My appreciation for values statements that are both well written and well implemented grows and grows. Done right, they not only drive cultures of ethics but, in the same stroke, drive better management, leadership, and customer service. This really is 'silver bullet' stuff with the ability to provide a major uptick to every organization's functioning and bottom line.
As I work with more and more organizations on the values statement development and implementation process, there are a number of problems I see time and time again. Let me hopefully save you some trouble by putting the three most persistent problems I see out here right now. Hopefully this will help you avoid them in your writing (or re-writing) process.
Too Long – If your values statement is too long, how in the world will each of your employees be able to keep it in mind all day, every day? If they can't keep it in mind all day, every day, how can you expect them to use it as a fundamental guideline for their decision-making each day? (And, if it isn't helping them make better decisions all day, every day, you really haven't finished honing it yet…) Plus, we've all heard the idea 'if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority', right? That applies 100% here. Until you're honed and honed to the point that your values statement contains only the most imortant, most persistent priorities for your employees' decision-making process, you aren't finished.
Too Much 'Squishy' Language – Clarity is king, queen, and the entire court here. If you are using words like "integrity" and "synergy", you automatically lose. It's not that those are bad things, it's that most people – myself included – really have no clue what they mean until you put them in practical, everyday terms. Until each and every employee knows how each item on your values statement translates into specific things they are to do or not do in their job, you aren't done.
Seeing It Part-Way Through – As I often tell my clients, writing and implementing a values statement is the toughest simple-sounding job most of us will ever take on. The concepts are easy in the extreme. However, really getting it right takes a lot of thinking, talking, and time. (In organization of over fifty or so, my experience is that it typically takes a minimum of six months, and sometimes up to twelve, to really get it right.) All too many organizations simply get tired of the process and settle for something that isn't really finished. Here's why that is dangerous… When effectively implemented – which is, I guess, a discussion for another time – a well-written values statement will be getting every one of your employees on the same train; you had better be getting them on the right train! In my growing experience, a poorly written or poorly implemented values statement can, in fact, be far worse than having none at all. The best possible outcome is that employees will resent the time taken in the development process and the false promise that things will be better/easier/more productive for them. Far more dangerous is the prospect of getting everyone on the same page but, in fact, getting them on the wrong page.
Need help in getting your writing or implementation process off the ground? Let me know and I'll be happy to help. In the meantime, see if you can avoid these three all-too-frequent pitfalls described above. Doing so will greatly increase the value of your values statement and, done right, that value can be huge.