For years, consumers and businesses have used the term “value” to mean “a good buy” — the financially least expensive or highest quality choice. But, the notion of “value” is changing. Now it is becoming associated with “what the business stands for.” A real shift is occurring in our economic culture, where companies that walk their talk — and their “talk” is values — is becoming the key reason why people choose to work for them and to buy from them.
Principled Leadership is quickly becoming applied by many companies to ensure their strategy and their culture pursues their core values. Identifying your organization's core values, and then using them to make decisions, is the foundation to create a values-based culture. Principles — basic mores or rules that describe how we will conduct ourselves — are a great technique to ensure the culture “walks the values talk.” A company should identify its four to six key principles by which it will live, and then share them throughout its workforce.
What are principles? There are three criteria to help create a solid
• It should be accessible or understandable by anyone in the company.
• It should evoke an emotional or visual connection with the person.
• The company must be willing to fire someone if they do not pursue the principle.
This last point is crucial; if your company is not willing to hold its employees accountable to the key principles, then it will not become a values-based organization.
Some examples of good principles are:
• “Contribute to the mission today! Don't just keep a seat warm.”
• “Make a difference in the company every day!”
• “Don't meet problems with a baseball bat.”
Once identified, principles should be shared throughout the company, and managers and leaders should discuss examples with their staff of how they are or are not being applied properly. Principles are not just something thrown up on a wall or sheet of paper to be seen. They are lived.
Recently, I visited Southwest Airlines headquarters in Dallas. Walking through their halls and talking with their employees, it was instantly obvious that they don't just talk a talk. They walk it throughout their culture. Southwest knows what it stands for and lives it daily.
If you want to pursue a values-based culture and principled leadership — start at the top. The leadership must state its values and principles, live them and enforce them. Then, make sure you recruit new employees based on those values and principles. Share them with your customers. Over time, your brand will become synonymous with, not only, your products or services, but with your values, and you will attract future customers and employees because of them.
Your Business Coach is a monthly column produced by The Persimmon Group, an Oklahoma-based consulting firm that offers practical, results-oriented advice for business professionals of all disciplines and business owners across industries. Today's column is by TPG Founder and CEO Bill Fournet. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.