The easy answer is that the values in this company do not include accountability and they are not striving for excellence. The employees are either unaware of the impact their bahaviour has on the business, or do not care about the impact. The fact that the person who phoned them, requesting their services, is likely to choose another provider who is more reliable, has not been a sufficient reason for them to behave differently. This is not a business culture that will naturally lead to increases in productivity and profitability.

We have spoken about working smart and being happy earlier in this series, and how “working smart” means “doing the right thing at the right time”. Well, your core values are your benchmark for deciding what the right thing is. They are the tool you measure your behaviour against.

Your values are your “how”. They are your starting point for a way of being, a way of doing business, a way of managing and being managed. They are the core from which everything else grows. They are the alpha in business culture. And what your values are will be clearly demonstrated in how you treat the people you manage, the people who manage you, and your clients.

Your company is a system, made up of parts including people, processes and formal feedback channels. Your values are the benchmark for how the parts of the system relate to one another. If any part of the system operates according to a differing set of values to the others, the system is likely to fall over. Creating a virtuous system is enabled by a business culture rooted in values based excellence.

Business cultures rooted in values-based excellence empower people to work creatively and with responsibility, so that they build successful, ethical and sustainable companies. That is a big statement, I know. But every system must have a starting point, and the values intrinsic in your business’s system will propagate throughout your firm. Either those values will be enabling, or disabling.

The same company that does not believe it must return Sarah’s calls is likely to employ people who say things like, “I’m sorry, but that’s not my job”. Or even things like, “It’s not my fault, it’s his or her fault”. And they are likely to think things like, “If I don’t go the extra mile, no one will know or care, no one else takes ownership around here”. Does any of this sound familiar? These kinds of attitudes are part of a “blaming culture”. They are part of a culture where people do not take ownership or responsibility for their part of the company system.

Most companies spend an awful lot of time attending to marketing and organizational achievement. But how would those two facets of the system be different if the people-mindset facet of the organization was reshaped? How would people operating from a culture of values-based excellence attend to their marketing and organizational demands?

If the people in that company Sarah called were part of a culture of values-based excellence they would want to take responsibility for the role they were performing. They would call her back. They would provide the service for which their company exists. She would tell her friends and family and colleagues about them. Her friends, family and colleagues would call them up when they needed their specific service. And the virtuous cycle of increased productivity and profitability would continue.

Attend to your values, and you will be enabled in your desire to do the right thing at the right time. Give the people around you and those whom you manage, a strong starting point for how to go about their day.

What are your core values? What are your company’s core values? Have you ever discussed them? Has anyone made them a focus or a benchmark in how you do business? Are you and your colleagues objective and unwavering in your commitment to excellence? Is excellence even a term your company operates in? Or is your main objective just getting through the day?

A lot of time and energy seems to be spent on creating company “mission” and “vision” statements. If your company values are not in place, you are less likely to achieve these. Establish the culture of your company through taking the time to determine the values you aspire to, and your mission and vision will be greatly enabled.

Ask yourself and your team the right questions – what matters most? What do we really care about here? How best would this business work? What kind of environment would allow us to work smart and be happy?

A team working towards a singular purpose, needs a benchmark for behaviour as to how to achieve that purpose. Values-based excellence is a powerful benchmark to measure day to day behaviour against. Paradigm shift? Bring it on.

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