Today’s post reminds us that an established list of corporate values is best used to guide employees and corporate leaders before decisions are made to insure the best possible decisions, rather than using the values as an after-the-fact measurement to identify a poor decision or decision-maker.
Remember back when we were kids? Remember when parents and teachers told us about the ills associated with…well, whatever they thought were the “don’ts” in life? “Don’t smoke cigarettes”, “don’t drink alcohol”, and “don’t spend all your money (you should save it)” are all examples of don’ts that we all remember.
I also remember discovering that adults didn’t always practice what they preached.
How many of us, as kids, saw a parent or adult smoking and said “Hey, didn’t you say that smoking was bad for you?” only to hear “Do as I say and not as I do” in reply? The recollection makes you smile inside, doesn’t it? The very values that the adults are trying to instill in the children are used by the children to point out the behavior inconsistent with the values.
Imagine what our society would be like today if adults always walked the walk. That is, what if they thought first about the values they wished to instill in children and always made the decisions that set the right examples. What would our society be like?
Let’s translate that to running better organizations. Most organizations now have a published code of conduct that employees are made to sign every year to be sure that everyone can be “held accountable”. That’s another way of saying, “if you don’t live by these values and this code of conduct you could be fired”. What started out as governing principals are used by corporate legal and human resources teams to cover themselves legally when firing employees for bad behavior.
Corporate leaders come under fire in the media on a daily basis for not living up to the values that they themselves probably defined for their organizations. Pressures to perform, aversion to embarrassment, or just-plain-old greed lead to a temporary and convenient avoidance of our corporate values. These aren’t bad people. We, as humans, are all superb sales people when it comes to selling ourselves on and justifying a bad decision.
I think we, collectively, aren’t using the values as effectively as we should. Values are not best used a set of rules that the corporate judge, jury, and executioner uses in a reactive sense. The intent is to give an organization a set of truths that everyone can depend upon to shape decisions and to provide an ever-present foundation for wisdom and guidance.
If we, as business leaders, truly want to walk the walk, we have to get the values inserted into the front-end of decision-making, as opposed to the back-end measurement of quality. Here are three simple questions that should be asked before making final decisions at every level in the organization. First, are we being completely consistent with our organizations published values? Second, are we being completely honest with ourselves? And third, would we feel awkward explaining “the truth” behind the decision to the media, your kids, or (my favorite) to your grandmother?
This post is intended to be a gentle, but critical reminder for we business leaders out there trying to do our best for our organizations. Walking the walk isn’t easy. But, just imagine a society where everyone did.