Values use to guide our thoughts and actions

Values – those standards and principals that we use to guide our thoughts and actions – are a critical,yet often over-looked factor in organizations. Sure, every company proudly boasts of a set of valuesthat they claim define who they are; Integrity, Openness, Empathy, Social Contribution, etc. But howmany organizations truly have these values embedded in their DNA? Social scientists have long foundthat values attract people – and even cultures – to one another. It’s simple, really. People tend to feelmore comfortable around those that think and act like they do. It is therefore critical that we map thisvery concept to organizations as well. Unless leaders base their actions and decisions on a common setof values that bind teams together to create synergies, they are at best, creating cultures ofmediocrity. In order to create multiple high-performing teams, leaders need to not only adhere to a setof values, but constantly and consistently talk about what those values mean at the workplace, i.e.how they must be interpreted, until it becomes a way of life.Once an organization has crossed the first hurdle, i.e. establishing a set of values to live by andensuring these values are made prominent and shared across the board, there comes a second criticalstep that cannot be overlooked; the integration of these values within all organization processes. Forexample, if company A values ‘Openness and Transparency’ but has a Performance Management Systemthat is open to bias and shrouded in secrecy, they are fighting a losing battle. Employees will not onlybegin viewing this important process as just ‘something to do at the end of the year’ but worse still,they will begin to question the values that the company says drive what they do. In my experience,I’ve found that every process within an organization must drive those behaviours that the companyfinds desirable and acceptable. Loopholes that allow for deviations in the desired behaviours need tobe addressed and plugged.In my organization, we turned the performance management process on its head. Having got rid ofnumerical tags that separate one colleague’s performance from another’s by mere decimal points, wenow rely on a more open, conversational style that encourages monthly performance chats, careerconversations and discussions on personal development. Key to our process is the weightage given tothe consistent demonstration of Individual Leadership Behaviours; behaviours that uphold our valuesand help the company achieve its strategic and operational goals. One can clearly see a demonstrabledifference in employees’ approach to work, the achievement of targets and the increase in team-workand overall comradery.When discussing work-related issues, my father would always tell my sisters and me to “be firm, butfair.” When I think about his advice today, I see a direct link to leading with values. In order to be agreat leader, you sometimes need to make tough choices, even unpopular ones. But the leaders thatemerge unscathed are those that have acted fairly across the board. They survive judgement daybecause their actions are seen to be consistent and based on a solid bed rock of values. That is thetype of values – based leadership that drives a high performance culture, and is the style that managers– myself included – must strive to adopt as they progress through their careers.