I recently sent out an edition of my Weekly Ethics Thought that got enough mail that I figured I'd post a version of it here as well. It has to do with a few of the essentials of getting a values statement right. (And believe me, they are usually done incredibly dismally when they are done at all…)
If you've heard me speak, you
have probably heard me talk about the enormous power of a well-written
and appropriately implemented values statement. However, getting both
the creation and implementation of a values statement right is a much
more complicated and tough process than it usually sounds. To help out,
though, here is a 'starter set' of six essentials for getting the
creation part of your values statement right.
- Make it universal. Not 'worldwide universal'
but 'organization-wide universal'. You want to only include values that
should be the guiding force behind everyone's decisions in your
- Make it brief. Listing four to six values is
probably ideal, six to nine is arguably still 'do-able', and ten or more
will simply be too many for folks to keep constantly in mind.
- Clarity is king. Work and work and work on each
stated value so that it can be captured with as few words as possible
while still being crystal clear. Remember you're going to expect every
employee to keep these values in mind all day, every day so they better
be pretty easy to both retain and apply.
- Utility is 'co-king'. Forget philosophy,
abstraction and sloganeering in your values statement. You need to
completely nail what are the most persistent and most important values
that every employee is to use as a guide to their behavior. Philosophy,
abstraction and sloganeering can't possible work for that. (See "clarity
is king" above…)
- Get input from everyone. Before anything gets
set in stone, run it past folks at every level of your organization -
maybe more than once. If there's something that anyone doesn't get or
feels doesn't apply to them, the work isn't done yet. Keep honing until
it's really, truly both universally clear and universally relevant.
- Slower is better. A well-written values
statement isn't something you can bang out at a staff meeting or a
weekend retreat. (You can certainly start planning or writing one in
such a setting – just don't fool yourself into thinking you can do more
than that.) Not only is the process a whole lot tougher than it usually
sounds but you need input and feedback from everyone and that simply
takes time to do right. Four to six months is on the quick side in my
experience but taking a year is often a sign that it hasn't been
afforded the proper attention or effort.
Ultimately it will take more than these six factors to
create a truly great values statement. However,
if you use these as an initial guide, you'll at least be well on your
way. Want to know more about how to develop and then best implement a values statement that will give your organization its maximum positive impact on management, leadership, customer service and branding? I love providing programs on how to do that! Please be in touch.