Check out our Podcast!

Total: $0

Sort Articles:

X Clear Search Results

The Best Places to Work Roadmap Part 1 of 5: Organizational values and leadership modeling

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: November 2009

Over the next five editions of our newsletter, we will discuss the five qualities that make an organization one of the "Best Places to Work" and dive deeper into what each means, how to create this quality and first steps to.

imageAt Priority Learning we spend most of our working hours listening to people discuss their work successes and/or challenges. Additionally, as we watch the work places with the most successful reputations, financial growth and stability you start to see patterns that align with the successes of these same people. These patterns cross boarders so we know that the formula for success is not geographical. In other words, what plays well in Maine also plays well in Massachusetts or Arkansas. We also know that someone who is not valued or considered successful at one organization can go to a different organization and, while doing the same task, they will thrive and succeed. Over time some things become very clear. We determined that this is more than coincidence and as we furrowed our brows trying to understand why this might happen we discovered answers. Answers we hope will have some value for you and your organization.

In the beginning we suspected that successes were a testament to just good people who would work hard regardless. That concept felt pretty good because, as most of you know, we do a sizable amount of work with individual development. Good people who are willing to do the extra effort work and travel the extra mile are like savings accounts for their organizations. They gather interest and are always there on a rainy day. These high quality folks are the life blood of any good institution and as we continued our search we found out that the places that they worked had a lot to do with why they were so good.

Some beginning assumptions about pay and benefits: It has been apparent to most of us that as long as pay and benefits are fair and approximately equal, employees rate pay, and benefits lower on the list of things they want and cared about most from employers. Even in these tough times when we are all very sensitive to pay and benefit issues people are sending messages to employers that what they want in a working environment is more than money. Certainly it pays to be fair knowing that people are at first attracted to the pay and benefits and, if the equation becomes too lopsided, people leave for a fairer place of employment. However, after listening, observing, and working with organizations and helping them to become the best places to work, here is our summary of what people look for when they come to work for organizations:

  1. Organizational values and leadership modeling
  2. Getting things done via communications and inclusion
  3. Leadership through people listening and success
  4. Individual opportunity creation
  5. Working life atmosphere and balance

So we had this idea that you might like to examine each of the categories and, along with that examination, receive our ideas about what you can do individually and what your organization can do, if it chooses, to create a better place to work. We will discuss the categories above and dive deeper into what each one means, how to create this quality and first steps to take. Here we go:

Text Box: The stress of the current economy has tested the values of many organizations.  Because day to day profitability has been the proverbial "bright shinny object" it seems hard for institutions to think, talk or act on anything else.Organizational Values and Leadership Modeling - here is what we have learned. This category of values and leaders who model those values is on every Best Places survey we have witnessed. On top of that, it is usually right up there near the top in priority. When you look deeper at what it means, the common sense of it resonates with everyone. At home we try to raise our children with a sense of values like caring for people, integrity in our deeds and words, contribution to our community, individual safety/security and patience. In our work we gravitate toward organizations and institutions that mirror those same values. I'm certain this is no surprise to any of you but it is interesting to note that, when an organization knows and believes its values count to it's people, the institution acts and functions differently than when it doesn't.
Contrasting Styles - An organization who values team work will hire for team players and build a team environment. This team environment will embrace people committed to the success of each player on the team who will make sure that all the people have an optimum opportunity to be successful. In this environment, if people fall behind, the team will show its commitment and help the individual to catch up and learn from the event. Contrast this with the organization that believes that profitability is the first priority by far. This organization will probably hire the person with the greatest track record for creating and accumulating revenue. Great revenue generators are very important but it is a bold assumption that they are going to be team players without placing that quality first in the hiring process. Get enough of these folks focused on performance at any cost and you get a very different feel to an organization. Another example is in the way any organization communicates with its people about its business. If the assumption is that people can only handle so much information due to their knowledge, stress level, patience or lack of discretion, the communications will be narrowed to what that assumption concludes. If the assumption is that the more informed the workforce the better equipped to serve customers and each other, the communication will be very different. Now fill up organizations with the examples above and you start to see how cultures and their corresponding values impact how people feel about their workplaces.

The best analogy I can think of is the bank examiner that everyone hates to see arrive at the door. Are people feeling this emotion because they think they might fail the examination? Generally not. They are concerned because for days or even weeks they will have to accommodate this single minded soul whose only job is to find shortcomings of your bank.

Everyone likes it when we recommend solutions and, just to spice it up a little, lets look at it from two directions: the organization and what they can do now and in the future and from the individual perspective. So let's get to solutions.

What an organization can do today:

  • If you don't know what you value you need to determine what you really stand for. The quick approach is to find organizations that do this well and learn from them. Then include employees and balance the approach so that you get results, processes and people balanced in your values. That's how we do it in our lives at home. Once you have done this you can go to the next bullet below.
  • If you know what you value you can dust it off, announce it, publish it, display it, and place it in every room of your organization. This is not something you do once and check off your list. This is an ongoing commitment to educate, explore with people, live the values and hold people accountable to your values. If you have a list and it doesn't pass the balance test, it may be time to rebuild it.
  • Check each leader against the values you publish. Not just an exercise but a real check to see if those leaders are truly understanding what the value means in their work and if they are making continuous contributions to those values.

What an organization can do in the future:

  • Hire for values as vigorously as you do for skills. This is one where you get to build on the values you create and hire to those values. Too often we look at resumes and make determinations based on what the track record of the person was based on their disclosure to you.
  • Find heroes of your values and find a way to celebrate them by directly relating the accomplishment of the individual to the organizational value. Be creative and remember that people like to be personally valued in different ways.
  • Build strategies that include your values. I knew a client once that wrote values initiatives each year into their strategy. It was as big a piece of the business plan as financial results.

What you can do today:

  • If you lead people, find a way to demonstrate those guiding values every day. Hold your colleagues, subordinates and vendors accountable to the values.
  • Check your personal values against the values of your organization to see if it is the source of happiness or disconnection. If the values align and make you happy, you will understand what you need to do to build on that happiness. If you are disconnected, you can attempt to change the values of your organization or find a place that values what you value. This is a "fit" thing. If you wonder why fit counts in the workplace, this is it.
  • Determine what you value and choose an organization that mirrors those values.

What you can do in the future:

  • Share your institutional values with organizational outsiders so they can give you feedback on what they witness in your organization's performance. Bring that feedback to the work.
  • Insist that your valued resources such as vendors, partners and suppliers understand your values and demonstrate those values when working with you.
  • Let your loyalty grow with the greater implementation of your organizational values. When you do this it rewards the organization and reinforces the values committing the organization to greater effort.

Next month we will take a hard look at getting things done via communications and inclusion and give you our very best ideas. If you have ideas of your own, please send them along. We will include them in the article. As a final note it is important to remind people that setting the values and living those values is not a thing to do. When everyone sees the values as the way we live and function, you have something much more important.

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.