When good times turn bad, will the organisation you work for be able to cling on to its values? We all want to believe the answer will be “Yes”. But in truth, the pressure to buckle and bend can be enormous.
An HRD recently confided in me that that his organisation’s redundancy programme, while run in a highly effective manner, had somehow become cast adrift from corporate values, in the face of commercial pressures. Bad news was inevitable for many, yet the basic lack of humanity with which it was delivered betrayed values previously held dear. Consequently, the damage went far beyond those who lost their jobs – demotivating “survivors” at least as much as their fallen colleagues – and is still being felt.
The conversation made me realise that the more uncertain the outside world becomes the more the values become the calming sense of perspective we need to hold on to – they are effectively the eye of the storm swirling around us. Organisational values may be something we can cling to in times of uncertainty, but they can be hard to think, talk or write about in a meaningful way, because they imply different things to different people. The successful delivery of effective values-based leadership in turbulent times therefore requires a thought through reconciliation between the “big picture” business values and the personal values of each employee.
In the past, businesses simply defined what was required to get the job done, then recruited or developed employees to match those requirements. Today, enlightened organisations know they can do much, much better. They design jobs around employees’ values, motivators and strengths (what they believe, what they like doing and are good at) to give them an army of highly engaged employees. And the sense of “calm” that individuals feel from knowing that their personal values are being acknowledged makes it easier for them to contribute to their organisation’s “big picture” values.
Personal values are fundamental beliefs that are well-developed and have probably been part of one’s character for years. There are great ways of helping you become aware of your personal values – traits like credibility, determination, enthusiasm, integrity or passion – and the priorities that they hold in your work and in your life. Self-awareness of one’s values alone creates an energy surge that can effortlessly lead you towards greater success and goal accomplishment. And when there is a further connection between these and the values championed by the employer, there is probably no greater guarantee that success will soon follow.
In the face of the storm, therefore, the true leader looks to values to bring a sense of calm, focus and purpose. He or she builds the business around the needs of the employees – and employees in turn flourish when they see leaders who can know the difference between “what” needs to be done and “how” they go about it.