You have them on a big poster in your main conference room or in your lobby: OUR VALUES. They probably include things like teamwork, creativity, integrity, and quality. These values are all admirable, and every company should strive to embody them. Now turn away from the poster and think about how employees become successful at your company—that is the rewards system that is in place, whether formal or informal. Ask yourself questions like this:
- Is teamwork really rewarded or are people who play politics and put themselves in the limelight the ones who move ahead?
- Is creativity encouraged and nurtured, or are new ideas squashed by managers who are afraid of being overshadowed?
- Is integrity practiced, or do you encourage your employees to look the other way on certain business practices that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with customers?
- Is quality really a priority, or do you pressure your employees to get it done faster so you can get more jobs through the shop?
Your company values should be aspirational, but they should also reflect the road to success. If that road is littered with those who have been thrown under the bus, people are going to start taking side streets. At that point, your values become meaningless at best; a parody at worst.
Your company culture can help dictate what some of your core values should be. If you would like teamwork to be a core value, for example, ensure that team players get recognized with better projects, promotions, etc. If you want to encourage integrity, reward those who blow the whistle on poor business practices. Remember, your employees do not consult your company website or a poster in the cafeteria before they act. They observe the way things are done by management and fellow employees, and they see what flies and what doesn’t. As a leader, it’s your job to make sure they see the right things.