a reduction in their bill. This decision embodies leadership through values. Similarly, I’ve seen many businesses making decisions this year not for financial gain, but because it is simply the right thing to do. This inspires me to support these businesses even more, especially when we’re all feeling the pinch of a recession and preparing for a possible depression. We have a lot of choices about where to spend our money, and I personally choose to support businesses that are doing the right thing for the sake of it.
People want to follow leaders they respect and trust. Consistently making decisions based on your values builds that trust. In our experience, leaders who routinely live their values have higher rates of employee retention. So, not only is living your values the right thing to do, it makes your company more competitive as well.
What Can You Do?
Living your core values ethically is not always easy; however, being intentionally focused on doing so will make all the difference. Here’s how you can start demonstrating your commitment today:
Communicate Your Values. It’s not enough to put your mission and values on the wall in your reception area or on your website. Leaders must take the time to communicate the values to their teams. Recently, the owner of JB Dewar took the time to meet with every employee to discuss their mission and values and what they mean to him. He was able to provide real world examples of the mission and values in action as he communicated the company’s rich 85-year history.
Tie Decisions Back to Core Values. Review your mission and values to make sure they are strong, relevant, and honest. Then, make all decisions through the lens of your mission and values. This allows you to explain how you came to the decision and what values drove you to think that way.
Encourage and Acknowledge Employees Demonstrating Company Values. Ask your managers to keep an eye out for employees who are living your company’s value, and be sure to publicly thank them for doing so! Include a blurb in the company newsletter or website and be sure to make a note in the employee’s file to be considered during their performance review.
Discourage Actions That Don’t Align With Your Values. Let it be known that any action taken by an employee that explicitly goes against your core values will not be tolerated. Employees are often the face of a company, whether it’s in a showroom, in a customer’s home, or online.
To be a truly credible business leader, you must live by your core values or code of ethics within your business. Simply put, you must walk your talk! Your employees and clients will know when you don’t. If you want your employees to operate within the values you put in place for your business, you need to lead by example and showcase your life and work through the lens of your values.