Making Values Stick

Making Values Stick

As lockdown lifts and organisations consider how they want to seize the opportunity to evolve their culture, many leaders are ‘kicking the tyres’ on their values.

Leaders of purposeful organisations, who want to take performance to the next level, are considering whether the existing values are still the right ones to deliver the vision, whether they need refreshing and where they need to be embedded more fully.

Why now?

Most organisations intend to adopt hybrid working practices that endeavour to balance a wide range of individual preference with what works for ‘the whole’. It’s easy to see how common values such as Collaboration, Inclusivity and Trust, if fully embedded, will be an enormous help in making this successful. Any whiff of values just being displayed on posters and not lived in day-to-day behaviours and decision-making will make the move to hybrid working a rocky road and put both productivity and wellbeing at risk.

How do you make values stick?

Get under the skin of your current culture

The first step is discovery into the culture you have now and its impact on performance. Use interviews, focus groups and an anonymous survey to understand the degree to which your values are currently understood and lived in practice. Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative data so you can track change in future as well as understand what’s behind people’s responses. For example, if some values are really well embedded why is that? If some aren’t, what’s getting in the way? How has remote working effected living the values and what might the implications be for hybrid working?

Leave room for challenge and change

As part of this discovery phase, ask open questions about what values may be more relevant to the organisation’s success going forward and what may no longer be as important. There are different types of values (Lencioni’s types). You may have had some permission-to-play values that are no longer enough to set you apart from your competitors and some new aspirational values that are needed to take you to the next level.

Keeping your values meaningful and relevant is an important first step in making them stick.

Communicate the WHY

Once you have confirmed or refined your values and associated behaviours for the future, take care to engage everyone in the rationale and context – the WHY. Be transparent about the insight from your discovery phase and open about why, or why not, a refresh is needed. Show the link between the values and the organisation’s future success – how living them will impact your people’s experience of work, the experience of your customers/members/students/clients and the performance of the organisation.

Pull the levers

There are five levers that make values stick. When we are asked to help make values stick we typically find two levers most in need of attention.

Firstly, they are not being role-modelled by leaders. This is often unintentional as leaders get less and less honest feedback as they rise through the ranks – either about what they are getting right or the unintended impact of what they’re getting wrong. It only takes one or two leaders to be behaving out of kilter with the values to unstick any other good work that has been done.

Secondly, the values have been communicated but people have not been involved in conversations to engage with them fully and to weave them through every aspect of organisational life such as rituals, working practices, roles and decision-making.

Be deliberate and focused

Your discovery will tell you which levers to pull first and you may want to take a campaign approach to embedding one value at a time. Keeping it simple cuts through people’s day-to-day busy-ness and having some early success builds confidence that change is possible.  This is especially important in remote or hybrid working where people can easily become disconnected.

Get in touch

To discuss how to make your values stick and build a high performing culture call us on 01208 824 508 or at [email protected].

Pecan provides discovery insight, thought partnership, toolkits and coaching to meet the varying needs of our clients.

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