Understanding and articulating your values is absolutely crucial for engaged and successful founder-led businesses, say Galia Barhava-Monteith and Marisa Fong.
Both of us, over the course of our diverse careers, independently came to understand how crucial values are to any business, and especially so to private, founder businesses.
We believe values are the DNA of your business – because values capture the essence of what you stand for, what gets you going in the morning, and what you are passionate about.
Understanding what your values are and working to articulate them are crucial to having great and authentic leadership in your business.
If you want to be a consistent, authentic leader who gets more than just time from your staff, you need to articulate your values. Well-articulated values can help you be consistent in everything you do.
Even if you’ve never thought about your values, they are always there and they explain why certain people are attracted to work for you, why certain customers choose you, and why you get on better with some suppliers than others.
We include values discussions with every client because they are so crucially important.
Even though many of us have never thought about our values, once you understand them and articulate them, you come to see why some people seem to just ‘fit’ in your organisation, while others, who on paper looked brilliant, just couldn’t integrate.
That is because we all behave in ways that are consistent with our values, even if we don’t know what they are!
For example, people whose values are social status and power are more likely to always seek the most visible roles. Whereas those whose values are fairness and collaboration, are unlikely to thrive in a very competitive environment, even if they are very good at what they do.
The clearer you become about your values, and the more you articulate them, the more likely you are to attract the people who share your values. These people are more likely to behave in ways that are consistent with what it is you are looking for, and therefore are more likely to stay and help you achieve what it is you want for your business.
With the shortage of skilled talent, retention is key and values alignment will be your secret weapon. Alternatively, a continual misalignment will mean a revolving door of talent; costly in all areas of your business.
Values aren’t just words, they must be linked back to behaviours. By articulating the values you can than consistently link behaviours back to them. This creates common expectations around the business regarding which behaviours are acceptable and which are not.
The more consistent you are with linking behaviours to values, the more likely you are to get the behaviours you are seeking from your people.
Values lead to purpose
One of our clients told us that she found it extremely beneficial to understand that everyone has values, and therefore by making the link between their own personal values and those of the business they work for, she and all her team felt better connected to her business on an emotional level. As a consequence, she found that her staff were willing to go the extra mile – because now their job became more than just about the money, it had a purpose, even a calling.
She also found that the values created a common language to use around the business.
She discovered that by using values as the anchor for feedback discussions, everyone transformed the way they were communicating.
Tackling those hard conversations with staff can be tough, but when you align corrective feedback to the values, and the behaviours to the values, the conversations became easier and people became less defensive as a consequence.
When done well, values can be used as a platform to focus your business objectives with your staff. By defining your purpose, you can remind yourself and your staff why you all get out of bed in the morning.
Values form the centrepiece of your strategy. Whatever it is you want to achieve for your business, it has to be consistent with them.
Become clearer on values
We are very clear with ourselves and our clients, that values should never be a long shopping list of words or sentiments. We encourage them to focus their values on the ones that really matter – the ones that are really unique to them and their businesses, and that really capture their DNA.
By becoming clearer and clearer on the values of your business, decisions also become easier, be they decisions about who to hire, fire, or who to partner with.
When founders are clear on their values, a key question they can ask in various situations, is: “Is this decision/person/supplier consistent with my values?”
Finally, the more aligned your business is with your values, the more likely you are to be happy to be working in it. If your business ends up not being consistent with your values, you will be more likely to want to get out, which could lead to decisions which might not be in your best financial interest.
Understanding and articulating your values is crucial for engaged and successful founder-led businesses.