Values driven leaders enable better performance and do not act like fish out of water
Business owners are used to wrestling with the all too familiar pressures to grow the business and its reputation whilst maintaining cash flow in a competitive market place. Greater alignment of the workforce to meet the obvious pressures of today and the priorities of tomorrow is business critical. In the face of turbulence and uncertainty your organisation’s culture and values become the major source of continuity and coherence, of renewal and sustainability.
The challenge for any business is to recognise that a command and control approach to management is much less likely to get us to where we need to be to meet future challenges. So, whilst the obvious pressure upon business leaders is likely to lead to a tightened grip to balance the books and maintain cash flow the counter intuitive response is to engage and harness the silent potential that lies within the workforce.
Control versus creativity
Many employees are effectively forced to leave their own values, creativity and ideas at the door on the way in. Senior leaders need to retune their approach and be actively working to create a culture that minimises management control, hierarchy, status and fear, and instead promotes freedom, equality, accountability, fairness, openness, transparency and trust amongst the workforce. A more systemic approach building resilience and goodwill and a need to navigate with increasing complexity is required. Easy to say, but less easy to achieve when organisations take a short term view.
Safeguard the fish
I like the analogy of fish swimming in a dirty fish tank. Businesses often change the fish (managers), in a few cases some or all of the water (priorities, policies – organisational governance is amended); but rarely do we take time to safeguard the fish (employees), deep clean the tank, and then slowly re introduce the fish to a new and different environment and operating model (culture).
Now I am not an aquarist, but I have lost a few goldfish in my time! It always seems to be down to one of two things. The first is over feeding, equivalent to the same old management speak repeated over and over until everyone gets sick of the message the water becomes toxic and some of the fish die. Alternatively, it is failing to properly safeguard the fish during the process of cleansing the tank, allowing the water in the tank to settle and stabilise before then reintroducing the fish (systemic change).
By better understanding values we can improve the relationship between the view of individuals and what business leaders espouse for their organisation. Our own values are driven by personal beliefs and are effected through our behaviour. Better understanding of personal values and alignment with those within our business will create a more engaged and higher performing organisation. Understanding the gap between the current view (water in the fish tank) and the desired culture gives leaders a better chance of bringing about systemic change.
Understanding values means better business
Successful businesses pay more attention to understanding and aligning personal values with espoused organisational values (the values that other people see lived out in the organisation each day), live them, and translate meaning into daily interactions with everyone they meet. In turn the mission and vision for the business needs to align with espoused values to ensure a believable story for both employees and customers alike. In return this leads to increased employee engagement, improved productivity, improved patient outcomes, and leads to financial return.
How would your employees and customers describe your current organisational culture?