“Here at XYZ Co., we value quality, integrity, customer service, blah, blah, blah…” Let’s be honest. Corporate values are usually terribly boring. Why? Maybe all the life gets sucked out when you’re desperate not to offend anyone? Who knows. Is there a better way to lead according to shared values? Unquestionably, yes! In fact, shared values fuel high-performing teams in every industry. The more you understand the dynamics of shared values, the more explosive your team’s potential becomes.
Oops! Your Values Are Showing
Leadership is using your influence to move someone from where they are to somewhere better. And there’s an extremely high leadership return on investment when you seek to influence your team’s values. Affecting values is like changing the quality of water at the source. Everything downstream will benefit. Want to increase profit, revenue, or downloads? Want to grow your market share or subscriber base? Do you want a high-performing team?? These outcomes are all downstream from values.
Why are values upstream? It doesn’t matter if your organization is for-profit or not-for-profit; if you’re big or small; or if your industry is growing or dying—organizations are people. And here’s the thing about people: 9 times out of 10, people will think, speak, and act based on their values. Not what they say their values are, but their real values. Want to know what’s important to someone? Don’t take an opinion poll. Look at what they do. Actions reveal values. Do you see how influencing a team member’s values can impact their performance? Changing values will change behavior. So, how can leaders influence their team’s values to become a high-performing team?
1. Leaders must clarify their personal values.
You can’t export what you don’t have in stock. Most people have values, but can’t clearly articulate them. Why is this?? Clarify your values. Write them out and spend time crafting each word. Have you written out your values? What would you include? Are there people who exemplify your values? How do they think/speak/act?
Here are my personal leadership values (at this moment):
- Creativity: Everything’s an experiment until it isn’t.
- Positivity: My life is shaped by good news.
- Integrity: Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- People matter: People are always the point.
- Empowering environment: Be who God created you to be and do what God created you to do.
- Mission-driven: We only have one life to make a difference. Let’s get after it!
Take some time to work on this. Don’t rush it. I started a list on my phone and added to it over a period of a couple months. Ask your friends or your spouse how they would describe your values. What do you find inspiring? But do the work and clarify your personal values.
2. Leaders must work to influence the shared values of their team.
This will undoubtedly take time and effort. Don’t give up! It’s worth the fight. Leaders must get to know their team members enough to understand what drives them. Then, leaders must communicate what the shared values of the team should be, and why. People need to know the why. Without the why people will not believe in the what. This isn’t a one-and-done task. If you want your values to fuel high-performance, it needs to come up all the time—in planning meetings, during budgeting, in staff meetings, and even in performance reviews. What you celebrate gets repeated. Find ways to reward values when you see them in action. Rewards can be positive attention/recognition, gift cards, money, etc. Only after time and a great deal of repetition and rewards, will your team’s values start to shift.
However, when a team operates by a shared set of clarified, positive values, they become like military jets flying in formation. They can perform at a much higher level without crashing into each other. They don’t have to constantly stop to get realigned or pointed in the right direction. And when a team member refuses to act in alignment with the team’s values, it will be obvious (think jets crashing into each other). You will need to decide whether they are willing/able to change or whether they need to find a different team. This can be hard, but in the long run, this too will benefit team performance.
If you want to lead a high-performing team, start by clarifying your personal values, then work to influence the shared values of your team. You’ll see attitudes and behaviors change, your team will perform at a much higher level, and you’ll have a ton of fun in the process. Goodbye, boring corporate values! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!