There is one crucial word that’s often missing from the debate about creating healthy organisational culture; authenticity.
Culture is the outworking of shared values, those things that we care about and honor in our organizations and lives. For example, we might care about professionalism (value) and expect that to be reflected in a particular dress code (culture). Teamwork (value) could be expressed by punctuality, taking part in social activities or desk sharing (culture). Corporate values – those qualities shared within any organization – flow from the leadership. Qualities that the leadership cares about will, to a large extent set the tone for what the organization cares about, irrespective of what is written down on a piece of paper as a list of corporate values.
Integrity provides an excellent example. Most organizations would consider integrity as important, something to value. Integrity engenders trust and sounds ‘good’ to all stakeholders. But if the leadership are not genuinely motivated by high integrity, the organization won’t possess it, at least, not fully. If an economic gain, academic prowess, caring for others, creating feel-good experiences or winning FAR exceed a desire to do the right thing, then integrity is of much lesser value to the organization. It’s not to say that the organization is scandalous, but it is to say that it would be fake to include integrity on a list of core values.
Authenticity is what counts. Corporate values should genuinely reflect those of the leaders in order for an engaging culture to flourish in the workplace. People need to know where they stand and that requires authentication.
How can a leadership team get to grips with what they truly care about? Spending time on culture and values is important. When was the last time that your board meetings included an agenda item for ‘culture’? (This challenge was presented to us at the ICSA/IOD seminar last week). We help leadership teams to quickly identify their shared values by using some excellent psychometric tools. Many teams focus only on behaviors, but this misses an absolutely crucial area – our values. It’s what drives our behavior that really counts. Our values and mindsets set the framework for culture to develop. We help our clients to categorize 6 core values that set the basis for organizational culture; the theoretical, utilitarian, aesthetic, social, individualistic and traditional mindsets. Employees – at all levels – with very different values to those of the leaders usually find the culture puzzling, possibly even repulsing – even if their particular role is stimulating.
Is employee turnover high? Perhaps there is an authenticity problem with your corporate values.
Spend time this year exploring your values and how these align with those of your business. Be authentic. A flourishing company culture will soon follow.