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The Last Word on Living Your Company Values

Eight business leaders share their tips for living your company values through hiring and developing your people.

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BY Adam Fridman - 10 Aug 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

For the last several weeks, I've shared insights from the more than 600 business leaders I've interviewed about purpose transformation and how leading companies encourage their people to live out their values in the workplace. In this final installment, eight business leaders share their tips for living your company values through hiring and developing your people.

Seven Tips for Living Your Values

Go Big or Go Home

Dennis Hickey, CEO Lendlease Americas Inc, a part of Lendlease a global property developer and infrastructure provider, says that companies need to go big with their values. "Values must be clearly stated in terms everyone understands. To drive decision making. they really need to be quite broad. Ideas like integrity, excellence, collaboration, respect, trust, and innovation are big words and you can do a lot of things under them. The value of these big ideas is that they give you a foundation for making the tough decisions in a way that keeps you honest."

Hire for Values

If you hire the right people, getting them to live your company values is much less challenging. Keith Moore, CEO of online insurance comparison shopping platform, CoverHound, says, "We say, "hire slow, fire quickly." We're looking for people who know how to continually improve. Often, large companies they hire people who haven't failed and don't know how to learn from failure. They haven't been tested so you don't know how they'll respond when they are. The better hire might be someone who has the right values and went through some trials, learned to listen to feedback and made the necessary improvements. Values and the ability to act on feedback is better than someone who looks like a star on paper but won't listen and doesn't deliver."

It's important to hire people who share your mindset and values, who can grow with your company. Expertise is less important than willingness to gain mastery. "No one makes you an expert, you have to become one," says Tracy McCarthy, Executive Vice President of Human Resources of sales enablement software firm SAVO Group. "We want people to join the company who are curious and who aren't defined by titles and job descriptions, who can learn and grow and live their own development. Companies sometimes get caught in a trap of saying, 'that person doesn't have the right skills, so we can't transfer them.' Well, why can't we? If they're great but just lack some experience, let's let them try it. "

Identify the Right Opportunities

Identify the Right Opportunities: Howard Seidel, Senior Partner at Essex Partners, a career advisory firm specializing in C-level career management and transition counseling, acknowledges now more than ever CEOs are being held to a higher level of accountability and face new, mounting pressures.

"Upon leaving a CEO role, our clients are often at an inflection point where they are trying to decide what is next for them in life. Many are asking: what is my purpose? So in assessing opportunities we look for a lot of the same things many mission driven companies look for when they make decisions. Does this align with our purpose or values? What's our reason or motivation for making this decision? I take executives through a lot of analytic exercises to identify priorities and motivations. However, in the end, we have to balance the analytics with the gut reaction a potential opportunity generates to get a sense of whether it's the right fit."

Focus on Strengths

Fuze's Chief People Officer, Mary Good, says, "The way people work today is changing. So often, we're working remotely or in different locations. That sense of connectedness no longer just comes from being in one place. It's more about collaborating and working together toward a common purpose and feeling valued. That's the role of leadership, to bring people together to work as a cohesive whole. To do that, we have to take a strength based approach to helping employees develop."

Says Good, "People are engaged and fulfilled by putting their strengths and passions into their work. If someone gets negative feedback all day long, their sense of self is diminished. However, in a strengths-based environment they can flourish. Deep down, everyone strives to feel connected."

Make Every Day Matter

Startup culture is immersed in the idea of speed, but sometimes as companies grow, that sense of urgency can go missing. Craig Malloy, CEO of cloud videoconferencing provider Lifesize, says, "We went from being part of a public company back to our startup roots, and from an on-premise model to our current SaaS delivery model. To succeed with such a huge transformation, it was important to restate our values and reclaim our startup culture, to foster urgency and ownership in our people. One of the values that drives us is the idea that every day, every customer, every call matters. We monitor performance on an hourly and daily basis - not weekly or monthly. It helps us ensure we're meeting our goals and lets us course correct in real-time."

Be a Learning Organization

Rich Lyons, CEO and President of Lyons Consulting Group, a digital agency and global commerce service provider that works with leading retailers and brands to design, develop, and optimize digital storefronts and ecommerce operations, says, "Our purpose is to help customers realize and maximize their full potential. To accomplish this, we create an environment of continuous learning and encourage our employees to always strive for excellence. We believe it's critical for people and organizations to keep learning, keep growing, keep innovating. We're fans of Peter Senge, who talks about learning organizations as groups of individuals who continuously improve their capabilities, thereby improving the overall capabilities of the organization. You have to operationalize this value by supporting the learning and growth of your people - it's the only way to remain competitive and achieve best-in-class status."

Instill Belief

To live your values, you first have to believe that you can. Couchbase CEO Matt Cain says "As leaders, it's our job to unleash belief in our colleagues, to help them implement their power and potential. World class teams that deliver world class customer service come from world class employee experiences. We have to believe in our people and reward them, show them how special they are. That in turn alters the position of the company and how people think and talk about themselves. Encourage people to have a little swagger, a sense that you're expecting to win and competing to be the best you can be."

Living your company values is not about expensive engagement programs or company retreats. It's not about posting a list of values on your wall. It's about transforming the mindsets of both leaders and employees so that people can realize their full potential.