Coaches Corner: Corporate values….walk the talk

Charmaine asks: How do you begin to make the culture apparent to have people high and low notice it?

Charmaine – thank for the question!

Well my first reaction is to say that this notion of developing a Corporate Culture really is an inside-out exercise. People have to ‘be’ the culture not just notice it

Corporate values are the foundation for an organization’s culture. Not all organizations declare a set of core values but for those that do – it’s essential that the values are authentic and are reflected in the organizations deepest beliefs and attitudes — and then expressed consistently in terms of its behaviours and actions. Not just at the overall corporate level – but consistently among its employees.

Distinction worth repeating: values are just words until they are actually expressed in attitudes, behaviours and actions.  

Often companies take a lot of time articulating fancy statements with core values but they make the mistake of thinking that’s all there is to it. Discovering and then declaring your values is just the beginning. It’s not enough in itself. For values to be alive and authentic it’s essential that the internal community understands and demonstrates the appropriate behaviours and actions that align with the values.

Sometimes we may slip….it’s not unreasonable to expect that from time to time there may be some actions (or individuals) that don’t align with values. It is human nature to occasionally ‘forget who we are’ and in corporate settings not everyone will be a ‘fit’. What’s important is that we do show up consistently(enough of the time) in a way that reflects our deepest beliefs and commitments. Paying attention to values on a consistent basis does build character – and for organizations – ultimately corporate culture. Many great companies build a strong enough character with a solid sense of knowing who they are – which steads them well, especially during the tougher times or during change. With that comes a very low tolerance for behaviours that are ‘out of character’.

For most companies that are just starting to ‘transform’ it’s important to respect pace. Building character from the inside out takes time. But what’s essential is that one starts with the seeds of authenticity. I.e. the declared values are at least somewhat (ideally significantly) reflected in part of their reality ….and very much reflected in what really matters.

Back to your question: how to get more people noticing it….to reinforce values and expected behaviours (i.e. build character within a company), takes intention and commitment .Here are just a few ideas:

  • Encourage everyone to be ‘ambassadors’ of the core values: There will always be leaders from all ranks of seniority who might carry the torch of character from the get-go — leverage those folks and do encourage everyone to be an ambassador of the company’s values. That speaks to building an ‘internal brand’ (more below).
  • Recognition programs. Find ways – informal to formal and large or small – to recognize behaviour that expresses the company’s values. I work with a company that now asks employees to share a ‘core value’ moment in many of their team  meetings. It may only take 5 minutes but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Other ideas might be recognition announcements in newsletters/award programs; etc.
  • Pervasive: Core values must be pervasive throughout an organization. There is no one individual or department that should be ‘off the hook’ in terms of respecting and exemplifying the corporate culture. That means – include everyone — in programs, communications, etc.
  • Coach and develop for senior-level support: The character of a company will be greatly influenced by the captain of the ship (and her/his team at the top). There must be full ‘buy-in’ with the senior team exemplifying and consistently modeling core values.  Support and coach your management team in becoming ambassadors of the core values. They may not inherently have the skills but if these folks are worth developing then do so. Remember they will have a direct impact on many others in the company. See my article from Canadian HR Reporter “Is HR Ready to Keep the Keepers” article for more.  
  • Communication:  Effectively communicating – consistently and meaningfully, with the organization is imperative to keep core values and build a positive culture. Posters and taglines are great but not enough. Communications happens across and within all levels. From the top, to and within teams. Again, formal and informal methods are key.  There’s a huge wealth of tactics to support this – but it’s essential to start with the commitment of communicating regularly and meaningfully to your internal community. This group is ultimately your most important brand lever.For those of you that don’t know this – I have 17 yrs communications experience and bring this piece to my corporate coaching work. Call me if you want to explore further…

I’m sure there’s much more that I’ll want to add to this piece – it’s a big part of the work that I do. And as always – I’d love to hear from others.

 What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Coaches Corner: Corporate values….walk the talk”

  1. Abbas H. Al-Rasheed Says:

    Many companies do list some of values and consider them as thier corporate values. I defintely agree with you that any set of values will remain only as words unless everyone in the organization deeply beleive and embrace thses values. This prcocess ie the process of embracing the values and adopting them as a true part of the corporate culture will take time. The question here is how this can be assessed and measured over the time. We must have a baseline to benchmark against. I would think that the best way is to conduct an organizational survey to identify the basic characteristics of the organization’s culture nad then build on the outcome of this survey. DO you think that this approach is the most effective or woulod you recommend another approach?

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Great questions Abbas! To quote a client of mine today – when it comes to culture and core values in an organization one has to “walk the talk”.

    Measurement takes many forms. Surveys (if done properly with the right questions) might be one avenue. Another is to consider what ‘actions/behviours/results’ will be more prevalent when the core values are honoured.

    Example: if ‘innovation’ is an organization’s core value, then it would be valuable to ask the question: “if we are honouring this value more fully, what changes/outcomes/results do we want to see? Maybe it’s new products or processes; new patents; new ways of interacting within the company to stimulate creative thinking….etc.

    My point is that in addition to articulating the core values – it’s also important to articulate expected (or desired) outcomes or behaviours that reflect the ‘core values in action’.

    Hope this helps…..let me know if you want to connect further on this. And thanks for the GREAT question and insightful comment.


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