Have you ever found yourself up against a challenge that clearly goes against what you believe? Or working on a project and you have this nagging voice in the back of your head that is saying “No, No, No?” You can’t put your finger on it, but something is wrong. Both of these situations are examples of values misalignment, which has big costs in the long run.
When your work goes against your core values and beliefs, cognitive dissonance occurs and gets in the way of you doing your best work. It can also interfere with the functioning of your team. 2019 Gallup data found that only about a quarter of employees strongly believe in their company's values. Less than half strongly agree that they know what makes their organization stands for and what makes it different. If a team member’s values aren’t aligned with the rest of the team, there will be ongoing conflict that gets in the way of accomplishing the goals of the organization. When that individual is constantly going against the grain and fighting against where an organization is trying to go, it drains a great deal of their mental and emotional energy as well as the energy of those they work with.
Understanding and aligning values
The first step towards values alignment is understanding what values are. Brené Brown, research professor and author of Dare to Lead, defines a value as “a way of being or believing what we hold most important.” When we understand what our core values are, everything we do reflects that understanding. It helps us shape our actions, what we pursue and how we interact with others.
This is important for business leaders because core values shape how you go to market and how your customers experience your brand. Everything you do is built on the foundation of values that support your vision. You're more consistent in your messaging, product offerings and how your team interacts with your customers. Your values then attract the right clients and customers to your business, creating a virtuous circle of business development when they promote your business to their friends. Values alignment also provides team buy-in. There is more synergy and less friction when employees’ core values are aligned with an organization’s values. There is momentum when everybody's moving in the same direction around those shared core values and the vision you’re working towards.
Recognizing and reinforcing your core values
Your core values already exist, it's just a question of identifying them. Once you name them, they become much more alive for you and you can be intentional about instilling them in everything you do in your business. Here are my three tips to help you get started:
- As a leader, know your personal values first. You can't talk about your people's values if you don't know yours. It brings to mind the same analogy I use with energizers about the emergency procedure on an airplane. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first to help others. Similarly, you have to know your personal core values before you can work on the core values of your team and before you can expect your people to identify with those core values.
- Limit your business to two or three core values. If you have more than three core values you simply can't execute all of them nor can your team understand and keep that many core values straight. When you have too many core values, they become diluted and there are more opportunities to get off track.
- Reinforce your organization's core values constantly. That means repetition. Just when you think you've finally nailed it… your people are just barely getting into the mode of it. The way to reinforce core values is through stories and recognizing when your people are living out the core values. Say, for example, an employee showed a core value of courage when telling a customer that an expected delivery time frame could not be met. Seize that opportunity to call out the employee and how they exemplified a core value. Recognizing this in front of the team clarifies what the value looks like in practice, reinforcing it for all team members.
Values alignment is an important part of my coaching intensive and starts with identifying core values. To get started with an action plan for values alignment or realignment for the New Year with me, schedule a one day coaching intensive.