Avoid Culture Meltdown: 7 Ways to Live Your Values Everyday

Fast growth, rapid expansion, money flowing in and a culture of extreme competitiveness and aggressive risk taking. What could possibly go wrong?

When a company is in hyper-growth mode, leaders can be blind to problems buried deep in the organization and become willing to look the other way when serious ethical issues arise. I am referring, of course, to Uber and the recent reports of widespread discrimination and sexual harassment, and the resulting exodus of leadership including its CEO. Few companies have had such a rapid fallout from such a large number and variety of crises.

Unfortunately, the cultural breakdown that leads to ethics violations and poor decision making transcends industry and geography. No organization is immune. Granted, most organizations don’t share Uber’s level of extreme cultural dysfunction, but don’t be fooled – it is very easy for companies to stray from their stated values, or view them more as “guidelines” that look great in an annual report, but have little relevance in day-to-day life.

So the question is – how do you keep your company values relevant and in practice at all levels of your organization? Here are 7 ways to keep your values front and center:

  1. Lead by Example -– Your leaders are always in the spotlight. Setting core values, and then failing to abide by them, is worse than not establishing them at all.
  2. Talk is Cheap -– Plastering your core values on coffee mugs, business cards and motivational posters is fine, but it’s far more powerful when core values are a cultural norm and always in practice. And that starts at the top.
  3. No One is Above the Law -– Don’t be held hostage by your “high performers.” Leaders must put their favorites and ethical non-negotiables ahead of everything – including performance, profits and even shareholder interests. It’s vital to demonstrate that no one is above the law.
  4. Integrate Values Everywhere -– Include your core values in literally everything you do and say. Recruiting, hiring, ongoing training, performance reviews, success stories in newsletters, executive blogs, all-hands meetings, etc.
  5. Always be Closing -– Incorporate your values into your sales culture, sales process and training. Sales is often where ethics are challenged, so include core values in your proposal process, documents, language and the overall customer experience.
  6. Step into the Spotlight -– Celebrate and reward values-driven behavior with public recognition, spot-bonuses and peer-voting opportunities to nominate co-workers for successfully living the values, and written recognition in newsletters or on the website.
  7. Show ‘em the Door — Terminate people who violate the core values. When an employee engages in behavior that contradicts the required behaviors of an organization, they need to go.

The only way to ensure that people and ethics remain sacrosanct is to make culture a top priority consistently. The temptation to focus on culture only when it’s convenient can be strong. I know how difficult this is, but the research shows more and more the importance of organizational culture.

Give Powers Resource Center a call to help with a cultural survey to see where your business stands. https://www.powersresourcecenter.com/organizational-culture-survey/

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