The role of a leader can be described as encouraging and supporting people forwards – toward a vision or in a new direction. Values-based leadership is a leadership style built on the values of both a company’s leaders and their employees. It is based on the philosophy that people motivate themselves in their daily lives through the implementation of their personal values and in the workplace from a set of shared company values that aligns with their own. By operating from a set of shared values, leaders can better build trust and respect as well as drive engagement, foster creativity and innovation, and build a strong company culture. But what does it look like in action?
Here are eight actions that can help to plant a company’s core values within its employees’ mind-set and influence their daily behaviour – giving rise to the company’s culture:
- Start at the top
When it comes to living out an organisation’s values, there is no point in asking your employees to get behind values that leadership is not fully aligned with, and which they do not live out themselves. Anything less will make your core values feel like empty words with little substance. If you are establishing or refreshing your company’s core values, a good place to start is to ask all members of upper management and department heads what they believe the organisation’s core values currently are, and what these mean to each of them, within the context of their department.
- Demonstrate your values from the C-Suite downward
If you want employees to adopt and live out your company values, then the leadership team should demonstrate them. For example, if one of the company’s values is diversity, then diversity should be reflected in upper management. If caring for your employees is a core value, then the company should invest in educating and training department heads and team leaders in ways of making their employee wellbeing a top priority.
- Identify people who are already living out the company values
Identify people and areas in the business that already demonstrate your company values. It could be that there are many employees who are already living out certain values. Or there may be teams whose achievements reflect a value. For example, a department head may take note of an employee who has successfully solved a problem, even though this lies outside of their responsibilities. This employee has used their initiative to find a solution and has exercised their communication skills in keeping their line manager apprised of their progress. In turn the line manager has trusted the employee and given them the leeway to solve the problem. The values of taking initiative, two-way communication, trust and flexibility have been demonstrated.
- Recognise and reward those living out company values
To reinforce positive behaviour as illustrated above, ask all line managers to look for positive examples and implement a team or department-level recognition programme to reinforce the demonstration of company values. These could be awarded on an individual, team or project basis weekly or monthly. Being acknowledged and thanked soon after the fact is way more motivating than being acknowledged months down the line at an annual event. Bring your values to life in the day-to-day workplace through an employee engagement strategy that incentivises and rewards the embodiment of company values.
- Ensure your company values are introduced from the get-go
Right from the point of onboarding new employees, it is important to make the company values clear. Provide new staff members with demonstrable examples so that they understand what your core values look like in practice. These may be department or role specific. It may also be useful to repeat the instilling of company values with employees who have been with the company for a while. This will ensure that long-standing employees will not fall out of touch with the organisation’s culture – or plead ignorance if they do contravene any of the mandated values.
- Formalise the demonstration of certain company values
Exhibiting, not negotiable core values, such as showing respectful behaviour toward all colleagues, could also be written into employees’ KPIs – from leadership downward. To weed out the violation of such mandated company values, consider instituting policies and procedures to enable taking disciplinary action for employees who consistently disregard them. This will send a clear message that a company takes adhering to its core values seriously.
- Make sure that internal communications reflect company values
Your company’s core values should be published and reinforced across all your internal communications channels. Involve your internal communications team in creating a bank of messages that can be rolled out across all your internal communications platforms, and that reinforce your core company values. Having a bank of pre-approved messaging will ensure all your messaging is consistent across all platforms, using the same language to tell the same story and so avoid mixed messages around your company values.
- Encourage transparency and invite feedback
The leadership team should communicate the company values across the organisation in an open transparent manner, incorporating them into their daily lives and language. Team leaders should encourage safe and open discussion around company values and encourage employees to speak openly and honestly about their personal values. If someone finds a company value to be trivial or the company’s actions to be hypocritical, find out why. It may be that the embodiment of the value is misunderstood or that the employee has encountered something negative in their working day around maintaining policies, or procedures, or the actions of a superior or colleague.
When it comes to core values, your customers, suppliers and the public should also be made aware of your company’s core values. They should be placed on marketing materials, including the company website, and any other relevant customer touch points. Doing so will help your customers better understand, and relate, to what your company stands for. In addition, it is helpful in holding employees accountable for modelling the behaviour that company values pledge to uphold.