Values are Worthless Without These Four Things

Guest post from Beth Miller:

Values are more than a list of words on your website or a poster in your office. For values to benefit an organization they need to be lived by everyone and fully integrated into a company’s processes and decisions.  Without a focus in your values, a clear definition of each value, and integrating your values into your hiring and performance management system, your values will remain hollow words.

Focus

I remember many years ago going to visit a new client. Upon entering the lobby, I couldn’t help but notice the very large poster with a listing of company values, in fact there were 18 of them! When we got back to his office, I asked him with curiosity “I noticed your list of values out in the lobby. I’m curious can you name all of your values?” The fact is that he couldn’t, and neither could his employees.

So, if you have more than 7 values, it’s time to bring your team together and narrow your values down to the top 7 or less of your most important values. One technique I recommend is from the book Traction, by Gino Wickman. Identify the 3 people in your organization you would want to clone and then start describing the characteristics and behaviors which make them special. This will provide you with an initial list you can narrow down.

Meaning

In recent years companies have realized they should focus on the important values which make their company standout from the crowd of their competitors. Company values are your company’s DNA. They are the beliefs and principles which drive your decision making and actions for your business, and your values impact the experience your employees, customers, and partners will have with your company.

But what do your values mean? Values are abstract while behaviors can be observed and explained with more clarity. The specific actions and behaviors that demonstrate your company values need to be defined. The best way to define your values is to revisit those 3 people you want to clone. Identify 3-5 behaviors for each of your values you observe with these 3 employees.

Here’s an example of the value “Working Together”. The behaviors which you observe with your 3 employees on a consistent basis are:

1. Works with and supports other team members to drive results

2. Builds two-way relationships with employees and customers

3. Understands and respects other people’s priorities

You now have behaviors that you can use in your hiring and performance management.

Hiring

Since you now have a definition of each value and the specific behaviors and actions an employee should be demonstrating for a value, you need to integrate this information into your hiring process.

Start by creating behavioral interview questions to uncover a candidate’s values. Do they align with your values? You don’t want someone joining your team who won’t live your values. Values misalignment is a deal breaker when it comes to hiring.

Behavioral questions are designed to uncover past actions and behavior and determine both culture and values fit. Here are tips to design behavioral interview questions:

1. A good behavioral interview question should first be open ended starting with “What” or “How”.  Open ended questions encourage discussion and require people to think and reflect, they aren’t recall questions. And the very best questions are really a request, “Tell me about a time…” “Share an example of…”

2. The question/request should be designed to not “lead the witness”

3. Understand what a good answer sounds like. Listen for the pronoun “I”. If you hear “we” being used, you will need to clarify what exactly the job candidate’s role was. 

For example, let’s use the behavior “Works with and supports other team members to drive results”.  A good behavioral interview question would be:

“Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a difficult team member on a project.”

If I had adjusted the question “Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a difficult team member to successfully complete a project”, I would have been leading the witness and assuming that the project was completed successfully. Instead, give the candidate the opportunity to share how the project turned out.

Performance Management

The behaviors and actions of your employees should be part of the performance conversation. Too often I see managers focused on goals and results i.e. what needs to get done. When you include how a result was accomplished you are measuring against your company values.

The first step to take is to make sure the behaviors which support your values are part of all job descriptions. These behaviors can be measured as part of your performance conversations and can serve as the foundation for your ongoing 1-1 conversations with your employees. The more you relate an employee’s behaviors to their results, the more you will reinforce to the employee what you value.

You can also use a 360 assessment to measure performance. The 360° assessment uses collected anonymous feedback from direct reports, managers, peers, and sometimes business partners, as well as a self-assessment, to identify areas where employees can strengthen their skills in order to progress effectively. It is designed to measure the core competencies (behaviors and skills) associated with a person’s position.

Make sure that your company is living your values by understanding the behaviors behind your values, hiring the right people, and measuring their performance through both their behaviors and results.

Beth Miller is an accomplished author, speaker, and solution provider; her insight and expertise make her a sought-after leadership influencer. A serial entrepreneur and executive coach as well as a former Vistage Chair of 13 years, Beth is featured in numerous industry blogs and publications including Entrepreneur, Leadercast, and TalentCulture.com. Her book, “Are You Talent Obsessed?,” compiles her best practices for business leaders.

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