Integrity starts at the top. And “do as I say, not as I do” does not cut it. Employees watch the boss and the behavior she exhibits. If she does something that is not in line with the organizational definition of integrity, guess what will happen. Some will say, “if she can do that, then why can’t I?” and then they will exhibit behaviors like that, slowly eroding the culture. Others may decide they do not want to work for a company where a leader exhibits such behavior and they will leave, or worse, they will stay and be disenchanted and become less and less engaged. They will turn a blind eye when others act inappropriately, and again, things will fall apart.
Integrity counts. And not just when someone is watching. Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching and nobody will find out. It’s speaking up when everyone else is silent. Not every company claims integrity as a core value, because in many cases it just goes without saying. But, it is a necessity for every corporate culture to maintain unity, employee engagement, collaboration and a sense of organizational pride. Integrity is critical to every brand. Nobody wants to do business with a company known to fudge their results or to take shortcuts in building or developing their products and delivering their services.
Unfortunately, integrity is far from universal in our world. We read about bribes, kickbacks, food product and drug recalls, autos being sold knowingly with defective parts. Who wants to be in a headline for one of those reasons? Who wants to live with themselves having done that? Integrity starts at the top and should be part of every employee. Yes, folks will still have to go to confession for things they do in their personal lives, but there should be no reason to confess for breaches of integrity at work. Integrity does matter to a company. Does it matter to yours?
There is no rule that defines what every organization’s core values need to be, no right or wrong. Values represent the principles that an organization is going to follow to help them achieve their vision. Many companies use words like respect, collaboration, customer-centric, quality and team as their values. Others of a different type use words like hard-charging, aggressive, take-no-prisoners and competitive as theirs. Again there is no right or wrong.
But to achieve those values, a company must define the behaviors that support them. And then must insure that there is consistency in those behaviors’ definitions. The latter set described above sounds perfect for a competitive athlete or ex-military who have come from that type of culture. But the behaviors required still need to be defined and where the lines are drawn needs to be made clear. Clearly nobody would recommend actually killing or harming a competitor; or threatening a customer into purchasing more. Yet on the surface the values could be interpreted as consistent with such behaviors.
Values are often words on a plaque or in a strategic plan. But they are brought to life and ingrained in the culture through the behaviors that truly define them. And the organization will stand or fall based on how well the values and behaviors are enforced. Accountability cannot be selective- it must be uniform.
Values, behaviors, and accountability are a package in successful organizations. Are your values empty words or the real deal?
Most business owners and leaders believe that they have infused their organization with a healthy culture. They do not necessarily focus on keeping it that way. There is much to think about and more to do, and culture moves out of the mind of many leaders much too quickly. (We believe that there should always be a place in the mind-share of leaders for organizational culture but it doesn’t always happen.)
Amazingly, one or two moments can begin to cause a crack in a culture. Behavior unaligned with core values can set a bad example that others soon follow. Here is a symptom that needs to be addressed before it becomes full-blown disease. If multiple cracks occur before leadership turns its attention back to the culture, they may find something they do not even recognize. Toxic cultures don’t start that way- who would go to work for a toxic organization?
Over the last few years we have heard a lot about “teachable moments.” In corporate culture, there are those moments that may not look critical but are, and they revolve around how deviations from core values and behaviors aligned with them are addressed. Ignoring them or blowing them off is not a sign of benevolence, it is a sign of negligence. The culture needs to be nurtured and treasured and kept whole by all who work within it.
Slipping involves falling down, not moving up. An organization cannot move forward if it is constantly slipping. If cultural health matters-and it does- use every opportunity to support healthfulness.
Does your leadership share the Vision of the company with the employees? Does everybody get it? Because, if not, there may be trouble ahead. Most cars now have GPS that directs drivers to the fastest route to their destinations. Most companies do not have anything like a GPS and if they do they don’t employ it.
Picture this – The owner or the C -Suite doesn’t share, They jump into their Porsche Panamera (big enough to hold four) and zoom off, yelling behind them “Follow us!” But they are gone before anybody else can get to their vehicles so it is all guesswork in trying to catch up. Some don’t even try, they just stay where they are. Others make a valiant effort but after a while just do their own thing or worse yet – give up.
We now have a situation where nobody is really on the same page. Some have given up trying to follow leadership. Some are guessing at what to do. Others follow their own rules or conscience. Does this sound like an efficient and effective way to do business? Hell no!! It sounds like chaos reigns. And this is a sound heard the world round in many organizations. Leadership does not step up and create and communicate with clarity a vision for all to believe in and follow. Great companies hire those who share the vision and keep and promote those who live and breathe it. Other companies might as well be reading Alice in Wonderland to their employees out loud, leading with the line “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
What does it mean to move to the next level? It is a phrase often spouted without clarifying how it is being used. It could be the next level in gross sales, moving from $5 million to $10 million. It could mean moving to the next level in product development, moving from a single product or service line to more than one. It could also mean that the organization is becoming more diverse in the way it is structured with more individuals fulfilling individual functions rather than a few wearing several hats.
Next level thinking requires a strategy and a lot of planning. It doesn’t just occur. Growth can be organic or by acquisition- both require forethought. Innovation to create new products or services is a process, and the better the process the more likely the success.
One of the big questions to be answered – What will the organization gain by moving to the next level? If top line sales growth wreaks havoc with sales strategies and lowers margins substantially, is it worth it? If unmanaged and miscommunicated innovation destroys process and dilutes the company’s brand, what was gained?
The next level is about construction. We have all played with blocks or played jenga. It’s working collaboratively to move the business vision to the next stage. Construction takes a strong foundation insuring that each layer above is stable as well as strong. Trying to build on a weak foundation leads to disaster.
Your strategy in thinking about the “next level” should start with a good hard look at the present state. Is your desire to move to the next level blinding you to a need to address the present state first?