We have all seen values statements hanging on the walls of various organizations. They're usually nicely framed and tastefully hung for all who pass by to see. However, other than knowing the executive team developed them as part of a strategic planning effort, most of us who walk by our own organization's values statement rarely understand its purpose - other than serving as a nice piece of artwork.
The values statement of an organization is what I call "The House Rules."
It outlines how we're going to behave as we fulfill our mission and move towards our vision. It's called "The House Rules" because it serves the same purpose as the house rules when we visit someone's home. Certain behaviors are acceptable while we're there and others are not.
Values statements may outline what performance standards an organization will exhibit
(i.e., exceptional product and service quality, complete customer satisfaction, and fair pricing and profits). It may also outline what behaviors are expected of the organization's employees:
- Demonstrate Integrity
- Communicate Honestly and Plainly
- Think Strategically
- Share Your Knowledge
- Support Innovation and Improvement
Values statements outline whatever standards and behaviors are "non-negotiable" to maintain the integrity of the organization's culture. At a minimum, values statements serve three main purposes:
- First, they serve as a unifying force in establishing a corporate or organizational culture. What beliefs, attitudes, and values do we as an organization believe in and want to live by?
- Second, they outline what type of behavior is expected of EVERYONE who draws a paycheck from the organization or represents the organization. This means front-line staff to the company owners, and the board of directors as well. Anyone who works for the organization or represents it, must abide by the organization's values.
- Third, values statements serve as a powerful management tool to help re-align poor performance. Now if an employee behaves in a manner that is not in alignment with the house rules, the values statement can be used to redirect behavior. For instance, if an employee is rude to a customer, the manager can use the values statement to re-align the employee's behavior. All the manager needs to do is point to the values statement on the wall and ask the employee,
A critical point to remember with values statements is that they serve as a guide for the owner and management team's behavior as well. If the executive team can't abide by the house rules themselves, take the values statement off the wall until it's revised to state behaviors that can be exhibited by all of the staff.
Don't just enforce them on others. At a bare minimum, management must acknowledge its own violations of the house rules. If it doesn't, employees see there's a double standard in accepted behavior. When that happens, the employees view the values statement hanging on the wall as nothing more than artwork. Morale will deteriorate because there's a double standard: Management doesn't have to follow the rules but everyone else does.
Ask yourself if your behavior falls in line with the values statement? Because as long as you draw a paycheck from the organization, these are the house rules. You were probably given a copy during your interview before you were hired. They're included in your employee handbook, which you've acknowledged you've read and understood, and they're posted on the website and throughout the facility. If you don't want to abide by the house rules, you're free to draw a paycheck elsewhere. The rules are the rules; as long as you work there you have a choice: either you follow them or you leave.
The true value of a sound values statements is hard to determine. But well thought-out, organization-specific values statements can set expectations for behavior, performance, communication, personal and corporate responsibility, personal and professional development, as well as, fair pricing and profits. With those expectations clearly defined, what it takes to succeed in the organization is easy for everyone to understand.
Take a look at the values statement hanging in your organization. Review it to see if your entire organization lives by and enforces your own "house rules." If not, it's time to redecorate.
Copyright MMX Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.